The one true only way BRANDING actually works

Errr, that great idea? Just came back.

I’m thinking/working/dealing with branding lately. Traditional branding sucks … isn’t that where some guy throws you to the ground and jams red-hot poker and right up against your ribs? Ouch! Who wants that?

Here’s a thought (it’s not really an idea) about modern branding:

Great companies don’t brand their products. They allow you to brand yourself by choosing to buy their products.

(In case you’re wondering, I had to boldface that because it’s so mindblowingly significant. Just so you know. You know?)

Think: do people buy a BMW because it has more X than the competition? Put whatever you want in X: power, style, leather, agility, rubber, buttons – whatever. The answer is: of course not.

People buy a Beamer to brand themselves.

Now they’re Beamer people. Someone to be taken seriously. Maybe not Trump, but Trump-ettes. (OK, that came out wrong.) Seriously on their way, dude. Going somewhere, even if they’re on the wrong side of the freeway.

If you can get that that stage as a company where people buy your products to brand themselves, wow you have it made.

Whether branding is still painful when you D-I-Y, I have no idea. I’m just an Apple-using iPod-sporting mac-addict.

What do I know?

[tags] brand, branding, bmw, john koetsier [/tags]

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi John… love your writing… it’s fresh and thought provoking.

    Just to move the thought from the commercial to the personal for a second, I’ve been noticing lately (and it’s not a new thought, just a revisited one) how friends seem to couple in a like/like manner. A couple of guys wandering by chatting in their killer sneakers, sling bags and obscure Tshirts, a group of girls in a cafe all doing the nu-bohemian thing, geeks with geeks etc. Even canoodling couples can sometimes look like they sprang from the same pod. Is it a variation on the dogs-that-look-like-their-owners thing? Does like seek out like or do they grow to be that way like a chameleon?

    I think what you say is true and it’s a very cool way of looking at it… we all choose brands that fit our self image (or our image of what we would like our “self” to be). It’s one of the way we sort through the noisy world of over-abundant capitalism and it’s one of the ways we communicate with others. But I guess what we are actually doing is aligning our brand and theirs… so in that way the company also has to brand its products. What it means to be a Beemer person is really a reflection of what a Beemer means to people. Or does that spiral keep spiralling?

  • An interesting thought.
    But I think its more of a two way street.
    BMW is a brand for those who are successful and those want to be viewed as successful. The bottom line is that BMWs are expensive, so the people who buy them usually are already successful. BMW knows this (or rather knew this from the very beginning when they decided to make a $40,000 car) so they simply massage that brand/consumer relationship in their marketing.
    It didnt happen by itself. It wasnt created by the consumers.

    Was the Volkswagen (literally “the peoples car” in German) image of “young, hip, adventuresome, and probably not wealthy” created by the people who bought the car? Doubtful. The very name of the car suggests that the creators already knew who they were going to sell to.

    Though I agree that savvy brands are acutely aware of their consumers’ image of themselves and constantly readjust their marketing to reflect that.
    Hey, think of the Timberland brand. They were originally targeted for the hardworking blue-collar guy. When they found out that a mass of young, urban, hiphop, african americans were fond of the boots, they quickly repositioned to take advantage of the unexpected market.

  • Salute John! here is one for you from a Apple-using iPod-sporting mac-addict BMW Beamer person coffee snob sushi devouring Armani pimp Lindy Hop swing junkie!

  • just stumbled in and have to thoroughly disagree with the post… while the sentiment is nice in practice this is just dead wrong. great companies create great experiences which beget great brands (i.e. the ‘representation of those experiences’). brand is reputation. brand is symbolic. individuals then associate themselves with those brands to get the experience.

    obviously a consumer’s consumption choice is expressive (be it a Honda, a BMW or a Rolls Royce) but the act of consumption does not create the brand. great companies deliver great experiences. the rest grows naturally with good care and tending.

    One’s “name” is only its “brand” in the legal sense of the word.

  • Well, sure, some guy.

    > individuals then associate themselves with those brands to get the experience.

    But people also get the experience they want by associating brands with themselves.