A brand’s esteem is real.
Its value reflects in its price. Its social exaltation may have moved it to the heart of a society and culture. Millions may gush about it. Despite the distinguished history of brand building in capitalism, and despite its immense influence in our culture and society, scientific research has not revealed any evident, consistent set of measure to ‘size up a brand’.
Whenever neuromarketing, research and experimentation has been attempted it always finds tremendous diversity, not homogeneity.
The only reasonable scientific conclusion is that our relationship with a brand is not what we typically think it to be. Such a relationship is not innate but made from basic constituent parts. It varies from culture to culture. It is something we cultivate and create.
Brands are real, like money is real – an outcome of human agreement.
Gestalt is the concept of the whole being other than the sum of parts. We respond to brand facets and associations consciously and even more, subconsciously.
The power of these underlying connections with brands becomes obvious when we look at the luxury experience. It is the brand that brings alive the dream more than the product or service. You want a Mont Blanc pen. Which one of the many can be decided later. You own a Louis Vuitton bag and that is-in itself-a qualifier. Quality, preciousness, rarity are possible to create via imitation but the singular uniqueness that is embodied in a brand can never be copied. The goal of luxury branding is to gain and sustain pricing power. It rests on intangibles. But it wasn’t always so. In ancient or medieval times the richest of the rich, including royalty, patronised bespoke luxury. But it was luxury because they bought it for their use. Value was in the raw material, craftsmanship and expense. In modern luxury, value resides in the brand. What Cartier sells in its bright red boxes are dreams.
This kind of brand power goes beyond the rational. Our unconscious mind tells us whatever we need to know. We feel positive impulses and use that as a shortcut to our decision. A luxury brand has a set of emotions or feelings attached to it. There's a desire embedded in a dream. The brand is in the entirety of sensory engagement. Though , with will power, we can consciously override our emotional pull toward the luxe product and choose the cheaper option, many of us just feel life is better with the luxury. We buy a reputation built and attested to by elites. The visual imagery is brilliant. Joining a luxury brand club is a ticket for social advancement.
These gut feelings have impact on quick decisions at the shelf in the supermarket, at the drugstore, or even online. Our feelings serve as shortcuts; we don't want to think about the choice too much.
- The fashion world is all brand but very little conventional brand management-
Fashion and luxury brands build compelling brand dreams better than any other industry. They've built profitable empires on rich brand associations and emotions. Judging by conventional mass marketing norms, Luxury can be viewed as not strategic in the typical sense of having a clear brand message, role of the product, or point of view. But think of fashion as a verb. Maybe they know something we don't. Gabrielle Chanel died in 1971 but Coco Chanel is still living.
Fashion brands know the power of tapping latent emotional desires. They convey and own dreams and aspirations. They derive more from authority, class and provenance of the brand than mere expertise. They know the mood and feeling of the dream world that they want to connect with and that becomes their marketing strategy.
Think of a fashion brand. Do you know anything about the brand positioning of Gucci ? I am assuming that you don’t. What is your knowledge about Gucci, as a brand ? How about Prada, Hermes, Chanel, Patek Phillipe , Estee Lauder, Balenciaga, Valentino? Does the turquoise box from Tiffany's need a positioning statement? Each one of these has a clear, distinct, and rich brand culture connected to it. They've created their own brand worlds. They've opened a window to this world through their products, advertisements, catalogues, stores, celebrity endorsements, and so on. All these get subconsciously associated to their brands.
Bottega Veneta has built a strong brand with prestige, cachet, and style. Of course, it produces high quality products that are on trend, but does it have a message, a unique selling proposition, or a functional positioning in the market? It has none of these, and it doesn't matter. It has a boldly consistent brand look and feel that creates a relevant and aspirational package. It has cachet.
The strongest brands are built like a spider’s web. Each strand is an association. Each strand is fragile but the web is strong and lasting. The strongest brands in the world have this kind of associative lattice. And one doesn’t have to be a luxury brand. Think of Coca-Cola, who have owned the top spot on the list of the world’s most valuable brands. According to Coca-Cola, the brand stands for happiness. When you open a bottle, you "open happiness,". Is that all ? Happiness may be a key component of its brand and is a great emotion for a brand to connect with and own, but Coca-Cola is a globally loved icon because it is representative of America. It's all-American. It offers a taste of America for all. It's optimistic and uplifting. It's a simple pleasure, in good times and bad. It's for everyone, rich or poor. It's culture-enduring and steadfast. The brand even created the modern Santa Claus. that’s how deep its cultural influence runs. All these ideas contribute to Coca-Cola's unprecedented brand strength and longevity.
No discussion of brands would be complete without a look at Apple, the reigning king of brands. As we all have probably seen, the Apple brand breeds loyalty so strong that it borders on the fanatic. Apple diehards will debate rumours of new product launches for months or even years in advance, will wait in line for hours, will buy almost anything from the company, and will pay nearly any price for it.
Let's take a fresh look at Apple through the lens of a ownable dream. The company's products embody innovation, delivered with elegance, simplicity, and modern design. Apple sparks its users' creativity and lets them feel in with the cool crowd. Samsung can shout all it wants to about the better features on its mobile phones. But if it's not an iPhone, many people will not even listen.
When Andy Warhol painted a bottle of Absolut Vodka, he signalled that the bottle is the brand. The status of perfume as a luxury product is often debated but there is no variant or extension of Chanel No. 5, which remains a true luxury product that remains unchanged.
To conclude – In brand building, always keep allowance for the unconscious and its communication in dreams. Innumerable things go beyond the range of human understanding. Hence we constantly use symbolic terms to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully comprehend.This conscious use of symbols is only one aspect of a psychological fact of great importance: Man also produces symbols unconsciously and spontaneously, in the form of dreams. As humans, we never perceive anything fully or comprehend completely. We can see, hear, touch, and taste; but how far we see, how well we hear, what our touch tells us, and what we taste depend upon the number and quality of our senses. At some point we reach the edge of certainty beyond which conscious knowledge cannot pass.
There are, moreover, unconscious aspects of our perception of reality. All stimulus gets translated from the realm of reality into that of the mind. Within the mind they become psychic events, whose ultimate nature is unknowable. Then there are certain events of which we have not consciously taken note; they have remained, so to speak, below the threshold of consciousness. They have happened, but they have been absorbed subliminally, without our conscious knowledge. We can become aware of such happenings only in a moment of intuition or by a process of profound thought that leads to a later realization that they must have happened; and though we may have originally ignored their emotional and vital importance, it later rises from the unconscious. It may appear, for instance, in the form of a dream.
As a rule, the unconscious aspect of any event is revealed to us in dreams, where it appears not as a rational thought but as a symbolic image. It was the study of dreams that first enabled psychologists to investigate the unconscious aspect of conscious psychic events.
A brand is a dream, and its wellspring is the unconscious.