Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak on the radio. Since it was a show, where people are supposed to call and ask questions, we had a number of callers of whom the majority you might call a “radio demographic”.
The topic of the radio talk was of course brands. So it was twice as much to hear ordinary people speak about what brands mean to them than to babble about them myself.
So I decided to do a small consumer typology based on the questions and comments that we have received during the talk. Let’s consider this as a case of consumer etnography – uninhibited responses by ordinary people (even if slightly skewed to the older part of the generation).
…or the alternative title for this should be “what are brands to people”
1. brand = not the source of happiness
The oldest caller was ninety (can not verified, but he definitely sounded like over 80) and confidently stated that the variety of objects that surround us in modern times haven’t brought us happiness. That now that we have everything and all those brands are in our lives we are not a single step closer to finding the essence.
So the final ideas – brands won’t bring you happiness. Sadly.
2. brand = first impression
I guess the youngest caller was the most enthusiastic about the redeeming features of the brands. He pointed out that brand
is a way of judging people and classifying them on first sight. If you see a guy or gal (he only mentioned guys) dressed in Nike or Adidas you instantly know if he is worth talking to or how much money he/she got. See, it’s that simple!
3. brand = shallowness
A woman had a counter example to the enthusiastic brand apologist – her colleague who dresses in ordinary clothes, but is an extraordinary person. So brands don’t give you anything – it’s just a sham.The comment ended with a high note – basically everyone who dresses with popular brand clothes is bound to be a douchebag. Can’t argue with that one.
4. brand = promise
A single most positive and common sense response regarding brands was – brand is a promise of consistent quality and delivery. As in “when I’m going to a hotel I know what to expect if I have been to another belonging to the same network”. Yes, in brands (some of them) we trust.
5. brand = origin
On of the callers had a cognitive dissonance in a sense that “how come a Japanese brand is produced on China”. The question was “is this possible?”. And we said – “aye”. Evidently for him a brand was directly tied to the manner and place of production.
So, I guess the good news is that brands are not living only in the heads of marketing people. They also hold a specific meaning in our everyday lives. But at the same time, the glimpse at how ordinary people understand and interpret brands should be an indicator for us not to be living in clouds and not be trying further sophisticate the notion of branding.