Do Brands Even Exist?

This Gapingvoid cartoon was inspired by a page on the Oglivy & Mather website, it’s an actual quote.

O&M is one of the biggest ad agencies in the world. It’s filled with people running around and talking about ‘brands.’

It’s important to talk about advertising here because before there’s a customer service failure, wink wink, we have to buy the product first.

Is the conscious consumer really buying brands or individual products? We have a Dell laptop, an Epson printer and an HP scanner. We have a pair of red Roos, Adidas and some fuzzy brown slippers from LL Bean (among other shoes). Each one of these purchases were made, we think, based on the individual price and value of the objects, compared to our need at the time.

What do you think? Do brands have power and value? Do they assume an increasingly important place in your life? Here’s a bonus Hugh cartoon of relevance.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Lars says:

    I would say that brands can be very real. A great deal of purchases are certainly made because of the inherent properties of the item in question (price, utility, quality, aesthetic) but I know that I can be a slave to a brand. But usually I’m a slave to a brand because I believe the brand consistently produces quality. Birkenstock, Apple, Asics, Timbuk2 are all brands that I’m very loyal to. I think they consistently deliver a high quality product. I also love Nintendo. Never would think about buying a PS2/3 or Xbox/360. I loyally await the Wii. So yeah, Brands are there, but they can’t just be empty shells. You can’t just sell something because of a brand name. That brand name has to mean something.

  2. thrillhouse says:

    brands have increadible value – value that many times surpasses the product. We’re all influenced by it because its rammed down our throats 24/7 – whether it be adverts or news or word of mouth.

    In the 80’s Mercedes was in direct competition with Caddilac and had built this reputation for it’s cars holding their value longer than caddy. I’m sure it made for some nice commercials and good ol’ GM bashing. Trouble was, it just wasn’t true. But they had built this tremendous Brand of quality and high value that Caddy had to combat.

    brands have value – killer value

  3. RandomHookup says:

    I hate those surveys that ask you “if this brand were a person, how warm do you think it would be, how condescending, how loyal?

  4. DeeJayQueue says:

    It all depends on the person. If you don’t know better or care what you’re buying then brands have a huge influence on your purchasing. If you’re a bit more savvy then brands tend to come in second place, and if you’re a complete utilitarian then brands mean next to nothing.

    Personally I fall in the middle category. I like the aire of status that certain brands lend. I like having an Apple computer, Canon camera, Harmon Kardon receiver, et cetera. Those brands mean something to me because they have a reputation for quality. If Apple wasn’t such a cool brand image I’d still love their computers, likewise for products who don’t have the best ad campaigns but make killer stuff, like Blaupunkt car stereos. If you’re not somewhat of a car audiophile and don’t know who they are, it’s not surprising. But if you do, you know they make killer kit.

    As far as loyalty goes I guess I do have my roots. I give companies I trust first chance at my money, but if someone makes better gear that works for me and my budget, you can bet I’ll have it.

  5. Benko says:

    i really think the concept of the brand plays on consumers’ ignorance of the products that they use/need. many people will give money to a brand name over a more local venture of similarity, simply because the risk of not being satisfied at the mom and pop place isnt worth taking.
    essentially what brands create is a general numbness in consumers with respect to the choices they make when spending their money. because companies market their brands to try and create personalities out of them (like RandomHookup mentioned), people opt to continually give money to these establishments, like visiting an old reliable friend, rather than contributing to a superior non-branded establishment.

  6. etinterrapax says:

    I would also say it depends on the person. I tend to be loyal to whatever’s working for me at the time, until it doesn’t work any more. I was a loyal Gateway customer until I got an awful laptop, and now I wouldn’t buy anything from them if they begged and paid me. So I became a loyal Apple customer, and I’m so happy that I’ll probably stick with them until I’m not.

    For most purchases, now that I think about it, brand may have to do with whether I’ll try something once. But it doesn’t have much to do with whether I’ll keep on buying it. I’m plain amused that certain products are branded. Like Morton’s Salt. People. It’s salt.

  7. dalton says:

    I think a few people have mentioned it already, but I’ll say it again: Apple. Few people are as enthusiastic about any brand as Mac fans are about Apple products. And I am definitely one of them.

    I think Levis and Nike still have it too. Both release limited editions of their products, and get people standing in line for blocks to get a chance to over pay for them. I think that cache rubs off on their other products, too.

  8. Nilla says:

    When it comes to large expensive items I’m more likely to choose what to buy on the merits of the item than on the brand, but I’ll tell you where I am very brand-conscious: food shopping. I want my food to be tasty, healthy and not contain too many spider legs or rat droppings, and it is simply not feasible to research everything I buy individually. So yes, I’m very swayed by food brands, and also by food-store brands; I’m much more likely to try a new food brand if it’s sold at a store whose brand I trust like Trader Joes or Waitrose than if it’s a store I’m neutral or leery about.

  9. Nilla says:

    I’m plain amused that certain products are branded. Like Morton’s Salt. People. It’s salt.

    But etinterrapax, that’s kind of the point: if you buy Morton’s salt you will get one container of salt, calcium silicate, dextrose and potassium iodide, as promised. No sand, no extra-chemical nastiness, it does what it says on the box. Good stuff. Now depending on where you shop you may decide that every brand of salt is likely to be of acceptable quality and choose on some other basis like price, packaging or random selection, but if you have reason to believe (like, say, past experience with nasty chemical aftertastes or a tendency to solidify into an unsprinkleable lump) that the other salt may be not what you are looking for, then the Morton’s name does begin to have a certain allure…

  10. Montecore says:

    Brands are real: Apple could put a piece of crap in a shiny white case and I’d at least consider buying it (as would half of your readers, I bet).

  11. Fuzzyman says:

    Brands represent both image and reputation. When making a purchase we consider both. For example, when I was car shopping last year I knew that Honda had a reputation for durability and reliability. I’d never owned or driven one before, but brand image reputation cast a positive aura around any Honda vehicle I was considering (in this case, the CR-V). In the back of my mind I also knew that the Honda image would say something about me, (namely that I am smart but unexciting).

    Likewise, a brand image can hurt you. The Hyundai reputation (cheap) and image (poor sap can’t afoord any better) had a definite influence on me, regardless of the individual merits of the Santa Fe I was looking at.

    A damaged reuptation like that can take a long time to overcome, as I know that Hyundai’s today are much, much better than they used to be. The same goes for American brands. Years of bad products (especially in the 80’s) have led to damaged reputations and images. The Equinox didn’t even make my shopping list based on price (“I’m not going to pay that much for the Chevy when I can get the Honda.”).

  12. Smoking Pope says:

    IMHO, brands mainly serve to capture the essence of a company. To use the Apple example again, people are comfortable enough with Apple to let the brand serve as shorthand for “something that’s easy to use, stylish, works as advertised, and comes with good support.”

    But, and this is the key, you can’t build your brand out of thin air. A successful branding is accomplished only after you’ve instilled the values you want it to represent into the very fiber of your company.

    An example of a brand that does not do this is AOL. Their saturation marketing in the 90’s established the name AOL, but their poor product and support just work to equate the AOL name with “crap” in people’s minds today.