The other day I couldn’t help but get mad about the people mak­ing brand­ing de­cisions. How can it be that they don’t give a damn about their brand?

I am a rather re­laxed kind of guy but from time to time I get pas­sion­ate about things that oth­ers don’t bother at all. Like brand­ing. Like the won­der­ful power com­mu­nic­a­tion has on our well being and our emo­tions. Like the mar­vellous ef­fect self confidence has on our success and the strange impact brands have on all these factors.

Mar­ket­ing is about selling your stuff but brand­ing is about mak­ing that stuff per­sonal. It is about filling a sym­bol—and that’s all a brand is—with emo­tions and mean­ing. And thereby you can mul­tiply and con­serve these val­ues. Like a song you put all your tal­ent and pas­sion and ex­per­i­ence into when you re­cord it in the stu­dio. And when people hear it they feel it. Every­one all the time.

There is a truth to the ef­fect of brand­ing that you can’t deny.

”Brand­ing“ and ”truth“ in one sen­tence? I know that mar­keters are liars. And ad­vert­ises are, too. But there is a truth to the ef­fect of brand com­mu­nic­a­tion that you can’t deny. You can’t help but get a first im­pres­sion of people, based on the things you have learned about the brands they ex­pose. They ex­press cer­tain val­ues en­cap­su­lated in the gad­gets they use or the style they put onto them­selves.

First impressions: „I don't know this guy, but he's got some cool shoes“

People choose a brand purposefully. They con­nect a cer­tain per­son­al­ity to a brand, cer­tain val­ues and traits. That is the main pur­pose of a brand, to con­tain these traits and re­flect them on the product. And that is something no brand can avoid to do, be it in­ten­tion­ally or by mis­take. At the same time people can’t help but form an opin­ion. Even if they try to avoid that brain trick­ling ef­fect they can’t change what they know—what brand­ing de­vi­sions makes them be­lieve. Strong brands make sure that people hear their mes­sages, by ad­vert­ising and product design, by tar­get­ing audi­ences and con­tent mar­ket­ing. Strong brands shape the pub­lic per­cep­tion with great ef­fort. A brand in­vents it­self and so everything a brand rep­res­ents is ar­ti­fi­cial—and you could argue that it therefore must be untrue.

But the fact that these mech­an­isms are all man made doesn’t make them false. They im­pact the people who be­lieve in mar­ket­ing mes­sages as well as those who don’t. The brand may be ar­ti­fi­cial but emo­tions it arouses are au­then­tic. A brand does work as a means of com­mu­nic­a­tion. And this doesn’t have to be a bad thing by de­fault.

I bought a Fair­phone—”The smart­phone that’s cre­at­ing so­cial change“. And it was my de­cision to ac­cept the val­ues this pro­ject stands for. But once I got it, it got me. How can I ever buy a phone made by a man­u­fac­turer of less so­cial in­teg­rity? Every time I hold up my phone it re­minds me of what I want to stand for. Not only does this brand tell oth­ers how I think but it tells me, too.

Brands don’t just pre­tend. Their com­mu­nic­a­tional ef­fect is a real thing. They not only pro­ject their val­ues to the per­son in front of you, they talk to you as well. And that makes you as a cus­tomer part of the brand, an evan­gel­ist of their val­ues, a be­liever of what you want to be­lieve. Brands change your­self by your own de­cision mak­ing.

That im­pact of a brand on our feel­ings and be­ha­viour is ex­traordin­ary. Mostly be­cause it is con­nec­ted to products we use day in day out. Products are an om­ni­present reminder of a brand’s fea­tures. Once we have be­come customers, they don’t just talk at us from bill­boards and dis­play ads, but they can rely on us hav­ing made the de­cision to let this brand be part of our iden­tity.
And of course this is a re­spons­ib­il­ity for the brand to ac­cept. The cli­ent-brand-re­la­tion­ship is fra­gile. And cli­ents who com­mit­ themselves to a brand will react very emo­tional if this com­mit­ment is dis­ap­poin­ted.

How can people de­cide on a brand if they don’t feel this?

This kind of an un­der­stand­ing of a brand’s power and re­spons­ib­il­ity is not wide­spread among mar­keters. Usually their first ob­lig­a­tion is to en­sure an in­crease of sales. Some­times they even are part of the sales de­part­ment.
Don’t get me wrong: What mar­keters are doing is cru­cial to the suc­cess and the longev­ity of a cor­por­a­tion. Their cre­ativ­ity and in­stinct for the needs of the mar­ket can not be over­stated. But if you want to build up a brand that people get en­thu­si­astic about, you bet­ter ask a de­signer.