This morning we read an article by Brian Miller, strategy director at Sense Worldwide and contributor to Fast Company. He argued that those who focus on branding above all else are at best misguided, and at worst wasting their company’s (or clients’) valuable time. He believes that brands are merely a by-product of a company’s offerings and the communication that accompanies them—that companies should focus on the product, and let the branding chips fall where they may. It’s a compelling argument, but it’s not without flaws. Our response:
Earth is a great product.
Deep, blue oceans, full of delicious fish.
Stunning landscapes, inhabited by glorious creatures of all kinds.
Vast expanses of green forests, brown deserts, white ice caps.
It promises all these things, delivers on them repeatedly and
has built strong emotional connections.
But none of those things creates the desire for aliens to visit here.
It’s Life that appeals to them.
Beautiful, inspired, unpredictable, curious life.
That’s it’s brand.
And what distinguishes it uniquely in its universe of gigantic, round, floating orbs.
Branding is a concept, like profit, that only exists because of commerce.
Unlike profit and product, however, branding’s value is less easily quantified.
But presented with an Apple iPad or a Microsoft Surface, choose the one you’d want to learn about first.
At that decisive moment, branding supersedes engineering. Creates inestimable value.
And drives the bean-counters crazy.
Yes, branding should be a by-product.
Of focusing on developing great products.
And clearly communicating their benefits.
But in every marketplace outside of monopolies,
where nearly every company competes on some level of parity,
branding is their product.
It may not be the physical product they have to sell.
But it’s the product they’re trading on.