What does branding mean to a 4-year-old?

Yesterday I was driving down the Main Road of our little town (population of 200 000-odd people), which is almost in the countryside about a 45-minute drive from Cape Town CBD.

Adii Jr was in the backseat and we were on our way to get some groceries.

I was probably deep in thought about something related to Receiptful, when Adii Jr suddenly shouted “There’s United! That’s United’s symbol!”.

At first I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but when I looked around me I saw that we had just driven past the General Motors dealership which displayed a massive Chevrolet sign.

Chevrolet is of course one of the main sponsors of Manchester United and their logo appears on the front of United’s matchday jerseys.

As a lifelong fan I would not have been a good parent had I not explained to Adii Jr that we are United and that he’s only allowed to support Manchester United for the rest of his life. :)

I think it’s safe to say that Adii Jr has never heard of Chevrolet and definitely doesn’t know that they manufacture cars. But here’s what I obviously did know:

  1. He saw a symbol (the Chevy logo) that he recognised from somewhere; and
  2. He immediately associated that with something that he loves (Manchester United).

This amazed me and really made me think about the branding and the value thereof in our societies today.

Having previously written a book about branding, I can say that branding is something I’ve always been passionate about. And whilst I think there’s loads of branding-related activities one should be doing, paying for marketing that is mostly about brand awareness (like getting your logo on the matchday shirt of your favourite sports team) isn’t something that would’ve been high on my list of recommendations (if at all).

Brand awareness is always hard to justify, because there’s no way to directly measure the impact thereof. So how do you know that if you spend $x on brand awareness, it’ll increase revenue with $y?

And particularly in an age where we’re suffering from ad blindness, how aware are we of the brands around us.

Yet this experience I had with Adii Jr made me re-think my pessimism in this regard. If a 4-year-old can connect the dots to enable their brains to be lead to something they love, then surely that means we’re subconsciously wired to make these connections to brands / companies / products.

What I know is that when someone sees or hears “Receiptful” they should connect that to “supercharged receipts” for example.

I’m unsure about whether I’ll be spending more money doing brand awareness stuff, but I wouldn’t mind if someone else’s 4-year-old can say something similar about Receiptful in future. :)