Brief Notes on Why We Need Brands

The term ‘brand’ has come to mean a lot of things, and it should. After all, in an era of consumer individualism, the term we use to describe the types of entities that both define and drive our idiosyncratic lifestyles is bound to have a meaning that’s subjective and continually evolving.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as such:

A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

More generally, Marty Neumeier (The Brand Gap) says that, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.”

While the AMA’s definition is accurate and understandably formal, I like Neumeier’s brand conception because it hints at the way brands actually have an impact on us – which is psychologically. In reality, they help expedite our decision-making processes. What do I mean? Well, if we reduced products to simple commodities, it would become much more difficult (or time consuming) to decide what barbeque, shoe, car, smartphone or soft drink you wanted to buy. But when you believe in a brand, the decision is simple. Let’s paraphrase a few lines from REWORK: When you don’t believe in anything, everything is an argument (or an extended decision-making process). When you stand for something, decisions are easy. If a brand can get you to buy into them, they can actually make your life easier. I already know my next car will be a Ford. I already know when I go in to the supermarket I am going to be purchasing Coca-Cola products over others. These brands own the automobile and beverage spaces in my mind, so I don’t even need to contemplate other choices.

As Scott M. Davis (Brand Asset Management) explains, “On an average day consumers are exposed to six thousand advertisements and, each year, to more than twenty-five thousand new products… Brands help consumers cut through the proliferation of choices available in every product and service category.”

A spoon helps me eat soup more efficiently. An airplane helps us travel faster. My iPhone helps me with nearly everything. We would call all of these things, despite their pronounced differences, technology. They get this categorization because they’re the product of the practical application of knowledge. Brands are conceptions that allow for the more efficient meditation of product purchasing decisions—a kind of abstract technology, or psychological innovation, if you will. And I’m thankful for them.