The concept of branding is by no means anything new. There was a time when a brand was literally just that, perhaps it was the mark of the village’s blacksmith signifying a level craftmanship, attention to detail, even an assurance of quality. But here we are we are thousands of years later and designers, manufacturers and producers are all leaving their mark on their wares. So what makes the process of branding so powerful that it has transcended over the many generations and various cultures throughout history? And most importantly to a marketer, why do some brands flourish while others fail to take flight and tank?
We live in world that has become a whole lot flatter since the turn of the century. Flatter in the sense that technology has change the game, where we are all playing on a relatively level playing field. Take for example the City of Banglaore, nicknamed the Silicon Valley of India. Once a sleepy pensioners town in the late 80’s, it has undergone a metamorphosis is now home to a large number of multinational companies specialising in the research and development of information technology. Similar things are happening in China and dozens of previously undeveloped countries in the world. So where do brands fit in to the equation?
Some time, not too long ago, the idea of Swiss engineering or Japanese electronics and optics stood for quality, but as more and more manufacturing, research and development gets out-sourced to these low-cost centres, marketers will have to contend with the effects of this on their brands. Whilst Omega, Tag Heuer, Breitling won’t be shifting their operation to China any time soon, China has the technology and expertise more than adequite to handle the manufacturing of most consumer electronic goods, and to do it well. More and more people have come to expect great performance from products regardless of where they are manufactured, a LCD TV made in China can often be as good as one from Taiwan, a toaster made in China often performs just as well as a designer toaster made in Italy. So where does the differential lie?
It seems that brands today have to do more, and say more than ever before. Yes, they have to embody the values, promises and even the cultural beliefs of an organisation, but beyond this, they have to stand for something that consumers can engage with, to relate to and to fall in love with. As the world becomes even flatter, and the geographic and social differentials which once meant something dissappear, we as marketers will have to look even harder to find that ‘je ne sais quoi’ in a brand.