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What’s for sale–the product or the brand?

What’s for sale–the product or the brand?

It was the 90’s. Stussy had just hit, and high school soon became the land of have or have not. Stussy’s branding was distinctive and irreverent, exactly what everyone wanted to be. 

I remember thinking “It’s just a t-shirt…”

Well, maybe that was my mother’s influence. 

“That’s ridiculous. $50 for a t-shirt? No way.” 

“But Mom….”

She really had no interest in my social status (or lack thereof).

And with that, I began my lessons in branding. 

Crazy thought: Maybe when children begin to understand branding, we know they’ve reached the age of reason. 

And let’s face it: in high school, those who are better at branding are more popular. 

And now, looking back, I realize that I didn’t want a new t-shirt. I wanted the symbolism–the meaning–contained in the brand. That was worth $50. 

So, I ask you,

What’s the most valuable aspect of a product–the actual item or what it means? 

Can you separate the two? 

Does the John Deere name enhance the value of a tractor? What’s the difference between Glossier’s red lip liner and Revlon’s? What’s it mean if I wear red Glossier lip liner while driving a John Deere tractor? 

We, consumers, use brands to communicate. We show our preferences, ideologies, and interests through the brands we bring into our lives. 

Those of us who create brands create symbols that others identify with and adopt as their own. It’s like creating new words, and it’s wonderful to see customers try on these new words for size, adapt them, and make them theirs. 

The hard part, as we all know, is finding the right audience then growing that audience. That’s where PR and marketing come in. So, if branding creates the words, PR and marketing are where they’re spoken. 

This leaves us with the really tricky part: how do you know when to speak and to whom?

The answer to this, unfortunately, is often trial and error (and that’s no fun).

The better way is to have a good funnel that lands customers at that perfect union of brand and product… or in marketing speak, conversion. 

That’s the dream, right?

Well, let data science help. 

There are mountains of data out there–yours and others’. Leverage those to find out what’s been said, by whom and who listened. 

It’s easy. In a few days, your audience will speak back, and you’ll begin the intricate dance of maintaining and growing a brand. 

Author: Randall Malcolm

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