Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Advertising vs. Anarchy.

Of all the things that good advertising can do, perhaps first and foremost advertising can combat anarchy.

Anarchy, or brand entropy, is a brand's natural state. If you have 1,000 stores selling Starbuck's coffee, it would only be natural that everyone develop their own language, their own signage, their own sets of behaviors to sell that coffee. Much the same way small groups of people develop their own myths, methods and manners.

What brand advertising does is create order. It tells a company who they are, what they sell and how they should behave.

Today I read in "The New York Times" that Dell Computer (a brand name but not a brand) knowingly shipped almost 12 million of computers with faulty electrical components that were leaking chemicals and causing malfunctions.

I contend that if Dell had stood for anything other than "LOW" prices, someone along the line would have said, "No, we can't do this. It isn't right."

But Dell had no such brand order. Nothing to keep them honest outside of relentless price cutting and price competition. The "Dell Way" was simply to wring costs out of the supply chain.

But this is not to pick on Dell.

This is to serve as a warning. Companies that don't establish and commit to their values are not brands. They might have branding and a nifty logo like BP. But they are basically behavioral anarchists. They can do whatever they want and act however they wish. Expedience and anarchy rule.

I prefer the order of brands.


Graham Strong said...

"The Order of Brands" - love it.

Brand as conscience, or brand as self-regulator. That's a very good point.

As you mention though, it won't work for everyone. As Kelly said just today, "ugly sells if people need it bad enough" (http://maximumcustomerexperience.com/2010/06/29/10-ways-to-fight-customer-apathy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+MaximumCustomerExperienceBlog+(Maximum+Customer+Experience+Blog)).

Everyone needs oil, and a lot of people need cheap computers. But if you are buying on reasons other than need or price-point, buying a brand name relieves at least some of those caveats.


Anonymous said...

Dell is a brand. Think of cheap computers and Dell is top of mind. I don't want to hear their philosophy of building computers, that will just cost me $200 more.

george tannenbaum said...

Agree Anonymous. I guess I left out the word "likeable." The minute someone sells cheaper boxes, which will happen, they cease to be a brand because they have no inherent brand value. Other than cheap. Which someone just beat.

For the same reason I would say that most airlines and telcos are not brand. Their distinguishing characteristic is cheap. Which is not ownable.

With Walmart being the possible exception. Though Sears was Walmart once and today they're nearly belly-up.