Jimmy Arujo

Brand Stand

A peek into what gets brands to their zenith or nadir.

The watch you wear gets stared at. The sunglasses you sport get admiring looks. The car you drive decides your next promotion. Or probably attracts suspicion. Don’t miss the mobile that leads your life. That is probably the loudest signature of your personality in today’s increasingly brand-crazy world.

Brands do more to our lives than our gall bladder probably does; unless it quits on us. Is that cause for alarm? In the case of the gall bladder, may be. In the case of all the other things that touch your life, and mine, definitely. Probably more than alarm, at that.

Brand social

Relationships are built on brands. Ask bridegrooms. Friendships are decimated by brands. Ask brides. Interviews are negotiated on the strength of a pair of branded glasses, branded cufflinks, branded shoes and probably anything that is branded.

It is a tiny wonder then that more and more people are rushing to brand themselves. Yes, in the true sense of branding, from where the word originates; from the branding of cattle to identify them to ranchers. And the branding that people are indulging in? Tattoo art as personality statements. And just as misleading can be brands that make tall claims and cut low on delivering their brand promise.

Cool is hot

So, what is it that makes a brand tick and another trip? Communications play a major role. Ads make fads. Ads break fads. Peer pressure helps. Editors, fashion bloggers, the most popular girl in class and the upcoming rock star are all brand ambassadors in their own ways, apart from the sensuously smart face that rocks the eyes of the beholder of any ad with promises that are rarely kept. The cool look is in. The cool gadget gets gasped at in adoration. The oohs and ahs compete with looks of disdain and comments like ‘You are so passé.’

Craved by those who crave to be craved about

Brands thrive on personality insecurities, or so it would seem. Brands also thrive on social competition, especially in seeking the admiration of the opposite sex, or in the case of more open trends, of the admiration of one whose adoration one seeks. Rather complicated all this, but it does not stop the brand mills from churning up more promises, more ads, more brands, more brand successes and more brand failures. It is not what you crave that matters. It is what makes you craved about that does. That is the all-important difference. A small shift in viewpoints and a continental shift in perception.

Brand crash

So, what makes some brands nose dive from the peaks of success? Other brands? Competition? Lack of sufficient advertising exposure or expenditure? Or all of these? Or none of these? Some advertising gurus will tell you that they have the answers. Some research, however unbiased, even bear them out a bit on that claim. I won’t pretend that I know the answers. I love the brands I am currently raving about. But being loyal in this kind of love is not seen as a very happening loyalty. You need to be seen as an opinion maker if you are to be taken seriously at all.

Grand brand ideals

My grandmother would have me think otherwise, but the brand of roses I bring my lady can decide if the evening will lead to a coffee or a candle-lit dinner. The brand of shoes I wear could decide if they will stay on my feet all evening or if they will get kicked of in a frenzied hurry. The shirt brand that I wear will decide if it will stay sombrely on my back or if it will get unbuttoned faster that you can say the word unbutton three times in a row.

Top of mind

The brand of the belt I wear, the perfume, the hair gel, the watch, the mobile, the T-shirt and many other articles that make up my branded personality are capable of deciding how far my luck will run with me and how far I might fare. Suddenly, all the hard work that I put into studying the conjugation of French verbs in my eight grade seem lost among the onslaught of brand positioning and brand personality and brand promise and brand recall. Top of mind is cluttered with brand names. Bottom of closet, likewise.

Base thought

The bottom line for a brand may be in monetary terms. The bottom line for the brand buyer consist of oohs and ahs. And then some. Are brands worth the investment? To be quite honest, everything depends on how you can carry off a brand. It is like being able to own a Stradivarius violin and not knowing how to play it. Or having a wine glass and a fork and being able to bring alive symphonies of the angels to life with them. Yes. At the end of the day, it is what you can do with the brands you love. And to some extent, what the brands can do to you. Or how they can undo you. Or your evening. Or your dress that evening.

Admiration matrix

It may all seem like a matter of conjecture and wonderment. But if you are taken in by those who sell advertising space or creative advertising ideas, branding is a very studied science. If you can’t carry off the brand that has apparently helped the model in the aerated drink ad to win over the admiration of some rock star’s fan by being cool, you will probably be the ideal candidate for the next brand that assures you better luck with the admiration mills.

Belief

Brands can make you believe a lot more about yourself than your personality mentor or even your guru. You don’t even have to think back a week to remember someone with the personality of a wet crow and the personal magnetism of a mountain goat, walking like she owned the world and several of the larger planets, too. If you don’t remember, you stand a good chance to survive in this world, unmindful of the knives that the more brand-savvy elements in the populace will throw at you with their looks of disdain.

I suggest you chew any chewing gum and, when asked, let them know that it was a branded piece of gum till you mulled on it. Now it is just a bubble, like most brands eventually end up being, without the right kind of people to nurture it into a brand that people believe in, for all the right reasons.

Me?

Am I brand conscious? I try to pretend that I am above all this brand madness. But I can confess to you honestly, after having befriended you with all of the above that I have shared with you, that I have stuck to the same brands of soap, shampoo, toothpaste and tennis racquets for the longest while. Not because they were advertised by hot models or cool lines, but because they work for me. Consistently. That is what decides the success of a good brand: its ability to consistently deliver on its brand promise, unwaveringly.

 

About the writer:

Jimmy Arujo is a creative director who has worked on some of the world’s most sought-after brands in a career spanning a good quarter of a brand-frenzied century. You can inundate him with hate mail, fan mail and fun mail at brandtickles@gmail.com and share your thoughts on brands, at will.


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