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    Food for thought

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    April 20, 2006


    Scott Burns

    While I find the "point" of the post very interesting, the more I thought about the brands I work on...and the brands I consume...I just don't know if I want more meaning from them.

    I think the best brands are the ones that realize they are simply enablers. Brands that find a way to help people live their lives better, faster, more fun, calmer, more confident, with a smile on their face, etc. are the brands that win.

    By adding more meaning to the brands I worry that they would come across as self-serving and self-important, when the real importance resides within the consumer and their lives.

    Just thinking out-loud hear...


    Fair points - and hopefully you'll trigger some much needed conversation on the subject.
    I have to say that personally I find 'brand as enabler' a rather dated model and at best only one way to think about brands (also feels a kind of category generic claim). Personally, the brands I see having success today are the ones that hold some point of view that you either agree with or disagree with.
    But my point about complexity and nuance is not about clouding central meaning, rather it is about how a brand expresses itself. I just think those brands get more attention and will have more longevity. It's a horribly overused analogy (that has weaknesses) but if you think as a brand being a person, aren't the ones that you notice and have a long relationship with the ones that have a multi-faceted personality and change their expression over time and with their context (Madonna and Dubya are examples of this).
    Anyway, hopefully this may start a bit of a debate


    This is something we've been talking about a lot lately as ads continue to get more and more homogenous.

    I think your analogy of complex, interesting people is a good one. Part of the reason all of those shows are so successful is that they actually assume intelligent, curious people watch them. They make you think about things that haven't crossed your mind before and maybe even look at things you see everyday a bit differently. I've flown home from Salt Lake City before to no event, but recently (now that I've caught every episode of Big Love) it was amusing to imagine the family sitting next to me with their "babysitter" was really a polygamist family. I probably thought about that show for a good hour I was on that plane.

    It's less about touting how "interesting" your brand and offering is and more about actually proving it with a thoughtful, provocative dialogue.

    Scott Burns

    Maybe I'm just getting stuck on the word "meaning"...because I agree that the brands that stand the test of time are the brands that are able to reinvent themselves.

    But I will argue that I don't think people have relationships with brands...that strikes me as something brand managers and famously dead advertising executives speak of. I contend people have/use things they count on...things that work...things that make them feel happy....things that make them feel better than the other guy on the train.

    Getting back to brands expressing themselves, I totally agree that the brands who are willing to polorize themselves...disliked by some yet LOVED by just as many...will continue to be the brands we all longingly look to for inspiration.

    Have a great weekend!


    I would ask you to think of the things that you have/use that you count on, the things that make you feel happy and the things that make you feel better than the other guy on the train. Now throw them away (not literally) and replace them with something that functions in the same manner but that's generic.

    Doesn't it feel a bit like breaking up with someone who'd started to become a significant part of your life?

    They always say you can tell a lot about a person by the relations they keep. I think it's similar with brands.

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