Yesterday I wrote about the power of pop culture branding and received such thoughtful comments that it stimulated another blog.
As an illustration of pop culture branding, I wore my t-shirt with “naked” Marc Jacobs promoting the cologne Bang.
A point raised by my readers was that the power of branding can at times supersede the quality of the product. The product does not necessarily have to be the “best” as branding will make-up for any lack. This is a valid point. For instance take Coke, is it truly good for us? Does it bring us good health and help us stay fit? Sure it tastes good and may give us an instant fizz, but it has no intrinsic food value. Yet it is so heavy on branding that even Karl Lagerfeld decided to partner up with Coke and design a limited edition cover for its bottles coming out this month. (If interested, read my earlier blog, “Coke goes Couture.”)
Branding is not just limited to fashion, it seeps into all walks of life. A good example is books. I have bought many a books based on the radio interviews of authors or after reading a vignette of their biography in a periodical. They portray an erudite and intellectual image. If they have some flamboyance or flair in their personalities, it adds to the “X” or “Y” factor that I talked about in my earlier blog. What effect does it have on me? I am compelled by a force beyond my control to type amazon.com and charge the book on my current ongoing account. (Another example of the world becoming a global Mall with accessibility of all products at our fingertips.)
When the books arrive in the brown cardboard packaging, my joy knows no bounds and I get geared to read my latest acquired piece of literature. However, a few chapters or pages into the book, I realize with disdain that this is yet another book that I will add to the escalating “give-away-to-the-library” pile.
Another example is movies. Hollywood exemplifies branding. I am an avid listener of National Public Radio, especially the Film Week Marquee (a Friday critique of the upcoming weekly movies.) I often hear esteemed movie critic, Kenneth Turran condemn the premise of an upcoming movie. Contrary to the review of Kenneth Turran, the very next day I hear how that very movie broke all records at the box-office and soared to unimaginable monetary success. How is this possible? Shouldn’t quality equate with monetary success? Often times it does not. Branding gives it the boost. The actors are branded, the production company is branded and the movie is branded.
An extreme example is cigarettes. Those of you old enough to remember the Marlboro Man, will agree that the Marlboro brand was created based on the rugged and virile image of the man in the hat. The fact that the man in the hat could very well suffer from throat cancer a few years down the road was irrelevant!
However, in order to keep a perfect equilibrium to this discussion, one has to concede that branding is not the be-all and end-all. It is true that designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs or even Galliano may use their image to promote a brand. But ultimately the essence, the core, the nucleus of the brand needs to be virtuous. The product needs to be good. There must be a consistency in the quality. Rest is all fluff.
Branding is like icing on the cake. If the core of the cake is not scrumptious, icing may help initially, until it is all licked off and the only thing left is a noxious distaste.
It is similar to life. Sure you can talk the talk, walk the walk and even experience a few lucky strokes. But to achieve sustained success the work needs to be put in. Nothing replaces hard work and consistency. No amount of branding will guarantee continued success. Such assurance will only come from the essence of your work.
That is why brands such as Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Prada have sustained the dips and tips of economies, stock markets and changing cultural times and yet emerged triumphant.