To Brand Or Not To Brand?

Last Updated Sep 29, 2008 12:14 PM EDT

Does Corona succeed wildly in certain markets because of its brilliant branding? Or some fluke of human taste buds?

The debate is raging in the comments of Kiss Your Brand Goodbye. BNET readers have been trying to pin author Jonathan Salem Baskin to the wall about his thesis that branding is due for a sea change. The Battle of Corona started with this shot from a reader:

Let's focus on Corona for a minute. How do they command such a premium for a relatively ordinary taste? The brand is wildly popular among lower income groups despite its very high cost, because the brand conveys an exclusivity. It's popular in other segmetns for that reason and the sense of escapism they pound into us with their advertising. I'm not sure how that makes Coronoa an exception to The Rule. Seems like branding as usual to me.
Baskin's defense reads in part:
The fact that individual consumers have attached their desires to Corona's product, versus (or differently from) any other other other products in the category that promote 'escapism' or other nonsense attributes that have nothing to do with drinking beer, isn't proof that Corona's branding 'works.'

Rather, it's proof that human beings attach meaning to things in their lives, and that marketers' ability to predict, control, or fine-tune those associations is pretty much limited...or doesn't really exist.

Who knows why somebody likes a beer, or a tube of toothpaste, or an insurance policy? It just seems far more reasonable for marketers to focus on their behaviors, and on prompting those actions that lead to purchase, than trying to hypnotize people with our brilliant branding.

If they buy our stuff, who cares why?

In other words, says Lucio Ribeiro, the chief digital officer of Australian Web marketing consultant The Online Circle,
what you are saying is that Brand is still a valid concept, however the way we communicate it is not?
To which Baskin replies, "That's exactly what I'm saying."

I hope to get to Baskin's book, "Branding Only Works on Cattle" very soon, as well as "The Brand Bubble" and "Obsessive Brand Disorder."

In the meantime, a branding poll: [poll id=16]

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.