Saturday, June 1, 2013

Brands As a Signal of Value

Here Gareth Kay writes about the trend in brand advertising of portraying brands in human terms. Brands are given personalities and human traits that are meant to make consumers identify with the product/brand. Kay writes that humanizing brands is conventional wisdom in advertising circles but is seemingly ineffective for consumers. A notable stat is that "most Americans 'couldn’t care less if 80% of brands out there disappeared tomorrow.'"

Although the statistic is likely affected by a bias in the survey responses and reflects a lack of willingness for people to acknowledge the importance of brands in their purchasing habits, Kay's post provides a good insight into the operation of brands in society. Brands operate best as a signal of value instead of signaling identifiable personality traits. 

The iconic American brands do not actively attempt to display themselves in human terms but instead signal specific values that develop into a part of consumer culture. When a brand is designed to have a human personality, it may provide a cultural interpretation but it does little to signal the actual value of the product. Coca-Cola, Apple, Starbucks, etc were all branded based product qualities and a consumers were free to develop their own view of the brands "personality." Even Disney is identified based on its creative capacity in content generation and quality in live entertainment. 

As Kay states, brands should be oriented as "human-friendly" instead of "human-like" because the most important interaction an individual has with the brand is quality aspects of the product or service. Advertising provides a weak signal to consumers when branding is based on establish a human personality or narrative for a product. Consumers respond to a brand when its inspires a knowledge of value instead of a recognition of personality.