Havas Media have published their annual The Meaningful Brand Index (MBi) where one of their top featured findings says that most of the respondents would not care if 70% of the brands ceased overnight. I find it alarming.
On a first glimpse and in the short run the response can be understandable. People may have lost faith in one or another brand, think that a particular brand is not fully delivering to their expectations, is not bringing value to their individual and/or societal needs or consider that brands are easy replaceable and so on. Also, people may view brands and business organizations through the capitalistic evil discriminating lens.
My aim is not to blame people on their views the way they punish brands, do not understand them or even betray. It’s not their fault. Businesses are accountable. Neither I want to diminish the role of brands. I think that a concept of brand in its core has a meaningful and very profitable notion.
Then why is it alarming?
The research results that revealed cool hearted attitude towards brands, in more general terms, marginalizes numerous relationships that are far more than just “brand-customer” affair.
A brand is not an abstraction. It is a living organism where various actors are involved in multiple relationships that have a direct and indirect impact on individual lives: from the internal organizational level to immediate stakeholders to direct consumers and further beyond. Brands – commercial, institutional and organizations – are a binding element of numerous networks that affect the state of economy.
What consequences would the global economy experience if 70% of brands disappeared overnight? Most likely it would turn out to be a far more-bigger nightmare for governments (if they had a chance to exist at all) across the globe than handling the current Greek drama and juggling the stability of Euro.
Brands have outgrown their mission as symbols of differentiation only – a territory still for many organizations. Brands must have a clear purpose for an existence that should become an organizing principle for a business or any organization internally to build up relationships with all relevant stakeholders.
I am suggesting that a concept of brand should take up more visibly a new (additional) role – brands as infrastructure. Thus, I suggest to approach and manage brands as significant elements of a global infrastructure. A conventional view assumes that physical assets, such as roads, ports, airports, pipes, telecommunications, supply of water, electricity and so on, are an infrastructure.
Strong brands support the global infrastructure with their physical (product/service) offering and emotional significance. It is not delivered in purely marketing or advertising terms but rather culture – contagious both inside and outside the organization – that is at the heart of continuous sustainability.
Poorly managed brands are infrastructure’s weakest link. Irrelevant purposes, incapability of galvanizing internal teams, short-term opportunistic behavior, inappropriate offerings or bureaucratic working cultures could be some of the causes.
Each brand is unique and plays its own particular role in the notion of “brands as infrastructure”. Every brand has an individual purpose for existence, they are competing, making individual profits yet cooperating and inspiring each other.
At the core – brands as a pool of diverse elements build up a physical and emotional infrastructure – from a great working place to being accountable for an environment and foreign cultures to engaging in brand authentic relationships with stakeholders.
Brands as infrastructure keep the economy and global affairs running by giving humans a sense of wellbeing, meaningful predictability and security.