The Truth about Branding


The first belief about Branding that needs to be pulled down is what I call “logoism.”

True and false propositions:

Your Brand equals your logo. — FALSE

Your logo is a statement of who you are. — FALSE

Your Brand Ethos is who you truly are. — TRUE

As I have already said, your Brand is your Ethos, the fullest statement of who you are. People don’t fall in love with logos, but they do create committed relationships with Brands and are fiercely, defiantly, and sometimes irrationally loyal. The signature look and color of a logo definitely have a powerful effect, but much like the effect on Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov (1836-1946) was a Russian psychologist and the father of classical conditioning. Pavlov demonstrated his ability to condition a response (dogs salivating) by pairing it with a stimulus. First, he paired the introduction of food with a repeatedly ringing bell for a period of time. Then he rang the bell without the food, and the dogs salivated. But if he stopped introducing food for a period, the conditioned response would begin to be “extinguished.” Classical conditioning, also known as stimulus-response or operant conditioning, is the fundamental principle underlying advertizing and logoism — pairing the logo and the product.

The most effect marketing campaigns go a step further by pairing the product with the Ethos of the company. The result is that people enter into a committed relationship, not with the car, the coffee, or the computer, but with the Ethos of the company. Those corporate or personal Ethos connections are more long-lasting and harder to extinguish. Of course, the science behind much of advertizing today has been lost along the way.

There is often no effective attempt to condition the stimulus (the bell) to the actual reward (dog food). Instead, we fixate on creating bigger, louder, and prettier bells. People do not fall in love with logos and images without actual rewards or experiences to which the stimulus can be tied. In other words, you can spend a truckload of money, but you can never teach dogs to salivate with only the sound of a bell. They only way they are going to love that bell, or your logo, is if they associate it with a positive experience. And what experience could be so wonderful so as to make them salivate whenever they saw or heard something that reminded them of your product, project, or purpose (i.e., your logo)? It is the weight of your combined Brand and Value Equities.

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