In case you’re wondering … consumers don’t really care about brands all that much.

branding“I don’t want a ‘relationship’ with my brands.  I want the best products at the best price.” — Jane Q. Public

In the era of interactive marketing and social media, there’s often a good deal of talk about how certain brands are successfully engaging their customers and creating an environment of “brand love” — or at least “brand stickiness.”

It’s not only consumer brands like Chipotle and Under Armour, but also B-to-B and hybrid brands like Intel, Apple and Uber.

As a person who’s been involved in marketing and advertising for well over a quarter-century, I tend to treat these pronouncements with a little less open-mouthed awe than others.

I get how when a brand is particularly admired, it becomes the “go-to” one when people are in the market for those particular products and services.

But the idea that there’s real “brand love” going on — in a sense similar to people forging close relationships with the people in their lives — to me that’s more far-fetched.

The marketing research I’ve encountered appears to refute the notion as well.

Case in point: In an annual index of “meaningful brands” published by the Havas MarComm agency, the research finds that very few consumers cite brands they “can’t live without.”

The 2015 edition of the Havas Meaningful Brands Index has now been released … and the results are true to form. Among U.S. consumers, only about 5% of the 1,000 brands evaluated by Havas across a dozen industries would be truly missed if they were no longer available.

It’s a big survey, too:  Havas queried ~300,000 people across 34 countries in order to build the 2015 index. Broadly speaking, the strength of brands is higher in countries outside the United States, reflecting the fact that trust levels for leading brands in general are higher elsewhere — very likely because lesser known brands or “generics” have a greater tendency to be subpar in their performance.

But even considering the brand scores globally, three out of four consumers wouldn’t miss any brands if they suddenly disappeared from the market.

What are the exceptions? Looking at the brands that scored highest gives us clues as to what it takes to be a brand that people truly care about in their lives.

Samsung is ranked the #1 brand globally. To me, it makes perfect sense that the manufacturer of the most widely sold mobile device on the planet would generate a strong semblance of “brand love.”

Even in the remotest corners of the world, Samsung has made the lives of countless people easier and better by placing a powerful computer in their pocket. It’s only logical that Samsung is a brand many people would sorely miss if it disappeared tomorrow.

The second strongest brand in the Havis index is Google. No surprise there as well, because Google enables people to research and find answers on pretty much anything that ever crosses their minds. Again, it’s a brand that most people wouldn’t want to do without.

But beyond these, it’s plain to see that nearly all brands just aren’t that consequential to people’s lives.

With this in mind, are companies and brands spending too much energy and resources attempting to get customers to “care” about them more than simply to have a buying preference when the time comes to purchase products and services?

Brand-LoyaltyRelated to that, is adding more “meaning” to a brand the answer to getting more people to express brand love? Or does it have far more to do with having products that meet a need … work better than competitors’ offerings … and are priced within the means of more people to purchase?

Havas — and common sense — suggests it’s the latter.

Do that stuff right, and a company will earn brand loyalty.

All the rest is just froth on the beer … icing on the cake … good for the psychological bennies.



ICANN’s Brand-Named Internet Domain Scheme Encounters Strong Resistance

The ANA and others are trying to stop ICANN from implementing its new brand-named Internet domain plan.In late June, I blogged about the proposed new initiative by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to broaden top-level domain names to include the use of company- or brand-name suffixes.

The idea is that famous brands could begin using their well-known monikers to further distinguish their activities on the Internet. ICANN’s spokespeople are on record claiming that the new guidelines will “usher in a new Internet age.”

Well … not so fast. The more people have been looking into this scheme, the less they like it. One of the biggest issues is the “pay to play” aspect. Unlike the days when people could purchase a domain name for just a few dollars … then squat on it until someone was willing to pay hundreds of thousands to use it, the cost to secure a new domain suffix like .pepsi or .hyundai will start at ~$185,000 … and go up from there.

That’s not chump change. But here’s the thing: For securing a famous brand name as a top-level domain name, it still represents a dandy opportunity for someone with funding (or a group of investors) to nab the “best brands” early on … then hold out to resell then name for a smart sum far greater than what they paid.

Which puts the onus back on the large companies who will feel compelled to pay the $185,000+ right off the bat – even if they have no intention of using the top-level domain name now or ever.

So it’s a very nice revenue stream to ICANN, ponied up by major international companies who don’t want the risk of having their names “hijacked” by someone bent on extortion – or worse, nefarious brand doings.

The concern is so great that the Association of National Advertisers, an organization made up of large national/international brand marketers, has issued an official communication to ICANN, warning that its scheme could have “potentially disastrous consequences” for marketers if the plan is implemented as proposed.

The letter also states that the ICANN scheme is likely to cause “irreparable harm and damage” to marketers, even as it “contravenes the legal rights of brand owners” and “jeopardizes the safety of consumers.”

Bob Liodice, president of ANA, has gone further in criticism of the ICANN proposal. “The decision to go forward with the program also violates sound public policy and contravenes ICANN’s Code of Conduct and its undertaking with the United States Department of Commerce,” he emphasizes.

Liodice contends that if the ICANN plan moves forward, it would create an ugly free-for-all environment in which many brand marketers would need to divert legal, financial and technical resources to applying for, managing and protecting their top-level domains … or risk the consequences.

“They are essentially being forced to buy their own brands from ICANN at an initial price of $185,000,” Liodice points out.

The sharp criticism of the plan ensures that these issues aren’t anywhere close to being resolved – and it probably puts ICANN’s anticipated January program launch date in question.

Stay tuned … ’cause it’s going to be a wild ride over the next few months!