Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Trouble With Brands

This is kind of a follow on or postscript for my previous long post about brands so I'm not giving it a "Dispatches from Marketer World" title because it's kind of an expansion and clarification.

One of the points I made was that brand is a very limited and flawed proxy for quality because brands can be bought sold and licensed, but the example I gave was downright obscure.

Here's a slightly less obscure one. Ben & Jerry's is a brand of ice cream that was actually invented by two guys named Ben and Jerry, specifically Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, two ordinary blokes who decided hey, they liked ice cream so let's start an ice cream company. So Ben & Jerry's began, and was a different kind of company, an independent company just started up by two blokes who overcame adversity (Ben doesn't have a full sense of taste) and built themselves a little slice of success by selling a better product than the corporate mass-produced crap.

You'll notice I used a lot of past tense there. That's because Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield haven't had anything to do with Ben & Jerry's since April of 2000.

Ben & Jerry's is owned by Unilever, the same company that makes Lynx.

The independent company started by two blokes that makes a better product went out of business 13 years ago, but its name and logos live on, attached to the same mass-produced crap that everybody else makes. And it's perfectly legal because the name "Ben & Jerry's" is a brand which can be sold, even though using the name and association of one product to sell a completely different product is fraud in a moral sense even if not a legal sense.

That's why shops touting that they have "my favourite brands" is so nonsensical; the brand is irrelevant, since it can mean something completely different one day or year to the next.

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