Is brand evil?

Brands and branding are responsible for many of the world’s problems today.

Capitalism and globalisation in the form of homogenised corporate monsters rule ok. They get inside our minds and make us do things that, left to our own devices, we would avoid like the plague.

Surely brands are therefore clearly evil and almost Orwellian in their ability to change our behaviour to suit their own ends, know our thoughts and actions and brainwash entire social and cultural groups.

But hang on a minute. This view, held high by the anti globalisation, anti capitalism lobby misses one or two rather important points.

Don’t all of us, ‘brainwashed’ and easily manipulated consumers in the free world make our choices BECAUSE WE WANT TO? No one forces us to do what they want and no one penalises us when we don’t. We choose to pay premium prices for a Nike or Lacoste branded T-shirt but probably couldn’t be paid to wear an HSBC bank one.

We make purchasing choices about almost everything from food to clothes to batteries and insurance and it is brand that allows us to have choice – without it, how would we know what our choices were? How could we differentiate between products? How could we express a preference? How would we know whom to trust? Even the ‘No Brand’ brand has become an influential and recognized…. well…brand.

Brand is now so influential that it is used to promote choices that go well beyond purchasing decisions. Some support football clubs because of associations of style, glamour and success rather than a local affinity or allegiance. We donate to charities because of the worthiness of their cause but also because of our levels of trust in them based on our perception of their brands. The Red Cross is still one of the worlds most recognized and respected brands. Many people in democratic countries base their voting decisions on the brands of politicians and political parties rather than on a good understanding of policies.

Everything from people to countries are described as brands and as individuals we make choices based on how we believe others will perceive our unique brand as a result of our actions and decisions. The word itself is used (and misused) by almost everyone in the free market world

These behaviours are not new, however the positioning of them as brand building activity is. The business of deliberate, planned development in order to change and influence peoples views has, over the last 30 years, become one of the most important and considered aspects of business strategy.

Business owners, leaders and managers, regardless of their organisations size, scope and markets have become the primary custodians of their brands. There is a recognition that although successful brand positioning still impacts heavily on sales and marketing activity, all parts of a business can benefit and improve as a result of carefully constructed brand change and direction. More importantly, brand building is now understood to benefit the smallest SME as much as the largest multi national.

So is brand evil? Definitely not, so long as the activity is carefully and responsibly conducted and implemented and if it creates real change within an organisation and in the beliefs and minds of the people who are exposed to it. If organisations are able to differentiate themselves from their competition in a genuine and believable way and if consumers, donators and information seekers are able to make real choices or gain real benefit, then everyone wins. The trick is to embark on brand activity in the right way and for the right reasons.

To find out more about how you can develop influential, long lasting and growth generating brand change that will make a measurable difference to your business, workforce and customer groups, please contact Purple Frog or email

About the author

Boss of Digital. Swindon fan. And frantic music collector.

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