Studies of Branding have more often than not focused on it being a rational reaction to Marketing Communications. A more helpful approach is to examine the subjective lived experience of brands that consumers have. Research by Levy (2001), McCracken (1986) and Aaker (1997) has identified meaning as being the key driver of consumer behaviour and it is brands where meaning resides. Brands not only reflect people’s lives but form an integral part of an on-going personal narrative which ‘braids the filaments of everyday empirical and eternal truth into a common strand’ Sherry (2004). Successful brands have emerged from a ‘culturally constituted’ world (McCracken 1986) where the purpose of Marketing Communications is to co-create customer experience rather than merely building brand image through personality associations. Brands should not be seen as the residual end to a process but a means to meaning for consumers.
In the current financial climate, even global brands have been forced to re-think strategy. According to the Kellogg Management School, for today’s brands to survive, they must meet the challenges of: cash (the balance of short-term costs against long-term investment; consistency (remaining loyal to the brand promise by maintaining message and positioning); and clutter (being heard amongst the noise form communication overload). Avoidance of what Sherry (2004) refers to as the ‘branding doom loop’ – losing long-term brand trajectory through re-positioning by price reduction – depends on having a ‘singular cultural logic which is coherent’ Grant (2006), and Marketing Communications must be a holistic, co-produced collaboration of marketers’ intentions, consumers’ interpretations and social networking.
The imperative of brand narratives is at the centre of this antimetabole: the meaning of marketing is really the marketing of meaning. What do you think?