The brand is dead. Long live the brand

Some time in the 1990s, Philip Morris — the company behind Marlboro — mentioned something the media interpreted as meaning the end is nigh for brands. 

The implication was that consumers would increasingly turn away from brands and opt for unbranded, generic goods and services, or at least not-very-famous brands.

Back then, with the iconic Marlboro posters looming large in the minds of smokers and non-smoking consumers alike, what Philip Morris had to say mattered.

It probably still does, especially to those in the smoking business, and maybe to smokers. But if they did indeed predict the end of brands, it hasn’t happened.

It’s true that many well-known brands have disappeared in the past couple of decades. Anyone remember Pan Am? The “world’s most experienced airline” experienced its final flight in 1991.

Blockbuster, the chain of video stores, became undone. In fact, the curtains slowly came down for the whole video rentals industry over the past 20 years. And its final demise was probably marked by the bankruptcy of Blockbuster in 2010.

Woolworth’s, the store which is said to have been somewhat confused about what it should sell, wound down in the past decade or so.

In the electronics sector, Compaq was once a big-name computer brand. Nokia used to be the number-one mobile phone seller. Blackberry… ok, that’s still around, but for a while there, it was looking a little perilous.

But the brand — as a concept and communicator of a certain type of company with certain types of products — is very much alive and well.

And meanwhile, of course, new brands have emerged. Cloud computing didn’t exist when Philip Morris cigarette smoke was filling rooms around the world. Indeed the entire worldwide web was not the commercial phenomenon it eventually became, giving rise to your Googles, your Facebooks and your Twittergrams.

But that’s all mostly business: perhaps each one of the companies which disappeared could be said to have been unable to keep up with the changes in their sector and made a few bad decisions. It wasn’t that their brand was less desirable — the products and services the companies produced may have become less desirable.

Brands may be built on the products and services a company offers, but a brand is more than that: brands are tied up with the feelings people have about the company.

Brands, according to Parks Associates, are still the most important factor in people’s buying decisions, especially when it comes to electronics.

PA produces in-depth market reports which contain primary research and lots of facts and figures. One of its recent reports indicates that more than 70 per cent of consumer electronics buyers only considered one brand for their 2015 purchases.

According to PA’s 360 View: Consumer Electronics Adoption & Trends, price and product quality are important factors, as 15 per cent of consumer electronics buyers considered only one brand due to price and 10 per cent considered only one brand due to product quality, but brand itself was the dominant factor in these noncompetitive purchases. Nineteen per cent of consumer electronics buyers considered only one brand when buying because of their preference for that brand.

“Building brand mindshare early is critical so that consumers associate your brand with a category of products,” said Barbara Kraus, director of research, Parks Associates.

“Consumers generally begin the purchase process with preconceived notions that have an enormous impact on the final purchase decision. Consumer electronics manufacturers need to establish their brand early with an emerging product category so that consumers equate a product with that brand when they plan to make a purchase.”

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