Monday, 1 February 2016


Branding used to be so simple. When Bass created their Red Triangle beer in 1875 (the UK's first registered trademark) they did it so those who couldn’t read would point out the beer they wanted. It was also a mark of reliability. Forget brand values, a brand was basically the same wherever and whenever you bought it.

This matters with food and drink. When it comes to cars it’s a little different with the idea of what we call a Friday car or in Germany a Monday car. Monday why? Because all the car workers are wasted after a weekend’s drinking…boom, boom. I heard that last week from a German Taxi driver in Nuremberg.
Like vicars we marketers can have doubts about our religion. I am struggling to believe in the power of branding as it used to be in the second half of the 20th century when we had Double Diamond, Mother’s Pride, Gold Blend, Silk Cut and Malibu.  

When we had a plethora of ‘brands’ like Screaming Yellow Zonkers, Slime and Sunny Delight (remember that? From sales of £160 million in the UK it disappeared as the beta-carotene colourant in the product was found to turn skin orange if too much SD was drunk). In these good old days when an ad man said “people drink the advertising” Heineken, Carling Black Label in beer and in soft drinks Tango, funnier and more extraordinary advertising kept us glued to our TVs. Brands had become entertainers.

Stable brands like Mars, Heinz, Persil and Coca- Cola carried on plying their remorseless trade but I began to have serious doubts. Like the Reverend Johnson in Blazing Saddles who said in prayer:-  
“O Lord, do we have the strength to carry off this mighty task in one night? Or are we just jerking off?”

There was Coca-Cola’s cynical and disastrous water brand Dasani and the sense that business had gone mad.

In China I drank their now global ‘brand’ Great Wall wine. No two glasses were the same. What the hell was going on in this world of branding?

People called themselves brands. Countries became brands. The ultimate brand of course was Planet Earth. 
I became a deep sceptic about the religion of branding except when someone creates great product, because they want to, and signs it with their own name.

I believe in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, I believe in Ted Baker, I believe in Dr Oetker the German family food company and I believe in Jimmy’s.

Jimmy’s is an Iced Coffee business in Christchurch, Dorset founded by Jim Cregan 5 years ago because he craved the iced coffee he’d drunk in Australia but couldn’t find here.

Like Patagonia (Yvon Chouinard’s creation) Adidas and Whole Food Market a person had an idea and drove it forwards with purpose and a simplicity of vision.

Great brands are real, living things created around an idea and just a touch of madness.

They are never made by a Marketing Committee.

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