August 27, 2006

Your Relationship With Brands

This article from The Onion, was found on

I find this brief article so funny! Those of you who know me understand that I am not a huge fan of "Brands", and am even less supportive of "Brand Marketing".

If you were to rank-order all of your relationships, from number one, to number ten-thousand, where would your favorite coffee chain rank? Do you really have an emotional attachment with a "Brand" that sells coffee?

Do you honestly have an emotional attachment with a "Brand" that sells an expensive pair of shoes?

When you visit your local fast food restaurant, do you honestly have a better relationship with the fast food "Brand" than you have with your family, your friends, or your co-workers?

If you do have a relationship with a "Brand", especially a publicly traded "Brand", what do you think the nature of that relationship is, when seen from the viewpoint of the "Brand"? How do you think the "Brand" views its relationship with you, when its objective is to increase shareholder value? Will the "Brand" act in a selfless manner with you in the way your friends or family will act in a selfless manner with you?

This brief story in The Onion exaggerates the relationship we humans have with "Brands". And yet, there is a fundamental truth in what they wrote. The National Football League begins its season in two weeks, and I will choose to not visit church on Sunday morning, so that I can watch a 10:00am football game featuring the Green Bay Packers. I will set my relationship with God aside so that I can have a relationship with the "Brand" known as the National Football League. At some point, all of us put a relationship with a "Brand" above other more important relationships.

All of us who work in Marketing, and even folks like me who specialize in Database Marketing, work hard every single day to "drive our Brand". And by doing so, we unintentionally create false relationships between "Brands" and "Individuals", relationships that sometimes take priority over the relationships we humans have with family and friends. We cause our customers to feel that they actually have a relationship with a "Brand". We then cause customers to unintentionally choose the brand over actual human relationships.

When push comes to shove, the "Brand" will abandon the customer whenever it benefits the "Brand". "Brands" will close stores when they cannot make a profit, disappointing the very customers who had a relationship with the "Brand". The "Marshall Fields" brand will be sold to another brand, and the "Marshall Fields" brand will be converted to "Macys". How important is the relationship between customer and "Brand", in that instance?

At the end of the day, marketers need to simply sell a quality product at a fair price, providing the best customer service possible, replicating perfect transaction between "Brands" and customers over and over and over. That's all that really needs to be done. It isn't easy to do. But in the long run, the "Brand" cannot possibly hope to have an intimate relationship with a customer. In the long run, the "Brand" must make decisions that are not in the best interest of the customer. By focusing on quality product, sold at a fair price, offered with great customer service, the "Brand" can hope to survive as long as is possible. And that is really what a "Brand" needs to do.


  1. Anonymous7:52 PM

    Thanks for expounding.

    There are some brands I do feel like I have a sort of relationship, like the Tropicana orange juice and Temptee cream cheese that remind me of breakfast growing up as a kid and which I remain loyal to, or NY grocery delivery service FreshDirect, or the Mets, or Reeses (okay, so most of my brand relationships are with food), or Philip Roth. My relationships with most of these brands (except FreshDirect) spans decades, and I'm genuinely excited by them.

    Yet I agree in full - most of this talk about conversations with brands, brand relationships, lovemarks, and all the rest is all pretty silly, and it deserves some deflation.

  2. Anonymous9:50 PM

    I tend to agree with you when it comes to nostalgia. I am an avid fan of auto racing and NASCAR, mostly because that is the primary way I spent time with my father, while growing up.

    Good comments!


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