Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on the branding study tour, I can comfortably say that I had a most narrow understanding of what a brand means to a company or individual.
The tour began with a visit to Nickelodeon, which, very naively, I assumed wouldn’t be able to teach me very much about branding in general. What I witnessed was an incredible amount of thought and effort going into grabbing the attention of children, appealing to the parents of those children, and doing so while navigating the differences between countries throughout Europe. I realized what a tremendous challenge it is to create a consistent brand across languages and cultures, and how distilling your company down to a few key words, images, or messages is really where the rubber meets the road.
After that visit I tossed out preconceived notions, and approached each company with an open mind to how one constructs a brand and the pros and cons to different approaches. Our professor (#professorgosline) impressed upon me the notion that your perception of a brand is elastic – as we visited each of the companies on the tour, our attitude towards and opinions of the brands changed. A particularly noteworthy visit was to Acne Studios in Stockholm. The CEO personally delivered a presentation and then took us on a tour and stayed with us for an entire morning to answer our questions. More important than the personal attention was the care and passion he had for the Acne brand. I’m willing to bet he made the effort to educate us not because he wanted an MIT endorsement or a couple new customers – it seemed obvious that he approaches every Acne exposure the same way. He maintains and pushes the brand and uses every opportunity to educate others.
The study tour helped me become acutely aware of the ways in which we as individuals and consumers react to the branding efforts of a company. A loyalty card, a personal discount, an advertisement placing me in the in-group – I’ve witnessed these efforts but until recently have not understood how and why they are constructed. Am I now able to better play “defense” against the branding efforts of a company? I might be more comfortable buying generics, sure, but it seems more likely that I’ll simply take more consideration into how my consumption represents me and what a company is thinking when it tries to shape its brand. Furthermore, I will be paying closer attention to the building of my own personal brand and how I want to communicate that to others.
A great study tour and, of course, many thanks to the organizers and our professor!