What’s good for the goose, they say, is good for the gander. This aphorism illuminates a useful principle – an action between two parties should provide mutual benefit.
In commercial settings, what is good for the brand (the consumer’s money) is good for the consumer (the brand’s goods). There is not a ton of controversy here. If someone thinks a product/ service is worth it, he will buy it. Otherwise he will not.
The question is: can marketing can add any value to this equation, or is the gander just being goosed by these brands? I would say yes, and no. As I’ve written before, marketing simplifies our decisions for us, but it does not inherently create a dishonest exchange. It allow us to make cognitive shortcuts by reinforcing what we already know (that Coca-Cola makes us feel good) or what we want to be (elite athletes like those in Nike ads). If we find that the brand’s message and product/ service offerings disconnect we will purchase those from other brands.
The act of marketing a brand, or creating differentiation from its competitors, also allows us, as consumers, to differentiate ourselves. Far from advocating that we all purchase a suite of brands that speaks to us, this means that we use products to tell a story about what we believe and do.
Is someone who wears Ed Hardy tees, Gucci shades and drives a Lamborghini any different than someone who wears blank tees, shops for her food at a co-op and only rides a road bike? From a branding perspective there is not much of a difference. They are both making statements about who they are, who they want to be and who they want to attract.
As long of brands keep their promises about their offerings and consumers want to stand out from each other, the process of brand development will continue.