Once again, Coca-Cola has taken the top spot in Interbrand’s list of the world’s most valuable brands. As is often the case, IBM and Microsoft followed closely behind. Google had a good run of events as well, jumping from #20 to #10 in just one year.
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about Interbrand’s annual report in this blog. The report is essentially a barometer to test the “value” of any particular brand. But in a new book out by Jonathan Salem Baskin called “Branding Only Works on Cattle,” Mr. Baskin challenges the “math” behind Interbrand’s approach.Â The book is worth buying if only because of the wonderful way in which Mr. Baskin disassembles Interbrand’s formula. Mr. Baskin’s point-of-view is summed up quite nicely at the end of this passage when he states, “This isn’t math, it is religious scripture, created to reaffirm belief to the flock while ginning up enough obfuscation to dissuade nonbelievers.”
But to say that’s the only time Mr. Baskin shouts “the emperor has no clothes” would be a disservice to the book. In fact, the main premise of the book is pretty extraordinary — that is, that the branding people who tell you it’s about what people think have it all wrong. It’s not what people think about your brand that’s important, it’s how people behave with your brand.
It’s a deceptively simple premise, but one that has profound implications. Baskin writes about Gillette’s introduction of the new Fusion — a five-bladed razor that consumers haven’t embraced. Why? Because it was built on a faulty premise of how consumers think about shaving, rather than how they want to behave when they shave. (Lagging sales would indicate that consumers want to behave by buying a simpler, less expensive shaving solution.)
Just when you thought you’d read everything you needed to about branding, along comes Mr. Baskin’s book that turns everything on its head. Mr. Baskin says that one of the most sacred tenets in marketing — brand theory — needs to be reinvestigated and turned upside down.
To be sure, the book offers plenty of arguable premises. For example, even though the Interbrand approach may include some arguable assumptions, it’s still the best thing we have. And, at a bare minimum, the Interbrand solution can be used as a way to compare your brand’s value relative to your competitor’s and that, in an of itself, has some value.
In any case, “Branding Only Works on Cattle” is a smart, insightful, well-written book that’s worth taking a spin through.Â If you like Mr. Baskin’s approach, you can also follow him on Dim Bulb, his blog about marketing and branding.