When my wife was a young art director, she passed her driving test and bought a VW Beetle.

But why a Beetle: it’s small, noisy, and very basic.

It’s got no power-steering, no automatic gears, no luxury features.

Totally not a feminine car.

So why did she buy it?

She doesn’t know or care anything about mechanics at all.

All she cares about is brand.

But VW never did any brand advertising, it was all product advertising.

Or was it?

Every single ad told you why the car was better.

An air-cooled engine that wouldn’t freeze in the winter.

The engine over the rear-wheels for added traction in the snow.

The number of checks it had before it left the factory.

The number of times it was painted for protection.

The ease of getting spare parts.

The low cost of running it.

The low cost of buying it.

My wife wasn’t interested in any of these facts.

But the cumulative effect built a brand that was a smart car for smart people.

And that’s what she bought, a smart brand.

We buy a brand for what it says about us, and that brand said she wasn’t just a dizzy female.

She wouldn’t be taken in by a cute little car that was advertised in pretty colours with a girly soundtrack.

The VW Beetle was for smart people who didn’t want to be patronised by trivial advertising.

Years later she changed to a different brand.

She bought a BMW.

Why was that, surely that’s as far as you can get from a VW Beetle?

Maybe so, but by then she was Robin Wight’s art director.

They were working on BMW and every ad had a single impressive fact.

Why six cylinders were smoother than four.

Why ABS braking stopped you skidding in ice and snow.

Why the paint was thick enough to stop shotgun pellets.

Why fuel-injection was better than a carburettor.

But she didn’t know or care about mechanical facts so why should she want a BMW?

Because the cumulative effect of all those ads was a wellthought-out brandfor smart people.

These weren’t just typical patronising luxury ads dripping with bling.

They were smart ads for smart people.

We buy a brand for what it says about us.

But the current misconception about brand advertising is that it has to be purely emotional.

If you want an emotional take-out you must only have emotional input.

But you get out what you put in.

Patronising in, patronising out.

So the effect of this brand-only advertising is to show that the advertiser has nothing to say about their product.

Nothing they are proud of.

And, whatever marketing experts think, consumers aren’t dopes, they can spot that.