Brand was invented around 1990, before then it was called image or reputation.
But in the nineties every agency had to make up a point of difference for itself.
As I remember it, Steve Henry’s agency, HHCL, was the first to come up with ‘brand’.
This was the idea that all products are exactly like all other products, so there can’t be any product advantage.
If there’s nothing different except the advertising, well HHCL’s advertising was like no one else’s, so they could make your image (your ‘brand’) like no one else’s.
And everyone else jumped onboard and created a bandwagon effect.
Now around this time there were lots of university graduates looking for jobs in advertising.
The only problem was all they had were academic qualifications.
So all they could be was account handlers, but that wasn’t something they wanted to do.
They wanted something more intellectual, so Brand Planning sounded perfect, it sounded more theoretical, more scientific.
So we have the rise of ‘marketing’ and the supremacy of ‘brand’.
In politics, it happened when Peter Mandelson ‘marketed’ Tony Blair, which led to David Cameron – in each case no product was needed: ‘marketing’ was everything.
In America there was Enron: Fortune magazine named Enron the World’s Most Innovative Company for SIX consecutive years, then it went bankrupt in the seventh year.
Or Theranos, worth $10 billion in 2010 and closed as worthless shortly after.
Both of these were fantastically valuable ‘brands’, they just didn’t have anything else.
Donald Trump always claimed to be a billionaire, he said he was worth $4.5 billion.
In 2006, he sued a journalist who claimed he was only worth $250 million.
Trump said the remaining $4 billion was the value of his ‘brand’.
Even though it didn’t exist anywhere but in his mind.
So where does that leave brand?
I think the European Super League have just found out.
Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Spurs agreed they would only play other big ‘brands’ in the European Super League: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, etc.
This made sense, all the big brands only playing other big brands for big money.
The only thing was, being money people not football people, the owners forgot these are football clubs first and brands second.
As Alex Ferguson once said: “Not all games are about football, some are just tribal”.
But you can’t expect an accountant to understand that, especially not an American one.
In 1958 the Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner moved the team to Los Angeles and changed its name to the LA Dodgers, no big deal, the brand was still the Dodgers.
But how do you move a club like Liverpool, and change the name but retain the ‘brand’?
That’s something the man who bought Hull City didn’t understand either.
Assem Allam wanted to change their name to Hull Tigers.
He said: “The word City is too common and a lousy identity. It’s associated with so many clubs like Leicester City, Bristol City, and Manchester City.”
He told David Conn of The Guardian “If I were owner of Manchester City I would change the name to Manchester Hunters.”
In 2013, supporters protested under a banner that said: “Hull City: A club NOT a brand”.
Interviewed by the BBC, Allam said: “I am not a football fan, I have never been a football fan. I am a businessman.”
And eventually the fans won.
The billionaires who actually liked football were the first to drop out of the Super League: Roman Abramovich, Russian owner of Chelsea, and Sheikh Mansour, owner of Man City.
Neither of these men needed the money, and they didn’t want to upset the fans.
But the clubs with American owners didn’t understand this, it was business, purely for making money, so it took them longer to come round.
But when Man City and Chelsea dropped out, they had no choice.
The lesson is, if you think the world is just about money, then you will also believe it is made up of nothing but brands.