Wednesday, November 10, 2004

No Logo?

James Surowiecki has an article in Wired suggesting that the power of brands is diminishing. This makes perfect sense. A brand's power lies in the information it carries; for example, Sony is known for making good TVs. Nowadays, there are many other sources for information about a product. When I bought my last TV, I scoured reviews online and found that Samsung had a put out a particular model that had all the features of the high end Sony, but at a much lower price. When you buy a Sony, you're paying a premium for the assurance that comes with the brand. I got my assurance from a website I trusted, and it was free. The days of walking into a store and picking out a Sony are over.

Of course, we still need assurance from somewhere. Review sites are developing into "meta-brands." Anandtech, a site that review computer components, used to be one guy, Anand, whose opinion I felt I could trust. Now Anandtech has expanded, and I don't know anything about the individual writers. Still, I trust the Anandtech brand to tell me what brand to purchase of computer components to purchase.

Meta-brands are still brands; they still have to cultivate a reputation, and mistakes can hurt that reputation. A more radical departure from the current situation would be reliance on aggregate information from anonymous users. For example, even without reputations to protect, anonymous users have produced good results consistently on Wikipedia. But unless such a dramatic shift occurs, I would hesitate to say branding is dead.


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