Because A Brand Only Exists In The Mind

I love BNET. Every piece on there is really smart, and I just saw a video that featured Lego Brand Architect Tormold Askildsen. For me, the guy summed up exactly what the successful 21st century brand will have to be and do. It also made me consider my own views on the subject. Perhaps the most important thing Mr. Askildsen said was that “a brand really only exists because it lives in the minds of consumers.” I’ve always agreed that the existence of brand is all about perception, but this enlightened me in a different way. No matter how nice the logo is, or how well crafted the brochure or television spot is, no brand exists unless it exists inside the mind. Also, a brand very likely exists differently in each mind. BP in one mind is not the same BP in the next. No matter how carefully controlled the brand communication, people ultimately construct the brand reality within their own minds.

The rise of social media makes this thinking around the role of brands particularly relevant, because brands everywhere are struggling with the loss of control they feel as they begin to take part heavily in this method of communication. Once, a team I was a part of was working hard to convince a general officer in the American military that MySpace was a good piece to add to the recruiting effort. It wasn’t an easy sell, and this general described the social media realm at the time as “the undisciplined theater.” Ultimately, he did make the decision to go forth, but we made constant adjustments to the MySpace page over the next year as we tried to make the page, and the people using it, behave. That was four years ago, and lots of brands are still in exactly the same place. Many are having an extremely hard time accepting the fact that their brand messaging can be disputed or even mocked within a space that’s dominated not by marketing but by individuals with their own opinions. It’s true that the relatively new social media landscape has changed things. It’s given a very loud voice to dissenting opinion and it does sometimes encourage mob behavior: “Yeah, I hate them too!” But all this simply makes it more important for brands to speak the truth about what they are and what they’re about. We consumers can love brands in the same way we hate them. If you tell us what’s real and offer up a reasonable degree of transparency, we’re like happy dogs in front of the fire. Look no further than all the tails that wag for Apple, if you need proof.

Here’s the bottom line: For the fifty years or more that brand advertising and communication has been a part of the fabric of life, the people who control brands have been under the impression that they could control what the consumer perceives. Maybe – just maybe – that was almost the case fifty years ago. Maybe it was the case when we still believed most everything we read because it came from a “trusted authority.” Maybe it was the case before an entire nation – indeed, an entire world – became savvy and a little bit cynical because one too many “brands” turned out to be big lies. But it hasn’t been that way for a very long time. The brave new world isn’t a punishment for brands that want to be great, it’s an opportunity. Maybe it’s a little like jumping into a chilly pool at first. But once you’re in the water, it feels fine. Near the end of his nicely structured two-minute sound bite, Mr. Askildsen offered that companies don’t really own their brands at all. That consumers will influence brands more and that companies will influence them less. Rightly, he says that companies need to work to “orchestrate” their brands rather than controlling them. I liked what he had to say, and I think I agree with much of it. Brands should plant seeds and build relationships with their consumers, but it’s ultimately consumers that will build the brand. The goal is to get them to build it favorably. To see the video and draw your own conclusions on the role of brand in the age of social media, go to:

Photo credit to: and


  1. tsanko says:

    Wonderful ..thanks a lot for posting a good informitive blog

  2. Alan Whitley says:

    Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll continue to, and I look forward to topical suggestions. There’s so much to talk about in marketing and advertising, and I’m looking forward to furthering the conversation.
    - Alan

  3. badmash says:

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

  4. mackdaniel says:

    this was a really nice post, thanks

  5. DingoDogg says:

    ЎIncreнble! No estб claro para mн, їcуmo offen que la actualizaciуn de su nombre de


  6. admin says:

    Thanks all, for the comments on this one. What actually creates brand is a very interesting topic, especially in the present day environment. Many things are changing, and smart marketing and ad people will need to understand it. Logic and Lightning will post more on this subject soon. – Alan

  7. Edwas says:

    Interesante, no va a continuar con este artнculo?


    • admin says:

      Hi -

      There’s been a lot of interest around this topic, so I probably will continue it. The idea of brand is certainly evolving, as is its place. More to come, and thanks for the comment. – Alan

  8. I can’t figure out how to subscribe to the comments via RSS . I want to keep abrest of this, how do I do that?

    • admin says:

      You should be able to click on the RSS feed area, then provide your email address. You’ll get a confirmation email from L/L, and that should do it. I’ll do a check to make sure everything is working properly. I definitely want you here! – Alan

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