The pioneers like Nike, Tommy Hilfiger etc. made the bold claim that producing goods was only an incidental part of their operations & thanks to recent victories in trade liberalization & labour law reforms, they were able to have their products made for them by contractors, many of them overseas.

Today’s best-known manufacturers no longer produce products & advertise them but rather buy products & ‘brand’ them. These companies are forever on the prowl for creative new ways to build & strengthen their brand images.

What these companies produced primarily were not things but ‘images’ of their brands.

Whoever owns the least, has the fewest employees on the payroll & produces the most powerful images, as opposed to products, wins the race.

Branding is different to advertising. The first task of branding was to bestow proper names on generic goods such as sugar, flour, soap & cereal.

The brand mania came about when Kraft was purchased by Philip Morris for $12.6 billion, 6 times what the company was worth on paper.

As Nike CEO Phil Knight explains ‘ for years we thought of ourselves as a production-oriented company, meaning we put all our emphasis on efficiency & manufacturing the product. We’ve now come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company & the product is our most important marketing tool. Our products speak for us.’

Nike is leveraging the deep emotional connection that people have with sports & fitness.

A great brand raises the bar – it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge of doing your best in sports & fitness or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.

Starbucks gives you ‘the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth & community people get in Starbucks stores.’

The original notion of brand was quality, but now the brand is a stylistic badge of courage.

Old Navy showcases its shrink-wrapped T-shirts in deli-style chrome refrigerators as if they were meat or cheese.

Intel Corp which makes computer parts nobody can see & few understand, transformed its processors into a brand with TV ads featuring line workers in funny metallic space suits dancing to ‘shake your groove thing.’

If they can brand, surely anyone can.

Polaroid is not a camera but a social lubricant.

IBM isn’t selling computers, it’s selling business solutions.

Swatch isn’t about watches; it’s about the idea of time.

Diesel owner Renzo Rosso says: ‘ We don’t sell a product, we sell a style of life. It is the way to live, it is the way to wear, it’s the way to do something.’