Which comes first - the chicken or the egg?

When you're creating a brand, which comes first - the meaning that the brandmaker assigns it or the meanings that consumers assign it? Ideally, it should be the meaning that the brandmaker assigns it. The brand owner should establish a vision for the brand and then work to sell that image to the public.

Some people believe that it is the opposite - the consumers assign the brand its meaning first and then the brand manager facilitates that co-creation between the customer and the brand. ("Classic marketing.") That may indeed happen.

But 9 times out of 10, when you are dealing with a strong brand, you are dealing with a brand where the owner had a vision for what it would mean and then imparted that vision to the outside world. Target, Starbucks, Nike, Microsoft, Oprah - all of these and more are examples of "classic branding."

It is true that "classic marketing" appears to be on the rise with Internet brands like YouTube and Google -- where the customer's input shapes the presentation of the brand nearly completely.

However, brands that endure impart an idea to the public and then keep the public engaged with the brand over time - it is not easy to create a substitute for them. That is what branding is all about - establishing a strong, distinctive meaning that customers can then work into their lives as an enduring symbol of something that matters to them.

About

Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.