Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Con of Branding

I love branding. For example, I'm certainly going to buy Origin of Brand by Ries and Ries. Branding is a powerful meme. But sometimes I get a gut reaction that marketing can be unethical. Then I'm torn to rationally say that the world is changing. "Education is War" - Marshall McLuhan.

The Washington Post yesterday had an excellent article about A Rough Ride for Schwinn Bicycle. While the end result is a Sting Ray for "about a third of the original's price in today's dollars," it is the destruction of the entire supply chain and those jobs that requires notice. Now when you buy a Schwinn part of your dollar goes to Wal-Mart, to their internal distribution, to the importer and brander of Schwinn and to the manufacturing in China and their suppliers. No longer in the business model are jobs that include pensions and healthcare for the now unemployed American workers that built the String Ray, the suppliers, the distributors or the hundreds of independent, mom and pop, bike shops. That is the way it is.

The reason I get the gut reaction is that the Schwinn Sting Ray brand evokes the product of 40 years ago for many of the parents buying a bike for their kids. The product has changed yet the branding is in some ways saying that it has not. For the consumer it is not the same "made in America" product as they rode in the 1970's though it has the same name. And the dollar goes to an entirely different business model. The branding is disguising the fact that business model is entirely different and that I think is a con of branding.

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