Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The real thing.

I'm stealing a contemplative moment at my desk. To be specific, I'm looking for some relief from the ennui of trying not to screw up (what passes for 'marketing'’ in the modern age), and I'm flipping through the August issue of Business Week. This is their annual 'Best Global Brands'’ issue, and there, right at the top of the list yet again, is Coca-Cola. They say the brand - not the business or the market cap, the brand - is worth sixty-seven and a half billion dollars. That's roughly eight Googles, in brand valuation terms.

Coke really is the proto-brand. Look at its recent history: There's the whole New Coke thing. The whole CAA thing. The whole Sergio Zyman '‘End of Advertising As We Know It'’ thing. It goes on. A parade of geniuses who are like nothing so much as an airline pilot that sings Barry Manilow tunes in the cockpit and, observing that the plane is still in the air, concludes that '“Copacabana'” is keeping it there.

I have another theory. I think that the triumph of Coke has been in spite of all this heavyweight marketing and advertising brilliance. Its value might really lie in its sheer tenacity. In an age when we look for authenticity wherever we can find it, Coke sells it for a buck a bottle. I wonder sometimes if '‘Hilltop'’ was the last great thing Coke ever did because it was the last unselfconscious thing it ever did. From that day on, the brand went one way and the advertising went another. And the consumer followed the brand.

Now there's something to aim for. A brand so well loved that people forgive it for its marketing. I could screw up all day long and look like a genius.

Nice work if you can get it.

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