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Home » Brand building » Brands and the market for the intangible

Brands and the market for the intangible

Face to face

Luis Fernando Alejos and Lesly Véliz talk about the importance of and ethics behind brand building.


Luis Fernando Alejos - Web Presence Manager at The Purpose

Luis Fernando Alejos - Web Presence Manager at The Purpose

Guatemalan writer, artist, and communicator with a diverse professional trajectory that includes journalism, interactive marketing, editing, and editorial production. Responsible for more than 700 articles on entertainment, health, technology, culture, social commentary, and corporate events in print and digital publications.

Colorful sweaters, awkward feelings and the market of intangible items

My childhood didn’t lack of a wool wardrobe item that is now extremely controversial (at least in the U.S.): the Cosby Sweater. Stitched with loud patterns and Christmas-like layers, this type of sweater was presented to the U.S. cultural landscape through The Cosby Show sitcom. Bill Cosby, a comedian that used to conjure scenes of familiarity and harmony, is now synonymous with his alleged raping of dozens of women across several decades. His character, Cliff Huxtable, was known for his conservative wardrobe, as well as for being a father figure and a successful businessman.

One of these sweaters still hangs in my closet, but I don’t picture myself wearing it anytime soon, not even for ironic reasons. If the Cosby Sweater were an actual brand, it wouldn’t be one that I’d be incredibly proud of. And I’m not the only one who feels the same way. The band formerly known as Cosby Sweater has decided to rename itself as Turbo Suit, in an obvious move to steer clear of the negative connotation that the last name now carries: “The elephant in the room has become too big to ignore,” they stated. 

Magical moments

In this sense, a consumer’s experience and his or her favorite brands, essentially, should be gratifying. As specialists point out, brand building transcends an organization’s physical and communication boundaries but, evidently, makes its way into the public.

Scott Davis, Director of Insights & Strategy at Sincerely Truman, talks about “the encounter economy.” It’s about meeting client or user expectations (creating value), which will convert into sales. “Magical moments that communicate everything and establish a powerful connection that will last forever.” That’s how Davis describes the phenomenon in which marketers and companies struggle to engage with their audience.

And so, I think about music as a crucial part of our lives, where the medium threatens to overshadow the actual product. The skepticism and criticism over TIDAL, the online music streaming service co-owned by Jay Z and his famous friends, is an example of how the lack of congruence between the strategy and public perception can sabotage the successful creation of a brand from the get go.

Luis, the music consumer (and former Cosby sweater owner), values the individual experience of listening to full albums offline. He will not be compelled to enjoy the high quality sound and extras that TIDAL offers; including exclusive content and music videos, in exchange for doing so through a channel destined to make already millionaire entertainers even wealthier.

Ben Gibbard, from Death Cab For Cutie, displayed good sense when he addressed a “wonderful opportunity” that was “squandered” during TIDAL’s launch a couple of weeks ago, which also signifies a branding failure. According to Gibbard, there was a chance “to highlight what this service would mean for artists who are struggling and to make a plea to people’s hearts and pocketbooks to pay a little more for this service that was going to pay these artists a more reasonable streaming rate.”


Lesly Véliz - Consultant

Lesly Véliz - Consultant

Lesly Véliz obtained her masters in Strategic Marketing and Institutional Image from the Universidad Rafael Landívar. Her undergraduate studies were in Communication and Professional Journalism. She is now a public relations consultant after 15 years in written journalism as a copywriting manager, investigative editor, and reporter. She is also a professor at Rafael Landívar y Del Istmo universities.

Ethics, the foundation to brand building 

Given that the first phase of brand building is an analysis of the brand, many entrepreneurs focus only on market research or financial projections and forget another equally important factor: the leadership required by the business model.

According to writer and consultant Stephen Covey, personal leadership is a process that consists of holding firm to one’s perspective and values and living life according to them. In other words, to build a brand that is sustainable through time and, most of all, productive requires the brand to prove credibility at a stakeholder level, which is only possible if all actions are governed by values and ethics.

 For this reason, it is critical that the second phase in brand building, the vision for the project, is based on realistic parameters and focused on cooperative work politics. In other words, a leader that stands for the brand and leads by example in solidarity, both personal and professional, and invites others to join the initiative, not as employees but collaborators with a common goal.

 This results in a corporate identity that begins from within the organization and reaches the general public, including those that are considered the consumers of said brand and can help make it profitable. The leader intends for this brand identity to rely on its collaborators so that they can help position it in the market. For this reason, Capriotti insists that the corporate identity is not only the history and behavior of the organization, but also its “ethical being” which distinguishes it from other organizations.

 The next phase in brand building is the assessment on its value, which when effective, should drive the interactions between the brand and its consumer. This is the moment where a leader should have a strong understanding of the differentiating virtues of the project and is able to convince all those involved of the unique qualities when comparing it to its competitors.

 This is possible once one thing happens: the brand must be made tangible. This means making it accessible to those that have been defined as the target audience. This presents another challenge to the entrepreneur in which they must make the promises contained in the corporate vision and mission attainable, offering a brand that consumers and stakeholders expect alike.

 Hence, success is in the management of the brand. This last phase in brand building consolidates what Covey meant when referring to maintaining perspective and values. The vision or maintenance of the service can’t compare to the need for ethics and constructive leadership on behalf of the entrepreneur. The product or service will be accepted not only because of its quality, but also because the people who stand behind it are consistent and worthy of trust.  

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