Why a brand is a galaxy, not a country

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—What’s your favorite brand?

—Oh, that’s easy. It’s Nike. I really like how their shoes look.

or

—It’s Coca Cola. I love their advertising!

How about the way the product is made? Their customer service? The retail experience? The brand values? Their ethics? The story of the founders? What do their employees say?

I insist that inclinations towards certain brands shouldn’t be something fully subjective. Of course, we have preferences that are not entirely rational. There are many brands that produce art, one way or another (my friends that have argued with me on “Apple is art” are probably closing the tab at this point). But we live in times when we can’t afford to reduce the brand to the subjective criteria only. We live in times when we can find out everything through a few clicks. The whole story. And it’s our responsibility to do so.

So, when we tell someone our favorite brand, we invite them in a little corner of our minds. Does your favorite brand reflect your mindset and values? Chances are you’re not aware of all its facets.

When someone asks me about my favorite brand, I don’t see it as “What’s your favorite country?”, but rather “What’s your favorite galaxy?”. When I choose brands to be loyal to and to preach for, I do it fully cognisant of all their customer touchpoints and organizational specifics.

That’s why one of my answers to the question is Airbnb. It started with the experience — flawless from A to Z — but then they went on to fit my mindset through their brand redesign, through customer service, through their founders’ story, through their vision, through the way they’re shaping economies and challenging the status quo. Through the great employer brand they’re building by openly sharing their internal approach. Even through advertising! (See how this is last on my list? It sometimes doesn’t even *make* the list. Let’s get used to this, maybe?)

So, beyond the functional benefits I get out of using their service, I enjoy every interaction with the brand. They’ve built so much goodwill in my brand-o-meter that they’d have to screw up really badly — for multiple times — so I’d stop recommending it and talking highly about it.

“Why should I be aware of all these useless details about the brand I’m using if I only want to enjoy their product?”

Because we live in a world in which we can’t afford to do otherwise. There is so much choice and availability, so many wonderful alternatives, that our decision says more about us than ever. It’s also more impactful than ever. Airbnb is not the website they’ve built. It’s not the app, it’s not their Twitter account. Airbnb is the community. The community that doesn’t belong in any way to the company. The community could have all the power, if it wanted to.

When we’re buying and talking about a certain brand, we’re investing in it. We’re helping it grow. But we also invest in ourselves. We trust the brand enough that we let it speak for us through its marks. We’re letting it build our image.

Choose wisely.

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