A view from Dave Trott: What is brand?
A view from Dave Trott

What is brand?

I was at a friend’s house and he had a beautifully framed object on the wall.

At least, the frame was beautiful and clearly expensive, the object in the frame was just a crumpled old Marlboro pack, bent and tatty, like you’d find in any gutter.

My friend proudly said “It’s signed by Tracy Emin”, so that explained it.

One minute it was just another piece of rubbish, but sign it and now it was a piece of art, worth a lot of money.

That’s brand.

Picasso used to say that people didn’t buy his paintings, they bought his signature.

Which is another way of saying they don’t know what they’re looking at, they just want something other people can recognise as being valuable.

Interestingly, Picasso usually paid for anything he bought with a cheque.

He saved a lot of money because he knew that his signature made it more valuable for them to keep the cheque rather than cash it.

That’s brand.

In Camden Town, Banksy sprayed some graffiti on a wall.

A jealous competitive graffiti artist came along and sprayed over Banksy’s design.

The residents complained to the council – the Banksy had increased the value of their properties, now it was defaced.

The council had to have it renovated by a professional who put the Banksy back to its original state, and then put a protective shield over it.

That’s brand.

Donald Trump has properties all over America, except he doesn’t.

Most of those properties are owned by other people.

When they bought them, it was on the agreement that they would keep the Trump name on the front of the buildings and pay a huge yearly fee for use of it because, to some people, it apparently conveys an image of wealth, fame and glamour.

That’s brand.

Often, when I do a speech, the organisers insist on me doing a book signing afterwards.

I sit at a desk with a pen because people are more likely to buy a book if it is signed.

I never understood this – I thought you buy a book for what’s in it but no, many people will pay extra for a book that’s signed.

During Covid lockdown, there aren’t any book-signing events.

So I see advertisements from authors offering to send signed sticky labels to people for books they bought during lockdown.

That’s brand.

My friend, who lives in Surrey, tells me he sees neighbours shopping in Lidl and then putting what they’ve bought into Waitrose bags to carry home.

That’s brand.

Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne were virtually the same cars.

They were made by the same company, they had the same platform, they had many shared parts.

But the car with the Porsche badge cost £8,000 more than the car with the VW badge.

That’s brand.

I saw this cleverly used in an American Express campaign years ago.

The strapline was: “American Express: It says more about you than cash ever can.”

Think of that, paying the exact same amount of money by credit card gave you a cachet that paying by genuine currency couldn’t.

It made you seem more upstanding, more reliable, more trustworthy.

That’s brand.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three