Brands – valuable construct or modern day mumbo jumbo?

I have always been fascinated by brands. As a child, I was one of those who was not happy with the single point of brand contact, I had to go all in. From Maya the Bee, on tv – I had to of course get the Maya the Bee doll.  Barbapapapa – I had the toothbrush holder.  Smurfs, the cuddly toy, the branded backpack and of course those collectibles at the petrol station. Heidi, in addition to the books, I had a lovely set of earrings and matching necklace. Snickers and Mars Bars (at the time not available in South Africa) but a friend had brought me some as a gift. Then the Hello Kitty accessories and stationery and of course let’s not forget the masters of kiddie branding (both small kids and adult kids alike), Disney.  The deliverers of magic (and still to this day I am a serious fan of Walt Disney) but they also delivered my first brand disappointment.

My Dad had traveled all the way to America in the 80’s. The land of brands!  At a time where it was not quite OK for him to travel outside of South Africa. He had won an incentive prize at work and so his company went about obtaining special permission for him to leave the country – to go to the land of brands. Of course this was a huge deal.He was the first person in my family to travel outside the borders of our country.  Prior to this he had been to Zimbabwe, in the time when it was still called Rhodesia. All sounded pretty exotic to me but I digress.

Dad had an amazing adventure.  He brought back plenty of photographs and memorabilia from his trip. Of course as a kid I was only interested in what he had brought back for me. In addition to a piece of the Golden Gate Bridge and plenty of your typical touristy trinkets. My prized possession, a backpack and floppy hat from the REAL Disneyland with none other than Mickey Mouse on it.  It went to school for Monday News.  It stayed in my school bag. It went everywhere with me. Then one day while flicking it around in my hand my eye fell on the label.  “Made in Taiwan”.  Of course I couldn’t quite process how something that came all the way in a plane from America could have been made anywhere other than at Disneyland by Mickey Mouses & Co. I mean, it said Disneyland on the front of it.  Mickey was there in all his famous glory. How did this happen? What was Taiwan anyway?  And why would this be allowed?  So many questions followed.  Talk about #brandfail and Dad trying to explain how products are manufactured outside of countries as they are produced cheaper. This did not make any sense to me. It said Disneyland so it surely has to be made in America where Disneyland is!

And so started my continued disappointment and love affair with brands. I am mostly fascinated by how brands can make you fall in love with them. Rip your heart out. And yet, still find a way to creep back into your life. Despite what you may know in the realms of logic and reason. Some brands are able to transcend the biggest disappointments, and resurrect themselves, like phoenixes from the ashes. And others, after some small but significant mistakes, are forever put on the #brandnever pile. But what exactly separates those brands who are able to resurrect themselves from scandals and #brandfails to those who crash and burn at the slightest hint of impropriety.

So, brands. Modern day mumbo jumbo or valuable construct?  Like art, I guess, brand love or hate is in the eye of the beholder consumer of that brand.