What are you? A brand continuum for the 21st century

New brand research provides the ultimate answer: a human brand, a 21st century brand, a category placeholder, a label or a commodity? Today it matters!

“Everything-is-a-brand” plays well in classrooms, tweets and fridge magnets. In the real market, the only opinion that matters is that of the consumer!

– Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, United States, July 13, 2021 / – ‘Are you really a brand?’ is the ultimate question for marketers today, according to Brand keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy (

Not everything is a brand
“Brands have extraordinary market power. But the reality is that not everyone is a brand and not everything is a brand. People and things can be known, even known, but that does not make marks of them. Calling yourself a “brand” does not make you a brand. Calling an entire “brand” is both problematic and simplistic. Creating a real brand is never simplistic, so why would people think it was? Asked Robert Passikoff, President of Brand Keys.

Product-human brand continuum®.
This is not a new question. In 2005, Brand Keys conducted a survey in the United States and the United Kingdom examining 1,700 B2C and B2B products and services to determine the extent to which they were brands. “We measured three things that are absolutely necessary to be awarded a brand,” notes Passikoff. These included 1) the degree to which products and services were imbued with meaning, 2) whether they were differentiated from the competition, and 3) the degree to which they were emotionally engaging to consumers. “Of course you have to be present and known, but that’s the marketing part of ‘brand marketing’. You have to be a brand first, ”Passikoff said.

2021 Version 2.0: Almost post-pandemic
Consumers, competition, market, and category and customer values ​​have not been frozen in the past 16 years. “Everything has changed, true before the pandemic, which has only further muddled an already confused brand landscape,” observed Passikoff. “To provide clarity, we conducted an expanded version of the study to identify what it means to be a ‘brand’ today, and revised and restructured the continuum.” Brand Keys version 2.0 was again conducted in the US and UK, this time it included 1,994 products and services in 128 B2C, B2B and D2C categories. The methodology – independently validated to be strongly correlated (0.08+) with consumer behavior and brand success – uncovered a series of loci along which products and services could be placed, thus identifying the degree to which the products and services were actual brands. The new analysis, by locating products and services more precisely, allows marketers to differentiate, engage and market more effectively and strategically based on the actual status of a product or service. .

How to read the continuum
The degree of “brand” (and the power of the consumer’s emotional engagement) increases as one moves from left to right on the continuum. As brand differentiation increases, the industry grows. “While we readily recognize that a label can be profitable and fortunes have been amassed in ‘commodities’, they are still not considered brands,” noted Passikoff. The continuum includes the following elements:

Commodity: Products and services so basic that they are not differentiated in the mind of the consumer. Always interchangeable with goods of the same type, usually sold at price.

Tags: The name of a retail store or manufacturer identifying the products. Often provides product information.

Category reserved space: products or services whose reputation is universally strong. Known but not known for anything special other than occupying space in a category. Has values ​​so fundamental and undifferentiated that they do not emotionally engage consumers. Products or services that were once brands, but are no longer brands as defined by 21st century consumers.

21st Century Brand: A name, term, and / or symbol that identifies the goods and services of one seller versus another. Strongly imbued with articulated values ​​and meanings to easily and strongly differentiate itself from the competition, identifying itself and generating a strong emotional commitment from the consumer.

Human brand: Nomenclature created by Brand Keys in 1991 describing living human beings representing 100% of the values ​​of the products or services to which their names are attached. This designation represents the highest level of meaning and differentiation imbued as living embodiments of particular sets of values ​​(“owned” by the human being), which can be seamlessly, successfully and cost effectively transferred to products and services.

Celebrities are not brands!
“All of these famous people online and on TV are not brands,” Passikoff said. “They are ‘celebrities.’ Being a celebrity does not make QED a ‘brand.’ Models in perfume or cosmetic advertisements are not brands, but a subset of celebrities. Businessmen Eminent or legendary are not brands. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are not brands. They are entrepreneurs who created brands like Tesla and Virgin. There are business people who founded brands like Proctor & Gamble or Henry Ford or Coco Chanel. And how they’ve been managed over time ultimately determines whether they’re now “category placeholders” like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, or “21st century brands.” century, like Amazon and Ford ”.

“Everything-is-a-brand” plays well on fridge magnets
In the real market, today’s product and service managers must be able to accurately identify the good faith of the brand of their products and services. “By doing this, they can plan, promote, market, and even sell more effectively and strategically, based on a product’s actual status as a ‘brand,’ Passikoff advised.

Because where you fit into the product-human brand continuum determines the answer to the ultimate question: “Are you really a brand?” “

For more information on the brand status of your product or service, contact Leigh Benatar at [email protected]

Robert K Passikoff
Brand Keys, Inc.
+1 212-532-6028
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