The Dim Bulb Equation

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

I’m not satisfied by any of the answers I’ve heard for measuring branding because I’m not convinced we’re asking the right questions.

I know that there are lots of descriptions and complex math to affirm our deepest desires for our brands. Brands simply must have value, so therefore we’ve come up with lots of smart ways to prove the point.

I say those methodologies are marketing’s equivalent of Intelligent Design theory; we find what we want to find, and twist the rules of logic, science, and accounting to fit our purposes. Our answers are self-evidentially true, and we’re quick to move onto the next steps of spending money against them.

Yet brand budgets are among the first to get cut when economic times are tough (and marketing departments the first to see cuts when companies merge). We seem to fight a never-ending rear-guard battle to defend brand expenditures. Our trade media are full of condescending complaints about how hard it is to educate all of the non-believers. 

Well, what if didn’t ask what were brands worth, but rather if they had value at all? What if we stopped stating our conclusions as Universal Truth and asked a different question of ourselves?


It certainly would lead us to look for answers in different places. 

Since the a prior presumption is that brands are a cognitive construction, most metrics look to thoughts, intentions, and the spaces between business performance than be measured directly. Brand is mostly an after-image we see after blinking away sights of direct experience.

I think we’d look instead at that performance, and find brand in the very specific actions that occur across (and with/from) the business.

In fact, I’ve created "The Dim Bulb Equation" to do just that. It’s an exclusive feature on Brand Strategy’s blog (Brand Strategy, based in the UK, is one of the top thought-leaders on branding), and you can read it here.

Like I said, I don’t presume to have the answer. I just think we should start asking different questions.

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