Friday, 23 April 2010

Manifesto for Brands

With an election in progress, lobbyists can be expected to produce their own manifestos. Like the party manifestos, they are likely to cause rapid glazing over of the eyes, especially when they appear to have been thrown together so quickly that the author had no time to make sure the verbs and nouns in the first paragraph agreed. I never take too seriously anything as badly written as the Manifesto for Brands, in which the British Brands Group and the Anti-Counterfeiting Group present a six-point plan for greater wealth creation, jobs and competitiveness.
‘Brands already contribute much to the economic and social fabric of the UK. They may contribute more in a more positive environment’, they say in the sort of platitudinous terms familiar to readers of most manifestos since Marx and Engels produced theirs - the original, and in many ways the best. It mentions how consumers vote every day with their shopping decisions, and how companies build ‘a vote-winning reputation with consumers’, which chimes with what is happening on our doorsteps and television screens – vaguely.
It seems to me to be a very mixed-up statement of what brands are all about, but that’s hardly surprising because the notion of a brand is pretty confusing anyway. I have less idea about the nature of a brand after reading this than I did before, partly because brands, brand owners and branded goods are treated interchangeably. Unfortunately the lack of rigour in the argument detracts from the very important messages: the six point plan draws attention to the fact that counterfeit goods remain a problem (thirty years or more after they first attracted the attention of UK industry); it criticises consumer protection legislation; and it calls for ‘robust intellectual property rights effectively and efficiently enforced’, which sounds good but in practice probably means large brand owners beating up small businesses for having the temerity to try to register a trade mark that has some tiny element in common with the brand owner’s trade mark. But reform of the trade mark system is a good rallying-cry, though not one likely to capture the imagination of the candidates.

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