The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Branding is what you do to cattle – part 2

In this world there are those who are naturally ‘splitters’ and there are those who are naturally ‘lumpers’. At the extremes, a splitter gone bad gets lost in the details and wanders without direction, while a rabid lumper can see the goal but lacks the practical ability to recognize the critical steps of actually getting there. Both ways of seeing are useful. It’s nice to have a grand vision, but don’t forget to pack your lunch for the trip.

Turning back to my great cake baking adventure Branding is what you do to cattle – part 1, the last thing I read before heading off to the store was An Interview with Marty Neumeier. I was particularly intrigued by Neumeier’s answer to the question, “What is a brand.”

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization. That’s my short definition. The brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”

I have to confess that I am, by nature, a splitter, so Neumeier’s definition of ‘brand’ struck me as a little vague and improbable, but I was willing to put it to the test anyway. I was going to do my best to get in touch with my gut feelings about cake mixes, if I had any.

When I arrived at the baking supply aisle in the supermarket, I had to comfort myself by doing a minor analytical exercise to overcome the slight embarrassment I felt for standing there slack-jawed and uncomprehending in front of the vast expanse of cake mix boxes. So, I counted the number of shelf rows and sections filled with cake mix, wondered if any other customer had ever done that before, and counted them again just to be sure. Having clearly identified the boundaries of the cake mixes, so as not to be led astray by the unintentional inclusion of a frosting package or a brownie mix package, I stood back and unfocused my vision to see if any of the packaging jumped out at me visually.

None did, and so far I had not noticed the first hint of a gut feeling.

I looked closer and discovered that my original intention of baking a chocolate cake wasn’t sufficiently specific. Not only was there chocolate cake mix, there was also German chocolate and devil’s food to choose among. Fortunately, that was an easy choice. Everyone knows, consciously or not, that a touch of evil improves practically any sensual experience, so it was going to be devil’s food cake for sure.

Beyond that, my gut feelings had taken the night off, and I was stumped.

My solution was to buy one of each brand so that I could study the fine print at home, cheered on by the realization that I had just stumbled upon the perfect way to take chocolate cake as a business expense tax deduction.

Related posts:

Branding is what you do to cattle – part 1
Branding is what you do to cattle – part 3


Written by Tom Fox

05/16/2007 at 8:46 am

Posted in Branding, Marketing

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