Facebook is a brand that I have mixed feelings about using. When you consider all of the elements that contribute to making a brand what it is—and how that brand is expressed—you have to ask yourself if Facebook is really a brand that you identify with. Do you? I doubt it, but here’s the interesting thing: Facebook may not represent our values, yet we use it. Why?
There is an interesting inflection point in consumer behavior where the benefits of the thing/service/place greatly outweigh any perceived negative aspects or brand ambivalence. You just want or need the thing! I’m sure you can think of all kinds of examples in your day where your affinity for the brands you use does not align with the reasons you choose to buy or use them. My Gillette Mach 3 razor is another perfect example: I can’t stand the brand expression, but I use the blade because it works well.
Brand selection can be a conscious way of expressing who we are, or it can be a passive choice made only out of necessity or preference. It is true, every time we choose one brand over another, we say something about who we are. So my choice of razor does say something about me. It comes down to how much I care. Which brings me to this point: there are just certain categories of products and services that aren’t great at helping us express who we are. As much as Gillette would like to think they are helping me define what kind of man I am, it’s just a freaking razor blade! My Windows Phone… now that says something I care about.
What phone you carry has always communicated volumes about what you value and who you are. People traditionally may or may not have cared about what the message is, yet for a growing majority, that choice has become key in expressing their own “personal brand”. It is like choosing what car to drive, or what brand sunglasses to wear. The mobile device has evolved from a thing of utility and necessity like a razor blade—a thing chosen because it works or looks a certain way—to an accessory, an object of desire that people use to express themselves.
A brand is so much more than a logo, an app, or a color palette. The brand is the product. It’s the people, things and services behind it. Facebook has an interesting opportunity to create the best mobile service for us, but is the brand powerful enough for a wide enough audience to put in their purses and pockets? Does their brand really translate to hardware? Can their brand BE my most personal possession? Will their brand represent me when I pull out my mobile phone and place it on the table? I think not.