By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding
What’s the biggest brand in the world? It’s not Apple. Or Google. Or Microsoft or Coca-Cola or Facebook or McDonald’s.
Not for me, anyway.
I think it’s a lot more interesting to work from the definition of brand, being what people think of you. It’s a definition that begs the question: which brands stoke within you the most powerful thoughts and feelings, good and bad? Which are the richest with meaning?
Microsoft? Give me a break.
Sure, they have among the highest awareness in the world. And true, there are many millions of people who love to hate them. But this is not a brand abundant with meaning. Ditto for IBM, GE, AT&T, Cisco or Oracle – some of the other brands in Forbes’ tech-heavy top 20.
So let’s broaden our focus in two ways. First, by assessing brands on what you think/feel about them: what they mean to you. And second, by throwing off Forbes’ limited interpretation of what qualifies as a brand in the first place.
It is not only companies and products that can be brands. A brand is anyone or anything that anyone has ever thought about. These things and people can, depending on your point of view, be good or bad or even evil things. Most prominently, this list includes any human being, your pet, political parties and organizations, countries and regions, educational and religious institutions, terrorist groups, musicians and entertainers and that coffee shop or dry cleaner you love or hate down the street.
Based upon these criteria, and given that the Olympics are on, which brands in your world get the gold, silver and bronze – and why?
In reverse order, my personal podium looks like this:
Bronze: ISIS. Does this mean I like these clowns? Negative. But they provoke profound fear and loathing and constant headlines around the world. Related, note that I used the ISIS acronym as opposed to the other names this organization is known by, such as Daesh or IS or Islamic State. Proving that some names have more power than others, ISIS as a moniker has the highest ranking in the public consciousness because it is the easiest to say.
Silver: Harvard. Harvard has always been fascinating to me because I can imagine no single word in any language that commands such deep respect – instantaneously – year after year, decade after decade. All you have to do is say “so and so went to Harvard” and the conversation is over – except for the one other word very likely to be uttered in response: “wow.”
And obviously you can tell I didn’t go to Yale.
Gold: Donald Trump. Does this mean I like this clown? Personally, no. But there is presently no match for the level of apoplexy he provokes.
One of the beauties of this exercise is that you cannot possibly be wrong. Because there is no “wrong.” Your thoughts are yours, so whatever you think is 100% correct. Even better, you can change your mind: because of the fleeting nature of what occupies our thoughts, the way your list looks next month or next year could be very different than today.
So: what does your podium look like?