The purpose of a brand is to establish trust. Knowing who made your product, or who delivered your service, is reassuring.
It means you, as a consumer, have some means of recourse.
If you have a good experience you can make a repeat purchase with confidence.
But if you have a bad one, well, you know what to avoid.
Advertising is a means of fast-tracking this process by creating a sense of familiarity and injecting meaning into a brand – above and beyond its primary function.
And so Ray-Bans do not simply protect your eyes from the sun – they also provide a sense of glamour and adventure thanks to years of seductive ad campaigns.
Brands provide a useful way to make quick decisions. Imagine walking around a supermarket and finding each and every packaged item to be unfamiliar.
Uncertain of the quality and provenance, it would take much longer to decide what to buy.
Well known brands readily come to mind when thinking of everything from smartphones to loans, cars to chocolate bars.
But in some categories there are no clearly defined brand leaders.
In these categories consumers are much more likely to buy an unknown brand, relying instead on factors such as availability, price and online reviews.
As the reigning king of e-commerce this is something Amazon is cleverly exploiting.
A new crop of weird and wonderful brand names can be found across Amazon.
You can buy Mama Bear nappies, Mae lingerie, Pinzon bath towels, and Solimo coffee pods.
All these brands – and hundreds of others – are wholly owned and operated by Amazon itself, which has become highly skilled at using its granular sales data to identify niche sectors where it makes sense to create own-label products.
For the most part consumers – especially millennials – welcome this trend, not least because own-label products are often cheaper than established brands, without necessarily compromising on quality.
Not that any of this is new. As tech analyst Benedict Evans recently remarked, “It baffles me that people talk about Amazon’s brands as though retailers haven’t been doing exactly the same thing for a century.”