A discussion came up the other night about brands taking on a meaning of their own. Companies can push positioning on us about product attributes, or benefits, but ultimately the connection is made by consumers. Hence crappy products can survive and thrive and good ones often die. What really caught my ear though was a comparison of the Livstrong bracelet and the ipod. Ok plastic and plastic? No the fact that both products have infinite emotional connections heaped upon them by consumers. The iPod isn't necessarily the best music player, but consumers continue to buy it and make it the market leader. The design crowd loves the lack of lines, technologists love the simplicity of the UI, others just want the damn headphones to look cool. The livestrong bracelet is more than a cancer supporter, its a lifestyle, its a social movement and its fashion statement. Both brands would be lying if this was their original intent.
I think that great products will always encompass multiple emotions because no two people are alike. Really true meaning comes down to the consumer who engages the product. Advertising will never be able to create that type of connection, as much as it might push it upon us. It can highlight it and push awareness, as well as sell it to us, but we dont connect to products through advertising. Looking back at the products that have defined generations, things such as the VW beetle encompass branded ambiguity so well, but none of these products were created on the belief of appealing for so many reasons. Disagree? Maybe you should ask the consumer..