What do you think causes branding?

I’ve been asking myself that, part of my series on being skeptical of root assumptions and theories, and took the opportunity to work through something in a foreign land.

I spent some time in real Mexico, and couldn’t resist a first exposure. I went to a ‘Mega’, without really knowing what it was, and took in an in-store experience. The brand was unknown to me pre-exposure. A rare opportunity. So I walked in, and the first thing I notice?

Banners hung throughout the store told me that everybody wanted to be Julio Regalado.

I have no experience with the brand or the frontman. But everywhere, literally down every isle, there he was, with that very enthusiastic face of his. He, himself, was branded and associated with a Stork logo in the background everywhere. It’s not as though the concept of a living icon is new. Example. Example.

Branding was certainly happening. I could feel it happen in my brain.

I got back to Canada and looked him up on YouTube. I found this below, and was impacted further:

Note, of course, that I’m Canadian and the target audience is Mexican, to be sure. 100% of the variance shouldn’t be explained by culture alone. So granted, there are certain aspects that are lost in translation.

No other brand I was exposed to, be it Tecate (which I believed was a form of Coca-Cola in my hotel mini-fridge and didn’t drink it for two days), or Sol, caused the same sort of branding. The Bio-Shaker, which is arguably one of the most hilarious products ever, is barely mentionable in this space. I was certainly exposed to a lot of advertising during those seven days. So there’s variance of effectiveness within the exposure set.

Just because some companies have measured branding effectiveness as being unaided recall, aided recall, preference, and likability doesn’t mean we should continue to say that these three indicators are the causes of branding. I’m not bashing the measurement scheme inasmuch as I believe that there’s so much more unanswered here on the causal side. Branding is not simply recall, preference, and likability. Indeed, the number of factors and features of brand positioning alone are many and feels very complex. It’s not insurmountable. There are probably as many heuristics as there are brand managers.

Sample size of one and kitchen table anecdote fully admitted – I’m asking the question and looking for answers.

In the meantime: