Branding Defines a Product

One of the most difficult decisions my husband and I faced during wedding planning was choosing a first dance song. While we weren’t doing a traditional “first dance,” we did want to ensure that the first slow song of the evening was one we liked, and one that felt representative of our relationship. It felt as though we were branding ourselves, through our song.

As a result, we had many requirements, including:

  • We both needed to like the song
  • The music needed to be something we could dance to
  • The lyrics couldn’t be about a break up or unhappy relationship

Branding is a Defining Element

Our search for the right song was a form of branding for our wedding, and our relationship. I know how a brand can make or break a product, and though we weren’t selling our relationship, I wanted a perfect song, with all the right elements, to brand us.

Unfortunately, this disqualified a lot of options. “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” while a great song, is clearly about a breakup. “Can’t Find a Better Man” is not danceable, and isn’t exactly a roaring endorsement of the man in question. “Dancing in the Moonlight” was  easy to dance to (and highly recommended as a wedding song) but we didn’t actually like it. And “If You Find Yourself Caught In Love” is a fantastic song and one of my favorites, but completely un-danceable.

Ultimately, we settled quite happily on “Drivin’ on 9“, an obscure song by the Breeders with a solid slow-dance rhythm, a beautiful acoustic melody, and lyrics so confusing that they might be about a wedding or a breakup or maybe ghosts for all we could tell. Since the wedding we’ve both been humming the tune nonstop, and smiling every time we hear the other. The lyrics and the dancing no longer matter; the meaning has changed.

What’s in a Brand?

Much like the word “iPad,” which invited derision in 2010 but is now synonymous with “tablet,” the meaning of “Drivin’ on 9” has changed for us. Initially, we were worried about choosing a song which would define us. Now, instead, it is our wedding that defines the meaning of the song.

The same is true of the products we create. The brand is often the first indicator to the audience of what we’re designing, and thus it needs to define what the product is. But it’s only part of a complete experience. If we create a successful, holistic experience, in time it’s the experience people will associate with the term.

A good brand can’t save a bad product, and a bad brand won’t damn a good product.

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