Instantiation: reframing brand communication

Chris Barnham
Chris Barnham Research and Strategy


How do brands communicate with consumers? This is a question that runs to the very heart of the marketing process and it has attracted much attention in recent years. In order to understand some of the issues involved we need, however, to identify where our models of brand communication have come from and, in particular, how strongly they are linked to our underlying theories of perception. This should be our starting-point in understanding the process of so-called 'brand communication'.

The conceptual landscape in which we believe consumers perceive brands feels so intuitively self-evident that it hardly seems to demand interrogation. We imagine that consumers experience brands in much the same way as they experience everything else in the world around them. They perceive, for example, a physical object such as a table, and light waves from this object are transmitted to, and form perceptions in, their minds. They 'process' these perceptions and then act accordingly by, for instance, walking around the table or placing their coffee on it.