In markets that aren't natural monopolies or where there are clear, agreed-upon metrics, how do we decide?
Yes, every brand has a story—that's how it goes from being a logo and a name to a brand. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. The story makes us say we "love Google" or "love Harley"... but what do we really love?
We love ourselves.
We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.
We can't easily explain this, even to ourselves. We can't easily acknowledge the narcissism and the nostalgia that drives so many of the apparently rational decisions we make every day. But that doesn't mean that they're not at work.
More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. Extensions of our personality, totems of our selves, reminders of who we are or would like to be.
Great marketers don't make stuff. They make meaning.