From the beginning, a brand's legal purpose has been to let people know the origin of the goods. Literally, a brand, a hallmark, a mark of trade.
Over time, for some brands, it has become something significantly more. A mirror on our identity as consumers, tribe members and citizens.
When someone criticizes one of these brands, these 'us' brands, we take the criticism personally. So, if you're a Harley tribe member, someone criticizing Harley Davidson is like a personal attack. Same goes for those that identify so closely with Google, or the Catholic Church or an iconic politician. This is me, I am that, we are labels for each other.
At some level, this seems like Nirvana (oh, that's another one) for a brand. To be so closely identified with a tribe and a mission, it means that advertising is no longer the primary fuel for the brand's future.
The risk is that when your brand stumbles, you won't have to merely confront those non-customers that might have thought less of you. You'll need to understand that when you fail, we all do. It's personal, and you might need to do more than mutter an apology. High stakes.
[HT to Tom and Alan for the wordplay prompt.]