Although it’s early in the process, I think, and hope, that the concept of “brand” is going away in favor of the concept of utility/efficiency/pragmatism/reason. As mass marketing, and the masses, move to online venues I think the notion of advertising as “branding” is suffering. Online advertising such as pay per click and the increasing importance of marketing to highly targeted niches will make branding more difficult and expensive. Online venues allow you to select a service or product provider far more objectively than before and with the benefit of tons of input from other people. Real commentary is trumping advertising as the information source of choice, and this is a very good thing.
Yet many 2.0 companies don’t seem to get the message yet. I think the Silicon Valley echo chamber makes it hard for many new online efforts to see how they have little chance of becoming more than an online footnote once the angel funding dries up. In fact I think the new “life cycle” for 2.0 companies takes advantage of this ignorance about the death of brands which is why you see so many new companies with great logos, cool schwag, good business plans, attractive booth salespeople, and bright technical teams, and a killer plan to “brand” themselves as the next best thing …..but they have NO REAL BUSINESS.
I haven’t done much research, but I think it’s notable how many of the huge success stories did not seem to start out with big notions of branding their efforts. Google, Yahoo, Myspace, etc etc are not products of clever marketing, rather great ideas that came at the right time.