Marketing: What are brands for?
When Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest cigarette-maker, said in July that it would spend $7.1 billion to expand its business in America, its chief executive, Alison Cooper, was adamant on one point: it will not be buying companies. Instead, in a three-way deal with Reynolds American and Lorillard, it will pick up a factory, a sales force and, above all, a collection of brands. Two of them, Winston and Blu (an electronic-cigarette brand), will be “the focus for the lion’s share of time and money invested”.
No management expert would think it strange that Imperial would spend the best part of $7 billion on something as ethereal as brands. They are the most valuable thing that companies as diverse as Apple and McDonald’s own, often worth much more than property and machinery.