Guy Kawasaki's blog has some very sound advice on the Art of Branding. I particularly like this one, which John Winsor also quotes:
Focus on PR, not advertising. Many companies waste
away millions of dollars trying to establish brands with advertising.
When it comes to branding, too much money is worse than too little
because when you have a lot of money, you spend a lot of money on
stupid things like Super Bowl commercials. Brands are built on what
people are saying about you, not what you're saying about yourself.
People say good things about you when (a) you have a great product and
(b) you get people to spread the word about it.
I think he's spot on here and so many companies are missing the opportunity, especially with the advent of the latest technology - blogs, RSS, podcasts, etc - to engage their clients. Co-creation, the partnership of customer and marketer, will certainly gain momentum over the coming year and marketers had better pay attention.
I like the way that Hugh Macleod puts it:
Whatever business you're in, your product's success or failure is going to become more and more dependant on "sneezers"
like me. We are not going away. We are getting more viral by the day,
while other ways of spreading ideas- TV, newspapers etc- are becoming
less effective by the day.