As banks fail or get bought, the decline of financial value continues: Stock prices plunge, bondholders are wiped out. Hundreds of billions of dollars in portfolio value is no more. “The destruction of money” is how my friend, hedge fund director Dick Furlaud, describes it, as he clenches both fists in front of his chin.
But what about brand value? Its destruction, too, has been colossal. Brand value is an elusive intangible that CPAs struggle to price. But it’s there – or was.
People like Warren Buffett – wait, there are no people like Warren Buffett – understand brand value. Buffett knows it, lives it, feels brand value from his wrinkled brow to his weathered feet. That’s why he poured $5 billion into Goldman Sachs this week. The Goldman Sachs name – that magical franchise – is destined to survive, thanks to Buffett’s nod.
But what of the un-blessed? Twenty years from now they’ll be writing, “Back in the meltdown of 2007-2008, IndyMac collapsed, Bear Stearns disappeared, Lehman failed and WaMu shareholders were zapped.” These brands are the dinosaur skeletons of the future. We witness their demise in sparkling meteoric dust from millions of exploding mortgages.
In The Origin of Brands (2004), Al and Laura Ries described the rise and fall of brands: “Darwin’s description of the endless struggle for life and the survival of the fittest is a good metaphor for what happens in branding wars.”
Will schoolchildren someday flock to the bones of Bear Stearns? “What happened to this one mommy?” Well, kids… um… I guess it ran out of food.