If the man (or woman) from Mars turned up on this planet and looked at a table of worldwide brand value rankings, they'd be forgiven for thinking that the USA was the only country that knew and understood how to build a valuable brand, with perhaps a little competition from that young upstart, China.
Take the BrandZranking table, for example. 13 out of the Top 15 brands have their origin in the USA, with numbers 7 & 8 pushing in from China to create at least a little break in the domination.
But then, at position 16, comes SAP, making this the most valuable brand from Europe.
Here are Europe's Top 10 valuable brands:
1. SAP (Germany) Technology +4%
2. Louis Vuitton (France) Luxury +15%
3. Deutsche Telekom (Germany) Telecom Providers +7%
4. Chanel (France) Luxury NEW
5. Hermes (France) Luxury +10%
6. L'Oreal (France) Personal Care +9%
7. Vodafone (GB) Telecom Providers -8%
8. Gucci (Italy) Luxury +13%
9. Mercedes Benz (Germany) Cars -9%
10. BMW (Germany) Cars -9%
Germany leads Europe in the world of branding, with a mix of cars, technology and telecom. For the moment, anyway. But just look at the growth rates of those French luxury and personal care brands.
Maybe there is something German brands can learn from the French. Those brands prove that you don't have to be a young US or Chinese tech-y brand to enjoy double digit growth.
It's the season of Fests on every corner here that cracks off on the 1st May and sees us supplied with outdoor food, music, drink and fun until the early Autumn. I'm not usually on the lookout for great examples of branding during these events, but it's always an added plus to see a clever piece of marketing.
The Apfelweindeckel above is from Kanne Ebbelwoi (for the uninitiated, that's how those round here pronounce the word Apfelwein). The slogan is nice, but (I expect) pinched from somewhere. What's really clever here is the slogan in conjunction with the logo illustration, which is at first sight a traditional Apfelwein Bembel.
But look at the design more carefully (possibly difficult if too much Apfelwein has gone down the hatch) and you'll see that it's a map of the world. Neat, neat, neat.
I couldn't find out much about Kanne Ebbelwoi from the internet, apart from the possibility that they are what is called a Besenwirtschaft or Straußwirtschaft, a peculiarly German phenomenon which is a seasonally-open little pub or drinking place, usually on the premises of a vineyard or cider-press, that sells its own wine, along with small snacks.
I'll leave you with a couple of pictures of such places - can you imagine anything more delightful on a sunny afternoon?
I sometimes wonder if people in the marketing and advertising business have as much fun as they did years ago. It does all seem to have become terribly serious and worthy, with the only source of amusement Tom Fishburne's excellent cartoons.
But every now and then I see something that I wish I'd done. This time, it's Waccenture, a parody of all those smart-arse consultancies:
Turning the obvious into insights, customers into data-points and creativity into algorithms.
From the ghastly stock pictures, to ample use of placeholder text, to clickbait "insight article" headlines quoting phoney research, to the "6-D Process", it's just a little too close for comfort.
I sometimes wonder just how green environmental activists are in their everyday lives, or whether the collective will disintegrates when it comes to everyday behaviour. Do Fridays for Future teenage activists all religiously sort out their rubbish and avoid unnecessary packaging? I'm not convinced ;)
When it comes to helping solve the world's problems, brands can and should play a role.
The obvious role is perhaps in the big actions which draw attention to issues facing people and planet. For example, Le Grand Defi, which took place at the end of May. Rather like a glorified version of a school class tidying the playground of rubbish, this event set to draw attention to the fact that the Mediterranean represents only 1% of the world's marine waters but contains 7% of the micro-plastics in the world's seas. The event was a race for swimmers and kayakers to collect plastic rubbish from the sea.
But arguably the more difficult task is to ingrain a new way of behaving into people's lives. More difficult, because this isn't about a collective noise for a day. It's about every individual, every day of his or her life.
There have been plenty of news reports about Waitrose Unpackedthis week. This is a trial where you can refill your own containers with anything from pasta to beer and wine to cleaning materials (hopefully not mixing them up). But it's only in one store for 3 months. Imagine the enormity of the task of rolling that out nationally.
Let's hope it's a task the supermarket is prepared to invest in, and that the initiative is more than a PR stunt.
"If you can't find something nice to say, keep your mouth shut" is good advice, in my view, for brands (or the people running them) as in life.
I'm generally not keen on brand communication that's based on the "slag off the competition" strategy. There are a few rare cases where this is done well, but in the usual scheme of things, it ends up sounding like bitching. Or politics (if there is a difference).
Maybe that's no surprise these days. In the days of people "demanding" that brands have values, a purpose, stand for something and/or take a stand, and gushing and cooing all over the latest trendy issue-based film, maybe it's no wonder that some brands - who just want to sell their loo cleaner/razors/fast food - get a bit narked.
For example, if you're up against Starbucks, you may well lose patience with all the politically-correct ballyhoo that could possibly take some of your higher-minded customers. So you might be tempted to put out a message that reinforces what you are all about, plain and simple, while also taking a swipe at all that political purpose conversation codswallop.
Which is what Dunkin Donuts have done: the VP Brand Stewardship has put a message around social media - "it's donuts and ice cream - just be happy." As reported in the (conservative) magazine Human Events.
Part of me kind of agrees with the sentiment, but the cynical part has a question.
In this day and age, maybe refusing to go political is a political stance in itself.
In a world where free speech is OK, so long as it's the right political hue, and where brands are encouraged to take a stand as long as it's for something in the liberal-left arena, maybe a brand like Dunkin Donuts looks at its customer heartland and decides that the safest way to get those people on side is to take a swipe at the competitor, knowing that it's not the coffee that's up for criticism, it's the politics.
I prefer my brands strong and silent - doing what they do best, without taking potshots at others.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: