A business, any business, of any time of any type has five steps upwards in terms of perception. Very few businesses can reach the 5th stage : noun inversion and most are limited within Service-Product-Brand steps.
Service : Perishable, directed by client, input, process and outcome more or less pre-determined and determinable. Highly price sensitive. This kind of business is generally not very much missed when ceases because very quickly, from the horde the vacuum is filled in. Representative example : Indian Call Centre Business.
Product : There are two types of products : Chinese and non-Chinese. Most of the Chinese products are not exactly products, they are a philosophical statement of sorts and we shall keep them out of our discussion of products. By philosophical statement, I mean they are anti-products just like most of the modern art is anti-art. A product is distinguished from service by two crucial parameters – a) it is not perishable like service and has avenues to create non-transactional revenue b) a true product carries something spiritual of the maker. Representative example : Swiss watch, Japanese electronics, Certain street food of Calcutta.
Brand : A brand means an idea and hence it transcends service / product divide. A brand, is a brand, is a brand of what is inone’s mind. It is a Platonic Idea and users see shadow of anything the brand wants to show them. At least a large amount of users. Since brand is guided more by the laws of the Platonic world, it increasingly detaches itself from tangibles and measurable but talks more of emotion, feeling and experience. Major brands of the world. Starbucks : does say little about coffee but more of experience and ambiance and feeling.
Obvious : A brand reaches this point – a more rarefied place and here nature of the market is important. In liberalization India, Ambassador and later Maruti were obvious categories for cars not because these were obvious but there were no other references. Gulliver was a giant not because he was a giant but he was in a certain environment where people’s maximum height was like our finger. But for those “finger people”, Gulliver being a giant was nothing less than obvious. In free market (or at least in professed ones), to achieve the status of Obvious is very rare and unstable. For a brief period, Samsung became obvious with “smartphone”. But unfortunately, it’s journey coincided with something that inverted noun – verba magistri – Apple.
Noun Inversion or Semantic Channeling : In India, a company that had achieved this status and remained for a significant amount of time was Godrej, I mean the almirah. I do not immediately remember any other brand of India causing this phenomenon. Did you cherry blossom your shoe today ? was a grand slogan but the product was not having that pull. It happened again in Smartphone war where Nokia collapsed, Samsung rose and then at a certain point, an intelligent smartphone was I-phone. It was the phone that was beyond smart – intelligent or I-ness projected into it. Apple, very shrewdly and avoiding many temptations (billions, at least in India) created the aura around it – you cannot get it in a store near you, at least when it was in its formative years. Presently, of course the story is very different. Somebody might argue that Google also did impact syntax and vocabulary but Google was/is a dependable butler or a amiable uncle or a servant on 24/7 duty without any cost (apparently) but no one could talk of design calligraphy or Greek statement on pure geometry about Google which was talked, and rightfully so about I-phone when it was born.
End-note : May I remind again that this classification is based on perception. I may also remind that perception is heavily influenced by something which has no utility – Beauty.