Panini football stickers – a great product, no doubt about it. No skill required, inherently social and with a low barrier to entry. They were the ultimate in cheap, disposable and sharable media. A fantastic brand.

The yo-yo was also a winner. Everyone at school had one, and they could all master at least a few tricks. It was an egalitarian toy – almost Communist in its universal equitability. Duncan’s yo-yos were the brand of choice for any discernable ‘dog walker’. They were crucial.

Then skateboards came along – more expensive, harder to master and you had to spend every school breaktime for at least a term learning how to ollie. But whether you could pull off a backside heel flip or not, you had to be wearing the right shoes to try it – and those shoes were Vans.

Even as early as the 1970s, with the Sk8 Hi and Old Skool models, Vans were cool. But why were they cool? Their aura was part rugged product and part California skate mystique. The pros wore them, according to everyone in the break after double maths. Tony Hawk rode in no other, apparently – and if they were good enough for Tony, well…

Vans were the archetypal trending brand, ultimately transcending a universe way beyond skating. Their perceived quality and desirability was more about the myth and legend that surrounded them than the rubber, leather and cotton that built them. This urban folklore added significant desirability value in the minds of a million knee-high skaters worldwide who pestered their parents and caused a sales spike only replicable by the spending power of sports shoe giants Nike and Adidas.

Brand awareness, perception and advocacy make customer acquisition campaigns work more effectively.

A brand such as this – and its disciples Etnies, Airwalk and Vision Streetwear – owed a great deal of its sales success to the word-of-mouth narrative that surrounded it. The brand stories were the viral media of their day, thus replacing media spend with direct revenue.

Nowadays everything is a brand. Your fridge, sunglasses, car, pork pie, G&T. If the vapid, vacuous Bisto-hued cast of Love Island speak about themselves as ‘brands’ in the third person then something’s gone seriously wrong, right?

As marketers our world is not only built with brands, it’s defined by them. This means enhanced perception and differentiation is extremely difficult, especially in sectors such as automotive, grocery, beauty, technology and beverages.

But in performance-driven industries such as the one I work in, online…