You have probably seen all those presentations about 'what is a brand?'. They told us that the brand is a set of values over and above the product, that brands live inside the head of customers and so on. In some ways i saw it as an information short cut. I'll explain. If you trusted a brand you could buy it or from it in the safe knowledge that it would be OK, you would not being making [too big] a mistake. Essentially we did not have time as consumers to do all that research to evaluate every product, to work out what is best. So the brand communicated something about the product qualities.
But the weird thing is it is still an information short cut. Because there is too much information out there, we cant be bothered to do all that research so we opt for a brand we trust.
30 years ago we couldn't possibly do all the research we should to be 'rational' consumers
Now we have the information available and we cant always be bothered. We haven't got time.
Of course if you are spending lots of money or buying your favourite toy we will research it, but brands still matter. They still communicate but just in different ways.