Tear up the top 100 brand lists and ditch the value metrics there can never be a formula to sum up what your brand is worth. Every so often The Economist writes about marketing. It sometimes even writes about branding, quite often metaphorically holding its nose. A few months ago it published the results of a study carried out by a couple of researchers in the Netherlands which seems to prove what most of us know already that we don’t only buy designer labels like Tommy Hilfiger or Lacoste because we like the look and feel of them but also because of the status they confer on us. The research (2 April 2011, p86 Science & Technology section) is entertaining but hardly groundbreaking. It will be published shortly in Evolution and Human Behavior a US scientific magazine. But what is interesting about it is that it reopens that can of worms we’d do far better to keep shut: what is the value of the brand? Research companies, agencies and publications including Marketing Week would have it believed that every brand has an objective value that can be derived from mathematical formulae, and that based on these we can rank brands from top to bottom. What rubbish.