I believe the world of "brands" will be DISRUPTED in the near future.
FIrst - why does it matter? Brands are and will always be a super effective and quick way to communicate at a very deep psychological level the complex set of benefits for products and services.
in the past, institutions and big celebrities were brands as it cost a lot of money to create and distribute the messages - over and over.
Now and in the future - in a world of bIllions of connected consumers ( especially anytime, anywhere via their mobile device) - with each person having the same social "megaphones" to their networks - INDIVIDUALS will be the brands - bypassing institutions.
We see this in Entertainment and News with new youtube and twitter celebrities like kim kardashian, and bloggers like arrington - where his following is migrating from techcrunch to his personal blog.
but there's more coming.....
In Books, publishers have had significant control given the costs of marketing and publishing. The combination of e-book distribution and social media is enabling the author to be the brand and market directly using new platforms from Amazon and new startups like Byliner.
In Education, the top professors in each subject will be the brand - we''ll listen to their TED Talks and lectures for free and sign up directly for their classes to earn degree credits. The brands of colleges and universities will be disrupted.
In products/manufacturing - a consumer will visit an open source design database and enter your requirements for exactly the product you want - say an ipod holder using certain material, with certain weight and color - and then seek out the best 3D Printer operator to buy it (check out Shapeways.com). The manufacturer brand can simply be a person - from any country.
In commerce - the new products rolling off the factory floor AND the ones we own will be tagged and connected to the cloud making their presence and condition known. When you want to buy something, you'll search and find a PERSON, make an offer, and buy or rent from them if they have a good brand as a seller (e.g. reputation). Retail brands as we know it will be less important.
In my final example - healthcare - we will see individual doctors and practicioners become the brand. Thru telemedicine, you will seek out the doctor who is the BEST for your condition, not simply stand in line to be treated at a brand of today such as the Mayo Clinic.
This presents an exciting future and a very practical benefit of social media - it will level the playing field like nothing before. Only the best providers will survive - and institutions will go head to head with individuals. As an individual striving to create a brand in venture capital, I too am EXCITED for this future ; )