While branding is a complex process, its ingredients are fairly simple if analyzed one by one. If you take time every day to work on one ingredient, you'll be able to develop your brand.
Most people confuse branding with a logo or website. While these are significant aspects, they are a part of your overall brand. It is necessary to have a clear understanding of these terms to have a clear expectation on branding for your marketing efforts.
To see how other business owners see branding see this article
Brands are interesting, powerful concoctions of the marketplace that create tremendous value for organizations and for individuals. Because brands serve several functions, we can define the term “brand” in the following ways:
- A brand is an identifier: a name, sign, symbol, design, term, or some combination of these things that identifies an offering and helps simplify choice for the consumer.
- A brand is a promise: the promise of what a company or offering will provide to the people who interact with it.
- A brand is an asset: a reputation in the marketplace that can drive price premiums and customer preference for goods from a particular provider.
- A brand is a set of perceptions: the sum total of everything individuals believe, think, see, know, feel, hear, and experience about a product, service, or organization.
- A brand is “mind share”: the unique position a company or offering holds in the customer’s mind, based on their past experiences and what they expect in the future.
Brands are a combination of tangible and intangible elements, such as the following:
- Visual design elements (i.e., logo, colors, typography, imagery, tagline, packaging, etc.)
- Distinctive product features (i.e. quality, design sensibility, personality, features, etc.)
- Intangible aspects of customers’ experience with a product or company (i.e. reputation, customer experience with the product, service, customer service, etc.)
A brand can convey multiple levels of meaning, including the following:
- Attributes: specific product features. The Mercedes-Benz brand, for example, suggests expensive, well-built, well-engineered, durable vehicles.
- Benefits: attributes translate into functional and emotional benefits. Mercedes automobiles suggest prestige, luxury, wealth, reliability, self-esteem.
- Values: company values and operational principles. The Mercedes brand evokes company values around excellence, high performance, power.
- Culture: cultural elements of the company and brand. Mercedes represents German precision, discipline, efficiency, quality.
- Personality: strong brands often project a distinctive personality. The Mercedes brand personality combines luxury and efficiency, precision and prestige.
- User: brands may suggest the types of consumers who buy and use the product. Mercedes drivers might be perceived and classified differently than, for example, the drivers of Cadillacs, Corvettes, or BMWs.
The brand is an easily recognizable name (of a business, organization or individual) and feelings associated with it. It immediately tells people about a certain organization that manufactures certain products or delivers some particular services. Brand identity is the way people recognize the brand. It may be through the logo or other associated visuals.
Brand image is the perception associated with the brand that people develop in their minds. It's not something you can impose. It's what your branding efforts lead to in the minds of their receivers.
It also dictates what they expect from the brand. For instance, Rolls Royce has the image of a luxury car maker. So, it cannot be making a budget car even if there is a market for it. Or, actually, it can, but it would ruin its image. And many companies did that, unfortunately. Its existing premium customers won’t take it kindly as it dilutes the said image. It’s hard and sometimes impossible to change brand image, so it’s best to know what you’re aiming at, before you invest your hard earned dollars.
Positioning is the way a product or service is placed in the market. It defines what segments of the market it's targeting. For instance Virginia Slims is a cigarette targeted at women. Basic ingredients in all cigarettes are same but this one has been positioned to attract women by making it slimmer in size and making the packaging sleeker.
Brand personality is just like the personality of humans. It is certain emotional or personal qualities that we associate with a particular brand. For example we can associate youthfulness with Pepsi or ruggedness with Wrangler. Every element of the brand identity including colors of the logo and the typography used on the brand name adds to the personality.
Brand equity is the value of a brand. It may include tangible financial value such as market share and revenue as well as intangible aspects such as strategic benefits of the brand. For example Apple is a major technology brand and people perceive it is a premium, cutting edge manufacturer of quality products. So, it is not only the sales but the sheer image that takes the equity to a different level altogether.
Brand experience is a combination of everything that customers go through while purchasing and using that brand's products or services. For instance, how does one feel while ordering food and eating at MacDonald's? How do its staff members behave? How fast do they deliver the orders? How did the food taste? Also, since it has many outlets all over the world, all of them are expected to maintain uniform standards of experience. It's achieved through the development and rigorous adherence to a system.
Differentiation is how a brand stands out in the crowd. It's often called its USP (Unique Selling Proposition). For instance, Dell Computers lets people choose their components and assemble their own system, thus making it different from others who just sell ready made machines at the shop with no or little scope for customization.
Brand communication is the message it delivers through various sources like adverts, brochures, punchlines and hoardings. If the brand has to grow, it must be able to clearly communicate its core benefits to the customers. And the message must be consistent and authentic. Once people get confused or notice inconsistency in the messages sent, they will lose trust, and that's much harder to recover than build.
Brand gap is the difference between what a brand promises to deliver in its communications and what it actually does. For its own sake, the gap should not be very high. A successful brand must be able to deliver what it promises. No amount of advertising or content marketing efforts can save a bad product.
Brand extension is basically the idea of going beyond ones origins and exploring newer fields. For example Google started as a search engine. But now it provides many other services including emails and mobile operating systems. This is how it has extended the brand but it must be done in a manner so that the existing operations complement the newer initiatives. Google gained market intelligence through its search operations and this is what enabled it to develop other services. Movie makers sell merchandise like clothing and toys before and after the release. These are also extensions as they go beyond the main product - the film.
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