Separating Yourself from the Rest of Your Market
If you look at corporations such as McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Southwest, Apple and Microsoft; there are plenty of reasons why they are successful. But why are their names synonymous with the products that they represent? It all comes down to their brand.
A Brand is the sum of functional and emotional characteristics, both tangible and intangible, the consumer attributes to a product or service. It is the difference between a bottle of sugared, flavored and carbonated water and a bottle of Coca-Cola. These characteristics are embodied in a name, trademark, symbol, design or any combination of these.
With the Internet growing more pervasive, many online brands have no tangible attributes; making the definition of a brand broader. This means that the concept of branding can no longer be restricted to products and services Brands such as Amazon and Google exist solely in virtual reality, one could say. Everyone from movies stars to politicians to company executives realize now that their success is dependent more and more on their ability to market themselves as brands.
Incorporating All Aspects to Build the Brand
In order to create a successful brand for a business, you have to mobilize the entire organization from the ground up. Every aspect from the premises through the behavior of employees (customer-facing roles especially) to company letterheads and formal marketing communications should reflect the values of the brand.
Branding Encourages Consumers to Buy
The brand is for most businesses the primary source of competitive advantage and their most valuable strategic asset. The marketplace would be based on undifferentiated products and commodities that are traded based on price if branding did not exist. Having a brand allows businesses to actively influence the demand side of the equation by encouraging consumers to base their purchase decisions on factors other than price.
Branding enables the consumer to make informed purchase decisions and help them steer their way through the astronomical number of products that exist in every category and sub-category. In a world where our basic needs have been satisfied, branding allows us something to help define our identities as to what we prefer and don't.
Differentiation Defines the Brand
Regarding brands, differentiation is the most effective concept in creating them. Brands can be defined by products and service, which leads to four different types:
This is when an offering is not defined by terms of product or service. Precious metals and staple food products are still largely traded as commodities.
When an offering is defined solely on product terms without any service ones, it's a product brand. These can be differentiated in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. Generally, most consumer goods are product brands with most containing elements of both intrinsic and extrinsic differentiation.
For example, hi-fi manufacturers focus on the functionality of their products, while soft-drink brands vary from each other by image. Automobiles play on both function and emotion.
Any offering that's based on providing an intangible service is called a service brand such as financial services. However, creating one can be difficult since it's based on a person delivering that service to the consumer. Historically, human production is going to be less reliable than mechanical.
This is different because it's based on both product and service terms such as with TGI Friday's that's centered on high quality food, fast service and cleanliness of the restaurant location.
Laying Down the Foundation to a Brand
To create a brand, there are three essential building blocks that you must have: brand proposition, brand positioning and brand identity.
This is the statement of the functional and emotional benefits that a product or service offers to the consumer. Coca-Cola's brand proposition combines both functional and emotional benefits.
This is the description of whom the brand is aimed at and where it stands relative to the competition.
Also known as brand image, this is the aggregation of the words, images and ideas that the consumer associates with a brand. There is an increasing tendency to characterize brands, where businesses talk about brand personality and attitude - particularly, in youth markets, where consumers regard brands as statements of their preferences and beliefs.
Having the Tools to Push the Brand
For brand creation to be successful it starts with product design; but the visual presentation makes it up a lot of that as well. In the consumer goods industry for example, packaging is a key source of differentiation, both as a powerful tool for creating band identity and as a means whereby brands can stand out from the crowd on increasingly cluttered supermarket shelves.
Advertising has always been a strong tool to push a brand; especially now with the role of the Internet, providing a major outlet for businesses to reach out to consumers. Print and broadcast media continue to have the power to influence consumer behavior, particularly with television with gives a full onslaught of sound and vision.
In the past decade, the task of branding has become more complex and sophisticated due in part to the fragmentation of media as well as cynicism from consumers. As a result, business owners have had to become more innovative, continually modifying their brands to keep one step ahead of their competitors and consumers.