The word ‘Brand’ is now not only used by bespectacled, bearded, creative types with funny bowties, it is used commonly in our everyday vernacular. The people have adopted the word. Often when this happens definitions can become blurred and understanding of the concept that the word originally symbolised starts to fade. Today Apple is a ‘Brand’ not a company or business, Beckham is a brand, not a model or even a person.
A brief history of branding
To understand something, sometimes it helps to understand where it has come from...
Since the time people have had things to sell there have been marks, symbols or signs associated with them to assure the buyer of the quality of the merchandise. Since many of the target audience were illiterate or from different cultures that spoke different languages universal symbols or ‘logos’ were also used to break down communications barriers. Unfortunately in the past livestock and humans have been branded to show ownership, to mark them out as ‘different.’ The recent obsession with tattoos could be classed as an attempt at personal branding.
A brand used to be a visual symbol used to break through communications barriers and allow customers to determine which merchant to buy their wares from. While these elements are not completely out-dated, today’s brands are more complex and customers (quite rightly) expect more from a business and their brand.
Today customers are sophisticated, they don’t take advertising at face value, blindly follow, believe and buy. Brands have become anchors for customers in a world that is forever changing, they provide stability and reassurance. They are a purchasable identity, they say something about us or our company. For example in a B2B context banking at Coutts or Halifax will say something about your brand.
Your brand today
Your brand is the combination of associations in the mind of your audience.
Your brand lies in the mind of your target audience. You can influence your brand in certain ways and try to instil desired associations that your audience have through behaviours and marketing, but ultimately it’s up to them what your brand means…to them.
The elements of a brand can be controlled to create desirable associations in the mind of your customer
- Functionality – At the basic level does the product or service do what I want it to? Are there additional elements that add value over competitors?
- Quality – Is it going to last? Or will it produce the results/exceed my needs? Does it need to last?
- Price point – Right it does what I need, can I afford it? Is it expensive enough?
- Access/Ease of use – So I can afford it, it’s of a quality that I need and it does what I want, is it round the corner or across the world? Does that matter?
- Design- Is it beautiful? – Is the product more beautiful, more thoughtfully designed than competitors?
- Brand Values/Mission – This is an interesting one – depending on the target audience, although becoming more and more important, it may be first on the list or last. Does the brand exhibit behaviours that align to the customer? For example do they use ethical work practices? Do they source sustainably produced products? Do they align their beliefs with mine? Is their mission something I believe in? Research has shown that customers would rather pay more and go out of their way to buy from companies that have a mission aligned to their moral and ethical beliefs…
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Seth Godin
What does a strong brand do and how does it affect your bottom line?
A strong brand (a company that has influenced positive associations in the mind of a potential customer/client) creates a reason to purchase; a reason for someone to choose your product or service over another. This in turn reflects on the bottom line – more or better reasons to choose your product should result in increased sales and ultimately the growth of your business. Why does Redbull sell more sugary energy than any other brand? Because they have built a product that fulfils a need and a strong brand that resonates with their target audience…there are many products that fulfil the need for sugary energy but Red Bull has used the power of their brand (or the associations they have constructed in their target customers’ minds) to grow their market share to 43%* of the energy drinks market.
A strong brand creates a reason to purchase which increases sales.
We’ll finish with words from the Godfather of Brand, Wally Olins…
'The brand emerges in your products, in your environments, your offices, your factories, your retail outlets, and in the behaviour of your people, as well as in communications of all kinds.' Wally Olins - Brand New