The term brand means different things to the different roles of buyer and seller, with buyers generally associating brand with a product or service, and merchants associating brand with identity. Brand can also identify the company behind the specific product — that’s not just a biscuit, that’s Britannia biscuit. This use of brand puts a “face” behind the name, so to speak, even if the “face” is the result of advertising copy and television commercials. This use of brand also says nothing of quality, just the buyer’s exposure to the brand’s PR and media hype. For the typical merchant, branding is a way of taking everything that is good about the company — positive shopping experience, professionalism, superior service, product knowledge, whatever the company decides is important for a customer to believe about the company — and wrapping these characteristics into a package that can be evoked by the brand as signifier.
Meaning of Branding
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group and to differentiate them to those for competitors”. A brand is thus a product or service that’s adds a dimension that differentiates it in some way from other products or services designed to satisfy the same need. These differences may be functional, rational, or tangible- relate to product performance of the brand.
Branding has been around for centuries as a means to distinguish the goods of one producer to those of another. The earliest signs of branding can be traced to Europe where the medieval guilds required that craftsmen put trademarks on their product to protect themselves and producer against inferior quality substitutes. Also in fine arts branding began with artists signing their works. Brands today play a number of important roles that improve the consumer’s lives and enhance the financial value of firms.
Brands identify the source or maker of the product and allow consumers-either individual or organizations- to assign responsibility to a particular manufacturer or distributor. Consumers may evaluate the identical product differently depending how it is branded. Consumers lean about the brand with its past experience and the marketing program. As consumers lives becomes more complicated, time starved the ability of brand to simplify decision making is invaluable. Brands also perform valuable functions for the firm. First they simplify the product handling and tracing. Brands help to organize inventory and accounting records. The brand name can be protected registered trademarks. The intellectual property rights ensure that the firm can safely invest in the brand and can reap the benefits over a long period of time.
Brands can signal a certain level of quality so that satisfied buyers can easily choose the product again. Brand loyalty provides predictability and security of demand for the firm and creates barriers to entry that makes it difficult for other firms to enter the market. This brand loyalty can translate into willingness to pay higher price. In this sense branding can be seen as powerful means to secure a competitive advantage. Brands represent enormously valuable pieces of legal property that can influence consumer’s behavior. Strong brand results in better earnings and profit performance for firms, which in turn, creates greater value for shareholders.
How do you “BRAND” a product? Although firms provide the impetus to brand creation through marketing programs and other activities, ultimately a brand is something that resides in the mind of the consumers. A brand is a perpetual identity that is rooted in reality but reflects the perceptions and perhaps even the ultimate choice of the consumers. Branding is endowing products and services with the power of brands. To brand a product, it is necessary to teach the consumers “who” the product-by giving a name. Branding involves creating mental structures and helping consumers organize their knowledge about products and services in a way that clarifies their decision making and in process provides value to the firm
Branding can be applied virtually anywhere a consumer has a choice. It is possible to brand:
- A physical good (Cadbury’s Chocklate, Sunsilk shampoo),
- A service (Kingfisher Airlines, TATA AIG medical insurance),
- A store (Big Bazaar, BATA stores),
- A place (The state of Kerala, Pushkar Mela),
- A person (Amithabh Bachan, Sachin Tendulkar),
- An organization (UNICEF or BCCI),
Brand is the proprietary visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that you associate with the company or a product. When you think of Volvo, you think of safety. When you think of Nike, you think of Michael Jordon or ‘Just Do It’. When you think of IBM, you think of ‘Big Blue’. The fact that you remember the brand name and have positive associations with that brand makes your product selection easier and enhances the value and satisfaction you get from product.
While Brand X cola or even Pepsi-Cola may win blind taste tests over Coca-Cola, the fact is that more people buy Coke than any other Cola. The fond memories of childhood and refreshment that people have when they drink Coke is often more important than a little bit better cola taste. This emotional relationship with brands that make them so powerful.
Purpose of Branding
The purpose of branding is to create a powerful and lasting emotional connection with customers and other audiences. A brand is a set of elements or “brand assets” that in combination create a unique, memorable, unmistakable, and valuable relationship between an organization and its customers. The brand is carried by a set of compelling visual, written and vocal tools to represent the business plan and intentions of an organization.
Branding is the voice and image that represents your business plan to the outside world. What your company, products and services stand for should all be captured in your branding strategy, and represented consistently throughout all your brand assets and in your daily marketing activities
The brand image that carries this emotional connection consists of the many manageable elements of branding system, including both visual image assets and language assets. The process of managing the brand to the business plan is important not only in “big change situation” where the brand redefinition is required, but also in the management of routine marketing variables and tactics. This does not have to be a “ground-up” situation where there are wholesale changes to the business. Rather it is more common that specific changes to the changes to the business plan are incremental and the work of the brand strategist and designer is to interpret these changes and revise the branding strategy and resulting brand assets and define their use in the full range of marketing variables.
- Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places (Harvard Business Review)
- The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand (Harvard Business Review)