What is a brand?

“A Brand is a shortcut, it’s a shortcut for all the expectations I have for what you’re about to do for me. It’s a shortcut for trust, for promises, for conversations.”Seth Godin

A brand is commonly referred to as a unique design, sign, symbol, words or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.

It comprises a “reputational asset which has been developed over time so as to embrace a set of values and attributes, resulting in a powerfully held set of beliefs by the consumer and a range of other stakeholders” (The Westminster Business School).

For example, when you hear the name Coca-Cola, you probably picture its well-known logo, but you also might think of the polar bear, Santa Claus from its advertisements, the colour red, its “Share a Coke” campaign, or the classic ribbon-like imagery featured on its cans. All of these aspects are what makes up the Coca-Cola brand, not just the logo of the business.

Thus, a brand is the sum of the tangible and intangible benefits provided by a product or service and encompasses the entire customer experience. Brands are therefore pivotal to the relationship between companies and their customers. A successful brand has both a unique point of differentiation from the competition, and values that the customer segment really wants.

Keen to explore how brands shape our world? Visit the Museum of Brands in London:)

Brands

How does a brand stay relevant over generations?

“Brands are messengers of trust. Customers are reassured by brands that are recognizable and familiar.” Alina Wheeler

Perceptions of a brand are shaped by the way it interacts with its customers, keeps up with current product or service expectations and whether consumers feel truly connected to what the brand is doing. Thus, remaining relevant as a brand over generations does not mean to continue doing the same thing year after year, but depends on the willingness to do things differently – from product changes to the means by which you connect with consumers. Brands continually evolve and innovate as they are inspired by consumers, adapting to societal needs, new technologies and , continuously investing in research and innovation, to anticipate the needs of tomorrow.

Why brands matter to consumers?

“Brands are like people and people are like brands. They are complex, and, like great people, great brands are dimensional; they have a soul, personality and behaviours that differentiate them from others. They leave an impression and invite you to engage with them. Great brands are interesting and make it clear why people need them.” Shawn Parr, CEO, Bulldog Drummond

  • Brands enable identification of the source or maker of the product and therefore assign responsibility and accountability to the brand owner.
  • Over time, consumers discover which brands satisfy their needs and which ones do not. In this way, brands provide a shortcut or means of simplification for their product decisions.
  • Brands serve as a signal of quality to the consumer.
  • Brands allow consumers to lower the search costs for products both internally (in terms of how much they have to think) and externally (in terms of how much they have to look around).
  • Brands allow consumers to build a relationship, promise, bond or pact with the product manufacturer. Thus, consumers offer their trust and loyalty with the implicit understanding that the brand will behave in certain ways and provide them utility through consistent product performance and appropriate pricing, promotion, distribution programmes and actions. As long as they derive satisfaction from the product consumption, they are likely to continue to buy it.
  • Brands can serve as symbolic devices, allowing consumers to project their self-image. Certain brands are associated with certain types of people and thus reflect different values or traits. Consuming such products is a means by which consumers can communicate to others – or even to themselves – the type of person they are or would like to be.

How to place a successful brand on the market?

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon

Brand identity consists of what a brand says, what its values are, how it communicates its concepts, and the emotions it wants consumers to feel when they interact with the brand’s business. Essentially, brand identity is the personality of the brand’s business and a promise to its consumers – the input perspective. On the other hand, the way this brand identity is actually perceived by consumers and other stakeholders constitutes the brand image – the output perspective.

In order to achieve a strong brand image, brand positioning is at the heart of every marketing strategy. It is described as the “act of designing the company’s offer and image so that it occupies a distinct and valued place in the target customer’s minds”. As the name implies, positioning means finding the proper “location” in the minds of a group of consumers or market segment, so that they think about a product or service in the desired way to maximize potential benefit for the company. Good brand positioning helps guide marketing strategy by clarifying what a brand is all about, how it is unique and how it is similar to competitive brands, and why consumers should purchase and use it. To decide on a positioning, brand marketers need to know (1) who the target consumer is, (2) who the main competitors are, (3) how the brand is similar to these competitors, and (4) how the brand is different from them.

How to create a strong, successful brand?

Kevin Lane Keller, E. B. Osborn Professor of Marketing, gives an answer to this question with his Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) Model with the aim to assist management in their brand-building efforts.

In his Brand Resonance Pyramid, Keller defines six brand building blocks with consumers, illustrating that a strong brand with significant brand equity can only be created if the brand reaches the top of the pyramid.

 

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