‘Brand’ is a word we hear all the time these days, so what does it really mean?
At its simplest, a brand is a name, usually depicted in a particular graphic style and often accompanied by some sort of symbol.
It used to be a ‘make’, or perhaps, if it was a car, a ‘marque’, but since companies and corporations of all kinds have adopted the consumer-goods marketing disciplines which have daily sold millions of OXO cubes and oceans of Coca Cola, it is a ‘brand’.
Reputation and standing
In this commercial context, a brand is – of course – much more than a name. It carries with it specific attributes and associations which can evoke particular attitudes and responses. What it stands for and its reputation, are all wrapped up in the name.
A successful brand can be compared to a bank note. It is readily identifiable, represents a promise and has value. Properly developed and managed, it will achieve sales and market share – and much else besides.
Making target customers aware of a brand and its positive attributes is an important, and by no means easy, communications task. Like any aspect of marketing, it needs to broken down into logical steps which can be planned and managed.
Typically, strategies are developed by:
- Careful analysis of brand ‘values’, often using market research. What do consumers think of the product and the organisation behind it? And does that match what the organisation is trying to achieve?
- The visual identity: the development of graphic design standards for distinctive namestyles, logotypes and symbols which reflect those values and make the brand easily recognisable.
- Corporate identity programmes: the consistent application of the chosen design standards across the company and its communications, covering not only what it looks like, but what it does in terms of how it conducts business with its customers, its workforce and the wider world around it.
- Skilful promotion. There’s no point in having all these things in place if no-one sees it or knows about it!
Promises are implicit in the reputation of a strong, well managed brand. Because of its reputation, a customer will be aware of and be disposed to rely on such positive qualities as:
In companies or organisations
- Ethical culture
Of course it is important that the companies or products behind the brands measure up to expectations. Customers trust the brand to be consistent with its values and not disappoint or break its promise. That trust is betrayed at the brand owner’s peril. Reputations and customer loyalty are both fragile commodities
The value of a carefully developed and painstakingly nurtured brand lies in the positive responses and attitudes it evokes. Some examples of the areas in which brand value brings benefit include:
- Trust – earns repeat sales as well as recommendations.
- Loyalty – customers often specify the brand rather than the product, particularly valuable to companies planning to launch new products, perhaps breaking into new markets: ‘A strong brand acts as an ambassador when companies enter new markets to offer new products.’ (Business Week).
- A price premium – perceived extra value in a competitive market.
- Competitive advantage – greater ‘visibility’ to compete effectively in crowded markets.
- A ’cushion’ when times are tough – the strongest brands have staying power.
- Easier access to finance– the brand is a sound investment.
- Recruitment – a strong brand finds it easier to attract top quality applicants.
- Company development – the disciplines imposed by branding and branding strategies can be a valuable guide to managers when planning product development and even company acquisitions.
Of course, nothing stands still and re-branding in some form may sometimes be appropriate. For example if:
- The brand style is seen to be outdated and no longer reflects the product or its brand values.
- The organisation has changed, perhaps by merger or acquisition, and its brand does not reflect its altered character.
- The organisation is seeking to change the attitudes and perceptions of key groups, perhaps after a difficult time.
- The target market for a product or service has been changed and the organisation must be seen to change with it.
A strong brand is one of the most valuable assets an organisation can have. It is something to which we all respond, consciously or unconsciously, and no-one is immune.
So, almost without exception, the world’s leading commercial institutions have been founded upon and sustained by excellent branding, while some former giants of commerce have disappeared as a result of brand complacency.
Brand development and nurture and protection therefore need the investment of both money and senior management time. The fortunes of the organisation in a highly competitive world may well depend on it.
To get the power behind your brand call David Antrobus Marketing today on +44 (0)1925 909 050.