Branding can be defined as a name, a personality, a character that people, in this case consumers, recognise and value. Branding helps to distinguish a product from the rest on the rack. Therefore, it actually is the lifeblood for a product, one that must be tenderly nurtured and cared for throughout its life cycle.
Branding offers the opportunity to create growth by distinguishing a product or service and appealing to identified market segments, and making it possible for your product to stand apart from the competition in ways that matter to buyers. Also, this created identity is much harder for competitors to assail than product features and pricing, as it is now widely accepted that people buy brands.
A brand is much more than a word or a couple of words. It is your products identity and a combination of several elements like name, symbol or logo, an image based on attributes, expectations and perceptions and a promise to deliver some form of benefit. All of these elements form an impression about a brand in the minds of the consumers that further helps in differentiating it from other products.
The name and logo should be strong enough to tell a prospective customer who has never experienced your product, something about it, and should convey a message and a feeling instantly. If that connection can be made, he or she will then decide to buy your brand for the first time. Repeated buying will depend on how well your brand has performed on their satisfaction index.
A successful brand is a trigger that makes a consumer feel a certain way when the brand is thought about.
Coca-Cola has spent over a century developing their brand of cola flavoured soda as a refreshing beverage and a seminal representation of a market segment. The company has used a combination of various media to achieve maximum brand recognition, which has had their cash registers ringing. Another example is a situation where you purchase an expensive garment from a department store. If it has the name Yves Saint Laurent on it, you have a garment of far greater perceived value.
Yes, brands matter because of the loyalty they engender, their ability to withstand price fluctuations thereby reducing vulnerability to competition and market crisis, and their potency to boost their companys bottomline.
Key elements for branding
Successful branding begins with a well-defined brand, which is relevant to your market. Relevance is the vital word here. The key elements that constitute branding are:
l Brand position
This describes your product or service, identifies who it would benefit, what is the unique value of your product or service, how a customer benefits from it, and what key differentiation it has from competition.
l Brand promise
Defines the single most important thing that the product promises to deliver to its customers, every time. While arriving at this, consider what target consumers should expect from every interaction with the brand. Every business decision should reflect this promise.
l Brand personality
Brand traits illustrate what the marketing team wants their brand to be known for. Think about specific personality traits you want prospects and customers to use to describe your brand. You should ideally list out four to six traits, each being a single term (ideally an adjective).
l Brand story
Products and brands can have an interesting history. Chronicles add value and credibility to the brand. Build in the brand benefits and the communication could be a compelling story that spurs consumer action.
l Brand association
The specific physical aspects that make the brand. The look and feel aspects that a consumer can sense like name, logo, colours, tagline, fonts, imagery, etc. Your brand associations must reflect your brand promise, all of your brand traits, and support your brand positioning statement.
The branding process
Once a relevant brand has been defined and developed, ensure that its ethos not only seeps into every level of the organisation, but also that its behaviour, action and communication are consistent. Build the brand with prospects, customers and vendors through consistent execution.
Repetition: Repetition is the key to the success of the branding process. No one will ever know or remember what your brand is, unless it is the same every time they are exposed to it. Without consistency, brand awareness becomes impossible to achieve, even if you exhaust your marketing budget.
Uniqueness: Do remember, every consumer anticipates a unique experience or a unique benefit from a brand that can only be obtained by consuming or owning it. It is fair to say that a brand is really a brand only when such anticipation exists . If this anticipation is both exclusive and attractive then, in addition to a familiar name or logo, you also have a strong brand.
Devising the brand strategy
The brand strategy is nothing but a translation of the competitive strategy into a language of promises made to the consumer. The brands role in the realm of business has changed dramatically during the past decade. In the past, we used to brand already existing products in order to make them more attractive to consumers. It was what we can call cosmetic branding. In contrast lately, developing a brand means devising and implementing a way by which to deliver a benefit to consumers. Such concepts direct the development of products and services designed to supply the benefit, and even shape entire organisations for this purpose. This is termed as strategic branding.
For a brand, its market and its consumers are the raison detre. A rich combination of market and customer knowledge therefore, would enable you to identify opportunities that will create the greatest lasting value for the brand and therefore the organisation.
Building a brand
The process of building a brand begins with:
Creating a sharp market focus
Understanding influential trends shaping the market
Identifying the attributes of the brand that are unique and integral to brand and business success
Identifying the target audience
Consumers will only decide to purchase a brand if it meets a relevant need or solves a problem. It is important to evoke consumer anticipation and provide the consumer with a unique benefit. This concept is the brand strategy, its promise and its commitment to its target consumers. You would need to uncover critical insights about them, their lives, behavioural patterns, more so when it comes to brands and how the brand fits within the internal and emotional world of its intended customers, in their relationships and in their lifestyle.
Nearly everyone marvels at how Starbuck invented a new coffee culture built entirely around the experience. While consumers recognise that they are paying a premium, they are willing to do so because they believe they are getting higher quality and greater value.
It is not easy to deliver on the promise a brand makes to the consumer. Remember, consumers habits are constantly changing, and competitors are always trying to take a bigger piece of the pie. Evolve and keep your brand strong and fresh.
Understanding the market
Imagine that you are getting transferred on work to a city you have never been to. What would you do? Firstly, you will find out the broad details of the place. Its weather, culture, housing, leisure and entertainment options, traffic, and so on. If you are a parent, foremost on your list of priorities would be the educational institutions. You would now have to figure out how your life would fit into these environments. Once you have got a broad idea, you will zero onto the absolute details like the people, their attitudes, lifestyles, and safety for women and children, and so on.
Similarly you will have to understand the market environment where a brand has to not only survive but also live well. Having learnt the macro picture, you then focus on the competition and their activities for, it is among them that your brand has to fight for its space and perform to expectations.
Entering a new territory
A new market is being entered with the launch of a product. The existing market is going through a significant transition. Therefore, market understanding, which means the difference between the success and failure for a business, is very important.
It is necessary to take a step back and review the current market situation and take stock of the entire marketing approach.
First identify the market situation, and then offer guidelines as to the best way in which to approach them. The more you can pre-identify your potential customers, the more effective you can be in reaching them. The more you know about which customers are the softest targets, the less communication resources you waste.
Market understanding - methodology
Research is focussed on understanding buyer behaviour, and probing the underlying motivation behind this. Test the market picture against internally held perspectives. Involve the client in decisions about the direction of the project. Allow the client team sufficient time to internalise the market understanding as it develops. The final decision should be taken after lot of deliberatation and contemplation.
Consumer recall of a brand
Brand recall is the extent to which a consumer recalls a brand name as a member of a product or service category. Typically, pure brand recall would mean an unaided recall. Let us take an example of a respondent who has been asked to recall the names of cars or toothpaste brands that he may know. The first brand name that he instantly recalls is top of mind to him. This name has a distinct competitive advantage in brand space, as it has the first chance of evaluation for purchase. Marketers around the world therefore, fight for this singular piece of space in the consumers greyware.
Aided recall measures the extent to which a brand name is remembered when the actual brand name is prompted. An example, Do you know of the Honda brand? In terms of brand exposure, companies want to look for high levels of unaided recall in relation to their competitors.
Brand recognition is the extent to which a brand is recognised. In some cases, brand recognition is defined as aided recall and as a subset of brand recall. In that case, brand recognition is the extent to which a brand name is recognised when prompted with the actual name.
Logo and tagline testing can be seen as a form of brand recognition testing as well. For example, if a product name can be associated with a certain tagline, logo or attribute as is the case with Safety and Volvo; Just do it - Nike a certain level of brand recognition is present.
Advertisement testing refers to various methodologies focusing exclusively on measuring the effectiveness, perception, or targeting of a series of, or a single advertisement in a given market. It is also related to promotion testing promo testing which generally tests communications in a broader campaign. Advertisement testing can test ads in any advertising media including print, TV/cable, radio, billboard or others. It can be used at any stage of the advertisement development process including conceptualisation, storyboard, or final stages.
Some advertisement testing focusses on competitive aspects. Some competitive advertisement testing techniques include asking respondents to browse a magazine and then being asked to remember which advertisements they saw and what they remembered the most about them.
Advertisement testing is most frequently used however to decide on the most effective advertisement from a series of alternatives at design stage. This also provides guidelines for the final design of the advertisements, and to correct expensive cultural gaffes that may occur when an advertisement developed in a different country is being used in another country or cultural target group. Most often tested attributes include memorability, liking, persuasiveness, consumer identification with settings or situations, understanding of the appeal, and brand integrity. Logos or tag lines can be tested in a similar manner.
(The writer is former creative director, Lintas IMAG)