When you hear the word “branding” it brings to mind a mental image of a rancher searing his mark into his cattle’s hide. Well, product branding is not quite that painful, but it follows along the same principle. You want to “burn” into the consumer’s mind the image of your brand.
Some examples of recognizable brands include the red, white and blue “smiling” Pepsi logo, the infamous Nike “swish”, the elegant L-oval of Lexus and the golden arches of McDonalds. These icons represent established and emblazoned images in our minds.
So what’s the difference between a logo and a brand? Some may call the aforementioned examples-logos while others would refer to them as corporate brands. So what’s the difference? Logos are an image or symbol that represents a person, place or thing and is used as an identifier of a product or service in most cases. It can be equated to an individual’s “signature.”
Brands, on the other hand, would be like an individual’s “character” – it’s who you are, what you are about and what you value. A company’s brand is really no different, it is literally the personality of the company, it manifests the personality of the owner, board of directors, shareholders or even the corporate culture.
Branding takes time, it’s not something easily obtained overnight. Even the advertising Gods are unable to make that happen. And it takes repeated exposure to obtain success. Logos, the visual symbol of the brand, immediately bring an awareness of what the product or service has to offer and what reputation the company may have.
A definition of what branding might be in the context of marketing may sound like: “Branding is a long and persistent attempt to convey an idea, concept or emotion in someone’s mind.” Or put another way “Brand identity should help establish a relationship between the brand and the customer by generating a value, a function, an emotion or a form of self-expression.”
There has been a multitude of studies performed over the last couple of decades to evaluate brand awareness and brand exposure.
Depending on which study you refer to, the average person is exposed to consumer brands and commercial messages anywhere from 300 to 5000 times daily, depending on individual habits. Just think of your drive to work this morning, how many billboards did you pass? What about commercial vehicles with signs? What about the businesses you past and their signage?
Branding is important because the stronger the brand is the easier the communication becomes. It’s like a snowball going down hill… it gets bigger as it rolls and gains more momentum.
It’s the constant repetition of an idea, product or service, which eventually leads to the customer identifying with your brand by way of association. Kleenex after all is a brand, yet we use it as a generic term! Google is another example; you don’t search for things on the web, you “Google” them.
So how does this relate to your company’s brand? Well, as you can see, it’s more than just a pretty cool looking logo; it’s getting your brand out there and communicating effectively and consistently. The main purpose of a strategic marketing plan for your brand is to build name recognition and positive opinions about your product or service so that your target audience will think of your company when they have need of your services. It’s all about how your brand is perceived. If your product or service is perceived negatively, your brand is in jeopardy of losing ground with your customers and future customers. On the other hand, if your brand is perceived positively… business success is likely to follow. Your brand should convey a sense of value and provide an emotional experience to the audience you wish to reach.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of perception. Wal-Mart is perceived as a low-cost leader and value retail store while the Macy’s “star” projects a more upscale image and higher priced, quality merchandise. The Lexus LS sedan is perceived as a luxury vehicle while the Ford Taurus is considered to be lower in cost and quality. Each of these examples appeals to the desires of target demographics.
These examples illustrate how brands can target select groups of people and communicate their messages effectively. Each are perceived differently and each transmits a different emotion.
So how does one go about creating a strong brand that becomes a household name? One word… consistency. A lot of companies use tricks, games and gimmicks. And that’s fine. Engaging and entertaining your customers is great, however, only if it serves the goal of increasing brand awareness and ultimately making a sale.
In closing, think about your company’s brand and answer a few questions… how do you believe your brand is perceived by your customers? Does your target audience recognize it? If not, what changes should you be making to assure that they do?
Whether it’s from the ground up or your brand is already established, branding your product or service is important. It takes persistence, consistency and a lot of patience.