Monday, January 28, 2013
Branding is for the brand
Just think of Rickshaw or Shutli Kabab (a food item containing boiled beef or mutton) or Cox's Bazar. If you hear these three particular names and then combine these three names, you find - Bangladesh. This is called branding or simply brand. Rickshaw, Shutli Kabab and Cox's Bazar - these are familiar with us, but when you ask any outsider, he may recall only one name - Bangladesh. Think about the correlation - three individual brands create an identity which is once again a brand. From advertising gurus touting the importance of establishing a powerful and consistent brand image to the search engine optimisation (SEO) gods educating the masses about how branding can affect their SEO campaign , it is clear that branding carries more weight than ever before.
Some people think brand is a logo, a company colour, consumer advertising or promotion. It is all of those things, but the overarching question is: why is branding or why is branding important or why do the consumers look for brands?
Branding is what occurs when you make a heartfelt connection with your customer. The brand simplifies the ability to distinguish products from amongst a wide range of offerings. In a crowded marketplace it gets more and more difficult to differentiate the products or services offered. The brand allows a positive demarcation of the competitors' offerings. A strong brand also allows the transfer of the brand to new products or services. This allows organisations to offer new services and products - an opportunity for increased revenues. An organisation having a strong brand is better protected from crisis and from the impact of competitors. In times of trouble and crisis they also provide a certain bonus amongst customers. So mistakes and market fluctuations do not have much impact on sales for organisations with a strong brand. A strong brand enables an organisation to build customer loyalty as they trust the brand and its quality. This is the phenomenon of the brand 'religion' where the value of the brand becomes so high in the mind of the consumer that he will always stay loyal to it, regardless of fluctuating results or momentary crisis. Consumers are prepared to pay a higher price for products and services offered as a brand. Indeed, a strong brand presents a proof of competence for the customers. It suggests quality and bestows image and prestige to its buyers.
The most discerning businesses with the biggest return of income are those which recognise branding as invaluable and choose to spend a large proportion of their budget on not just initial, but ongoing branding. For those unaware technically, branding is simply the mix of symbols, logos, names, keywords and designs that a product makes use of to differentiate its worth over another. However, worthwhile branding is not as straightforward as this notion infers and in-house branding, to be successful, takes copious amounts of research, money and expertise to get it right. For many, 'branding' is just one method of distinguishing one product from another with the same purpose and branding is seen as a simple, necessary omnipresent aspect of advertising.
Branding at times may be a sweet success or a bitter experience. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made one of the most famous brand blunders in history. Arch-rival Pepsi was gaining market share. Pepsi had positioned itself as the "young" brand and proclaimed it the best tasting cola. Meanwhile, Coke's market share had dwindled to an all-time low. Coke needed to take action. In blind taste tests, a sweeter version of the company's flagship drink actually outperformed Coke and Pepsi. In a spasm of logic, the world's number one brand rolled out the reformulated New Coke. What the company did not understand, of course, was that Coke was not about taste at all. In fact, the brand is built on people's emotional attachment to something iconic and eternal. In the minds of loyal customers, "New" Coke was no longer Coke at all. Instead, it had become something unauthentic, not "The Real Thing" of their childhood. New Coke was such a colossal failure that in less than three months it was yanked from shelves and replaced with the reassuring familiar taste of Coke Classic.
Not every brand is a success. Some simply grow old and tired. Others collapse from moral decay. And many brands never achieve success because they can not compete in a crowded marketplace.
A clear brand determines all future marketing activities. Brand management as a management task can be practically defined as finding strategies to build and to cultivate a brand in order to achieve competitive advantages. A vibrant brand determines marketing activities and, therefore, represents an important instrument to influence and control the market. Brand management, as an organisation task, can be practically defined as finding the right strategies to build and cultivate a brand to achieve competitive advantages. The main objective in brand management is to achieve a strong position within the mindset of customers and generate confidence. A first impression can be the make-or-break moment. When customers think about buying, they want your company to be at the top of their list and be a part of their solution.
On the question of brand ownership, companies should make their employees like living brand ambassadors. If they are enthusiastic about the brand, the consumers will be, too. But if the employees are not satisfied with the company where they are working, how will the product or the service create strong position in the minds of the consumers. Brand awareness by employees is essential to establishing a strong brand image. With the ever-increasing importance of mobile and social media, it is essential for the employees to have a concise idea of the brand's message to customers. If the brand image is not made consistent across all mediums, the company risks service failure and the loss of potential clients.
Nothing runs on automatic for too long. That is why the world's great brands - Nike, Apple, Harley Davidson, Dyson, and Facebook, to name a few - went through a process of "reinventing" their brands. What they really were doing was refuelling their "lost" drive - their misdirected purpose, and reclaiming ownership of what had been theirs to begin with. Keeping a brand alive involves a consistent and continuous assessment of the marketplace - the same type of assessment that was done when any enterprise first came into existence.
In order to make your company stronger and more valuable, do not just pay lip service to your brand, become a brand ambassador, and over the time you and your company will be the company that you envisioned when you first initiated brand development. Entrepreneurs must believe that branding is for brand. We are living in an era when products are struggling themselves, or, in other words, the marketing executives are struggling with the products to position these as a brand in the market. But it is the consumers who make strong brand value of a product, or just throw it away from the market. In fact, it is the company executives who are liable for the failure of brand value positioning.