The decision to purchase a particular product is not a rational process. If it were, no one would purchase Advil, an expensive brand of ibuprofen, when there are much cheaper generic brands available. Yet Advil enjoys a 51 percent market share. The product’s brand identity is so strong that Advil commands a premium price.
What is a Brand?
A brand is not a name, logo, product, service or business. It is the perception that a consumer has of a product or service. When a consumer initially encounters a product, the brand is what advertising says about the product. Once a product is purchased and used, the brand becomes what the consumer perceives it to be. The stronger, more coherent and motivating the consumer’s perception is, the more likely it will influence purchase decisions. A brand:
- Is a company’s or product’s face to the world
- Is how customers perceive a company or product
- Represents the business ethics, personality and values of the company or product
What is Branding?
Branding is a process that includes defining all the features, benefits and qualities of a product, defining the target audience for the product and deciding what is different about the product that will make it stand out in the marketplace. Considering all this, what will the consumers perception of the product be? Just keep in mind, CEOs, managers and marketing departments don’t define the brand. Consumers define the brand.
Branding Defines the Perception Consumers Will Have of Your Products and/or Services
These companies determined the perception their target audience should have of their products. Their products deliver the benefits that create the perception. Their advertising reinforces the perception.
- The consumer perception of Apple is that the brand is exceptional, hip and cutting edge. Apple’s I’m a Mac campaign drives this perception. The Mac guy is youthful, smooth and self-assured, while PC is frumpy and clueless.
- The makers of the pharma pill Ambien, settled on the perception, “Works Like a Dream.”
- The Crisco Vegetable Shortening brand identification drives the perception that people who really know how to cook, use Crisco. They reinforced the perception with the tag line “Cooks who know, trust Crisco.”
Benefits of Branding
Branding saves products from being selected solely on the basis of price because it tells consumers what they can expect from a product and what differentiates a product from the competition. Branding adds value, allowing companies to charge more for a product because of how consumers perceive the product. Branding is what makes consumers go out of their way and endure inconvenience to purchase a particular product. Branding:
- Creates customer loyalty and builds name recognition for a company or product
- Deliver the marketing message clearly and consistently
- Forms an emotional connection between the target market and the product.
- Motivates purchases
Branding in Action
- Consider Pepsi, a product that demands a higher price than generic cola. The brand is so powerful that Pepsi drinkers won’t consider trying another brand of cola.
- Many drivers go out of their way to find a Shell station because of their perception that Shell V-Power will clean up engine gunk and improve engine performance.
- It isn’t necessary to know the name of the designer of those stylish pumps with red soles to find stores that sell the shoes. A Google search for shoes with red soles will produce dozens of links for stores where Christian Louboutin shoes – the designer shoes with red soles – can be purchased.
Successful Products Have Strong Brand Identities
Would Kentucky Fried Chicken be the market leader it is today if not for Colonel Sanders, eleven secret herbs and spices and the slogan, “Finger lickin’ good?” The Energizer Bunny and the slogans, “Nothing outlasts the Energizer” and “It keeps going, and going, and going,” form powerful perceptions in the minds of consumers and helped make the Energizer battery brand an industry leader. During the recent depression (2007-2009), Louis Vuitton, a luxury fashion and luggage brand, experienced a $1 billion gain in its fashion and leather-goods sector. For more than a century and a half, this brand has dominated the way no other luxury brand has – not Gucci, Herms or Chanel. Louis Vuitton successfully differentiates itself by focusing on the art of the journey and this marketing message resonates with the company’s target market.
Nike: A Powerhouse Brand
The Nike brand is an attitude. It’s the attitude that consumers will never have to worry about their apparel or equipment if they have selected Nike. The promise of the Nike brand and the consumer’s expectation are in perfect alignment. Nike provides the highest and most appropriate quality apparel or equipment and that apparel or equipment supports the consumer’s aspirations. Nike gives the consumer the freedom to just do the sport. The brand is not the “swoosh.” That’s the corporate logo. The brand is not “Just do it.” That is a slogan. The logo and the slogan are brand elements and valuable in marketing but the main value of the brand is the perception it creates. The perception of the brand is what makes the brand so popular.
This is the first of three articles that will cover the basics of branding. The next two articles are:
Branding 102: Defining a Brand
Branding 103: The Systematic Development of a Brand to Enable it to Meet its Objectives