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Friday, 10 May 2013

What's a brand?

This week it's been all about branding.  Finding product names, reviewing company websites and generally assessing the impact that brands make on the world.  It got me thinking about how often the term 'brand' is used and misused.

Let's talk definitions
A brand is that distinctive mark that sets your company or product apart from all others in the market.  Car brands are a good example.  Think Rolls Royce, Fiat and Prius and though they're all cars, the image, colours and logos that come to mind are completely different.  Often companies have a single brand name like Adobe and several branded products (or sub brands) that build from that recognizable entity e.g Adobe Acrobat.

Branding is the process of building a brand, that is, defining the physical traits, such as how a logo might look and feel and the emotions we want to conjure up in our customers (Are you a Mac or a PC?).

Companies decide on their brand(s) and branding, but ultimately it's your customers who decide what a brand stands for and whether it meets their expectations or not.  Customer perception sustains brands, keeping entire families buying the same product across generations.  This in turn, affects the brands effectiveness in the market and any subsequent valuations (aka brand equity).

Customers loyal to a brand, spend more
This doesn't just mean financially, though this is often the case.  Loyal customers have experienced your brand for themselves and decided that you deliver on the promises your brand makes.  They are now more likely to invest time and indeed their reputations on telling others about your greatness.  This loyalty is also referred to as brand commitment.

Who do you want your brand to be?
We all think of brands as people, after all, no-one ever wants to buy from a faceless corporation.  Often our relationship with a brand is formed through direct people interaction.  The sales assistant, the call centre operator, the tour guide etc.  They help us to decide how a brand 'feels' and whether it resonates with our own world views.  Often this is know as brand personality and it plays a large part in helping us choose one brand over another.

Everything your company does will reflect on your brand
Think of Tiffany and you immediately picture small blue boxes, diamonds and exclusivity.  This brand association didn't happen overnight (they founded in 1837).  It took time to craft the story and imagery so synonymous with them today.  They thought carefully about the people who promoted their products, the locations for their stores, the experience that they wanted their customers to have and the result is an enduring brand which resonates world-wide.

Contrast this with Pret A Manger. or Pret as they're now known.  This brand is based around ethics.  All sandwiches are freshly made on the premises, using locally sourced produce and any unsold food is given to the homeless at the end of each day.  Their packaging is recyclable, their staff are always happy to see you.  Customers have endless lunch possibilities, but choose Pret because it makes them feel like they're also contributing to a better society.

Take time to build and nurture your brand and it should be one of your greatest assets. What's your favourite brand?

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