What is Branding?

What is Branding? — Introduction to Branding

Brand: The representation of a product, service or even an intangible. The brand is the persona of what sits behind it.

Over a century ago manufacturers were local with little competition, but as imports became more established and the efficiency of the industrial world improved its capacity, manufacturers expanded their markets to increase the capacity and reduce cost. Over time the importance of brands has become more significant as they set an expectation of quality and price.

‘Many people associate brands and branding with multinational corporations, but brands exist wherever there is a competitive marketplace. They help us select one product or service over another, in a complex world of increased choice, especially where the differentiation between products is slim or difficult to evaluate.’

Today brands represent more than a product, service or brand identity (the name and logo, design and voice of the brand). A brand represents the business and the style behind it, encompassing the people working for the company and the philosophy of that company. A brand also offers a set of values and vision that the company wants to project. In the 21st century we are bombarded with choices, so many times the only thing that differentiates two very similar products or services is the brand. Anything can be branded: funeral parlours, universities, political parties, countries, towns even yourself.

Once a brand is established it should continue to improve and promote it’s self to remain effective in it’s market. In order to do so brands part-take in ongoing brand activity and campaigns with many purposes and not solely focused on selling a product or service, but to build awareness and/or improve/change the reputation or perceptions of a company. Many times the brand itself is not promoted through visible logos or trademarks but rather word of mouth. Companies can spend millions on creating a brand and sustaining it, but the value of that brand can easily go down if it consistently fails to reach out to its audience or the behaviour or values are inconsistent with the brand.

“Brands used to be impenetrable forces; there used to be a magic and a mystery to how things happened and where they came from, most people didn’t care then, but now they do. They care because they’ve got the time and the money to care. We’re going through sustained economic growth – we’re better off and better educated and corporate bashing is entertaining. The smart brands realise that they can’t address all these questions so opt for the alternative; to try and engage people to take the brand with them.” – Ralph Ardill, Experiential Consultant

First trademarks (the physical mark used to identify a business, i.e logos, slogans ..) helped to differentiate one product from another, now there are brands. Brands are used to enable an audience to identify with a companies quality and values of what they are getting and not just the trademark.

DSC_0697
image shows the development of the famous Shell logo 1900-1999

What is effective Branding?

“Most communication that companies invest in is redundant. It is not asked for or particularly effective. When you look at the total communication investment that a brand has, it is hundreds of millions of dollars each year and no one has any idea how effective it is.”

A lot of brands communicate with their audience but fail to engage with them. Engagement happens when the insight or idea that defines a brand is identified and exploited to connect with the audience. Good branding should be about triggering an emotional connection and is best measured through recognition and surveys that analyse the value and effectiveness of the brand. Being able to measure things like is the brand known by the audience and what it represents to them is a much more valuable way of measuring the impact of a brand instead of quantitive hits on a website or number of people on their data base.

“It is about creating an entity in the consumer’s mind so that they can see it. They can see a representation but behind this representation what they actually have is a whole series of images, beliefs and actions. Effective branding is the means by which a brand can stay in a market longer and more profitably because it’s been created properly.” – Michael Hockney, D&AD

Source: More Than A Name: An Introduction to Branding, AVA Publishing, 2005

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