What is a brand?
A brand is the collection of product features and benefits, coupled with the company values, that consumers or 3rd parties associate with a name or symbol. Examples of the world’s most valuable brands include Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple and Google (Alphabet).
A brand is distinct from a product. For example, VolksWagen is a brand, while there are multiple products such as the Polo and Golf etc. While the products (in this example cars) have their own identities and marketing campaigns (and in fact are sub-brands), the brand is represented across the entire range, through the dealer network and websites etc., becoming a common strand.
When a brand is experienced, it has a direct impact on the overall experience and sense of fulfilment that a consumer is left with, through the consistency, trust, service, reliability and tone that is encountered. When defined and executed consistently, consumers and 3rd parties will know what to expect of your company and your product, and how they will feel about the overall experience.
A brand is a statement, or set of statements, that defines:
- The type of business that you are
- The type of customers that you are selling to
- How you meet the needs of those customers
- What it is about your product or service that sets you apart from the competition
A brand is built by every single touch-point with a consumer, including:
- Communication: Every communication, whether it’s a PPC ad, display banner, Youtube video, email, letter, SMS or phone call must be consistent. Included within Communication, is the brand logo/ imagery and the tone of voice
- Internal behaviour: The way in which people interact with one-another will permeate into the way they interact with customers. It’s walking the talk.
- Products & design: The way that a product performs is critical to your brand, and it must perform against expectations. This includes supporting documentation, packaging, imagery, ease of use etc.
- Distribution channels: Wherever you market and sell your product, whether this is a website, a shop/ store or a call centre, each channel must operate in line with the brand
- Employee recruitment: Careful employee selection will ensure that the people you work understand the brand, buy into it and then embody it, through all of their internal and external behaviours
- Pricing: Pricing will affect the perception of a brand. Premium brands will rarely compete on price or have sales. This builds an air of quality and exclusivity. e.g. Stellar Artois – reassuringly expensive
- Physical environment: Whether this is a shop, a call centre, a warehouse or your home where you meet clients and prospects, these should embody your brand, including the communications contained within. It will also include the attire of staff
- Customer service: The way you treat customers after they have purchased must align with the selling process, and will have a direct impact on retention, loyalty and advocacy
Why define a brand?
Taking the time to define your brand may seem un-necessary and a bit corporate, but it is an extremely worthwhile activity, and using the steps and examples provided won’t take too long. For some, a brand can seem relatively abstract, so it may not feel entirely natural. If this is the case, don’t worry about it too much – just go with the flow, and see what it looks like after the first iteration.
Identity and positioning
Defining your brand creates an identity and positioning, which will in itself result in a tone of voice and helps draw out key differentiators that you can use in your marketing communications. You will then be able to review these against your personas and your target audience in general. This creates a full loop, ensuring that you are pitching yourself to the right people, in the right way, about a product or service that will interest and benefit them.
It provides you with a really clearly defined focus, at which you can direct all of your energy and creativity. You avoid becoming all things to all people.
Defining a brand requires you to identify any areas of skill and expertise that you require, but that you don’t currently possess, or need to build upon.
Brands can create significant value for companies, based on a number of factors:
Pricing: Consumers are prepared to pay more for a product or service simply because of their empathy towards the brand, even if the product or service that they receive is equivalent to competitors.
Loyalty and Advocacy: Consumers who trust a brand are more likely to remain customers, and to recommend the brand to their friends and family
Resilience: A strong brand will have the ability to recover more quickly from disasters, than a weaker one, due to their historic reputation. These disasters can be physical (e.g. destruction of buildings or stock) or reputational (e.g. adverse consumer reaction to brand related events)
Product extension: Strong brands are more able to create and launch new products, drawing on the consumer experience of the parent brand to act as a springboard – with the new product inheriting some of the qualities of the parent brand.
The above 4 points are referred to collectively as Brand Equity – the intangible, but very real, value of a brand. Studies have shown the stronger stock market performance of brands with strong brand equity as viewed against those without. (Millward Brown/ Brand Dynamics study).
My work with brands
I have been developing and refining brands since 2014, during which time I have refreshed several brands, and led the development of a new launch.