Branding

There are many elements/characteristics associated with a brand, which need to be understood to facilitate brand creation and brand management.  These include brand identity, image, positioning, personality, culture and architecture, as well as brand components such as the text, visual images, and sounds.

Brand Identity

The brand identity is the way in which a brand/product is portrayed by the firm, with the aim of differentiating the brand from competitors while concurrently creating familiarity between the target market and the brand. This is achieved using a range of tools, which will include the brand image, positioning, personality, culture and architecture. The brand image uses these tools in a combined manner to create or embody a unique set of representative associations which helps to establish a relationship between the customer and the brand/product.

Brand Positioning

The positioning of a brand refers to the way the brand is placed by the firm within the broader marketplace, particularly against competing or substitute products. Effective brand positioning will involve a firm identifying and then managing the characteristics of the brand to create a unique place within the competitive environment which will reflect the product or brands differentiating features while concurrently being aligned with the interests, needs, or desires of the target market. Good positioning should place the brand is a position that is sustainable and is aligned with the organisational goals.

Brand Personality

The personality refers to the way in which a brand communicates and is perceived as behaving which will result in the audience associating specific characteristics with the brand. The brand personality may impact on the brand image, and be managed in line with the brand identity, but differs from the former constructs as it focuses in the emotional associations of the brand rather than the tangible benefits which are reflected in the brand image. Brands may be created or interpreted using many different models; a useful framework was developed by Aaker (1997) after examining perceptions of 37 well-known brands.

Brand Culture

Brand culture refers to the normal and values associated with a brand that are reflected in the visual images and symbols as well as the activities and general behaviour of the company and the employees and forms part of the brand identity. The culture provides a source of identification for consumers who will usually be attracted to brands which have a similar culture to their own. Where brands are likely to struggle if they have core values which their target market do not identify with. The is believed that brand culture can be highly influential in the consumers purchase decision.

Brand Architecture

Brand architecture may be perceived as the brand ecosystem, the way in which the brand and its own brand categories relate to each other as well as other brands within a firm’s portfolio. There are various models which try to explain how brands may be developed within a broader portfolio. Some architectures are made up of many apparently independent brands, which all come under the umbrella of a single corporate identity, such as the portfolios held by Unilever. Where the corporate identity has also been developed as a brand there may be a ‘Branded House’, this is where there are sub-brands, but the different brands are recognised primarily though the main brand, examples of this include FedEx and PepsiCo.

When a firm wishes to increase sales, they may undertake a brand extension strategy; where the brand name is leveraged, usually to support the introduction of a new product category. Examples include the sale of perfumes and watches by luxury fashion houses and the sale of boots by Caterpillar. The new product gains from the core brand values and association, with the potential for the brand expansion to facilitate a product expansion strategy, defined by Ansoff (1965) as selling more products to the same market.

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Brand Components

The brand itself is represented by a number of attributes, which markets will select to reflect and support the brand identity, image, positioning, personality and culture, these include the text, other visual images and sounds.

Text

Text refers to the content of the written word as well as the design of the fonts. The content of the message should be attractive to the target market, guided by the brand message, providing information on the product, what it is, with a focus on why the consumer experience; the benefits the consumer will gain from buying/using the brand. The text should be presented in a manner the consumer can read; this include selection of language, phrasing, as well as the font.

Visual Images

Within marketing there will be the use of many images, in the context of branding the main visual images will be the logo. The logo may be purely text based, but can also be a picture, such as the Twitter bird, or the Nike swoosh. More often, the logo is a combination both text and image, such as the Harley Davidson logo, where the name is placed into a shield, or Starbucks with the name and the image of the mermaid. The images may be directly related to the brand or is values with the design develop to stimulate specific associations.

Sounds

Branding may also use sounds. The sounds may have direct relevance and reflect brand value or identity by drawing on existing stereotypes or associations, alternatively, the branding strategy may create the association. For example, Coca-Cola adverts often use the sound of a bottle opening with the probable aim of creating a Pavlovian response of thirst, creating the association between Coca-Cola and the ability to refresh and satisfy a thirst.

Benefits of Branding

Once a brand has been purchased, there is the potential for associations with the brand to provide psychological satisfaction to the consumer. During the purchase process, the considerations will have included many dimensions, including the associated brand values and brand culture. Consumers may feel good purchasing brands they associate with good ethical or environmental practices or may also utilise brands as a form of conspicuous consumption, where the use of the product is undertaken in an overt manner providing one method of the individual displaying their own personality, tastes or values.

Therefore, branding has a number of benefits, including influencing the purchase decision, increasing consumer trust, leveraging associations to stimulate a desire/need, reducing perceptions of risk, creating positive associations for the target market, increasing recognition, and reducing the amount of effort placed into the cognitive processes when assessing alternative choices, all of which have the aim of increasing sales.

B2B/B2C Branding

Business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) have a number of similarities as well as differences. It is frequently argued that the requirements of branding for these two different types of transaction are different with the assumption that business buyers will choose suppliers utilising a less emotional buying model, utilising predetermined objective measures which reduce uncertainties. This assumption may be accurate, especially where contracts put out to tender, and choices are made on the lowest bid satisfying relevant threshold criteria. However, this does not mean branding is not beneficial within the B2C market. The B2B buyers may still be influenced by conscious and subconscious explicit and implicit messages that are created through branding practices, which makes them susceptible to those messages and associations. The main difference between the B2B and B2C purchase process is of the target market; branding for a company that undertakes pure B2B transactions may be more limited, as it has a smaller target audience.

Many B2B firms operate in dual markets, selling to both businesses and consumers, for example, Microsoft sell operating systems and associated software to businesses and consumers, while Caterpillar sell earthmoving machinery within the commercial environment, but have footwear and other clothing ranges that are sold to the mass market. In these cases, branding will support both markets, as long as the grand identity and its accompanying image and culture is conducive to the needs of both markets.

Branding within the B2C market may benefit from shorter processes, and a greater level of emotional or impulse inputs into purchase decisions. These elements may benefit from positive branding, as it reduces the cognitive processes to make a brand purchase easier.

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Brand Equity

The effectiveness at a brand at impacting on buyer decisions, supporting and revenue generation, is reflected in the concept of brand equity. Brand equity may be defined as the value that a brand adds to a product, when it is compared to a similar product without a recognised brand name, and the value this creates for the company.

Once a firm has built a brand equity, they need to retain that equity through the utilisation of maintenance marketing; continuing to support the brand and its messages. This may include renewing the brand image, especially if the product or the firm is reaching the maturity stage of its life-cycle, as well as adapting it to accommodate new tastes. For example, Apple have changed their branding strategy several times over the years, with a multicoloured Apple designed by Robert Jan off between 1977 and 1998, the company moved briefly to a blue Apple in 1998, before adopting a black monochrome silhouette of an Apple between 1998 and 2000, a semi-translucent aqua coloured Apple between 2001 and 2007, then 2007 the brand logo being a two-tone white Apple. Throughout all the changes, the shape of the logo remained the same, but the colour and effects changed to remain stylish and up-to-date. Brands may also be reinvigorated with the adoption of new text or taglines, as seen with McDonald’s and the adoption of the tagline ‘I’m Lovin It’ adopted in 2003 which became the company’s first global branding campaign. Similar to any marketing campaign, branding needs to remain relevant and up-to-date in order to avoid losing its relevance in becoming obsolete.


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