“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
We have mentioned severally in these series that business is about making available products (goods and services) which solve problems, create conveniences and/or create opportunities for customers. To achieve commercial success in the marketplace, you need to create value through the goods and services you provide. Within and beyond creating value, however, you need to build an identity that will stand you out from the crowd. This identity and how you go about building and protecting it is termed as branding.
As little boys and girls in the past, every toothpaste was ‘Macleans’ to us; Every tea was ‘Lipton’. This was the extent of successful branding by GlaxoSmithKline (later by Beecham and SKB) and Unilever (later Argyll Foods and Pepsi Lipton International) respectively. Today, the most valuable brands in the world include Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Toyota, etc. These companies are able not only to reach their audiences but also to connect with them. Beyond ‘reach’ and ‘connection’, these brands are considered trustworthy and reliable by their customers. Successful brands are generally responsible corporate citizens, delivering services to their communities and the public beyond their commercial and fiduciary obligations. Closer home, we see how successful brands in Nigeria, from Dangote Group to BUA, UBA, Zenith, etc. are also reasonably socially responsive. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these companies provided great support to the government and the Nigerian public.
What is Branding? In a limited sense, branding is generally seen in terms of company and product name(s), symbol, catchphrase, etc. But beyond that, branding is the process through which a business makes itself known to its customers as well as how it differentiates itself from competition. The objective of all branding activities is to create a pleasant, attractive and quality identity that the customers are happy and excited to associate with. Brand development takes place at various levels like company level, product group level, individual product level, etc.
The brand you are able to create will consist of all the features that distinguish and put your products ahead of the products that your competitors offer to the same market. These features will generally be a combination of tangible and intangible components. Visual feature will include elements such as logo, colours, packaging, etc. Distinctive features will include quality, personality and character of your products while intangible aspects will include customers’ experiences with your goods and services.
Coca-Cola – Known all over the world (Photo credit – Pexels)
Benefits of Effective Branding: The benefits of effective branding are multi-fold. They include the following:
Customer Recognition: Billions of people on this planet can identify the Coca-Cola bottle. When customers can identify brand’s colours, logos, etc., they are more likely to choose them over other competing products no matter how much better the latter might be. The ease with which customers identify a product is an indication of the strength of the brand.
Customer Loyalty: Excellent branding has a way of attracting customers to your products. Think about how many times you have accepted certain products on the strength of their presentation, packaging, quality reputation and the referral of other customers. Beyond attracting new customers, excellent branding helps achieve overall high customer retention rates.
Brand Equity: Customer loyalty, as mentioned above, makes the introduction of new products by reputable brands much easier than if companies didn’t have loyal customers. Sony introducing the Walkman or Apple introducing the iPod are good examples of companies doing very well with their new products because of their existing reputations. If customers are loyal to your brand, they will be attracted to your new products as well as serve as your ambassadors to non-users.
Attracts Talent: Building a reputable brand helps companies attract excellent staff and influencers. Having the right talent within and around your system is necessary if you are to keep developing and introducing new products that attract and retain customers.
Keeps You ahead of Your Competitors: The ultimate benefit of excellent branding is in helping you stay ahead of competition through customer patronage. The more accepted your brand is to the customers and the general public, the more patronage in new and repeat sales you will attract.
A Brand is an Asset: In the long run, nothing beats excellent reputation. We see this in the way customers ‘trust’ the goods and services they buy from some companies but not from others. Excellent reputation, as a result of being true to brand value, is an asset that attracts appropriate pricing of goods and services as well premium valuation of a company.
Elements of Branding: To be able to navigate the initiating and on-going processes of building and sustaining a brand, it is important to understand the features of branding:
It is about your identity: Creating a brand starts from the basics of coming up with an appropriate name, a symbol, design, catchphrase, etc. It is about creating a physical and emotional identity of your company and products in the minds of your customers and the public.
It is a mindshare: Branding is about creating a position for your company and products in the minds of the customers and the public through shared values. The more unique the position the stronger your brand identity.
It is a promise: Branding is not just about the perceptions you want the customers to have about your company and products, it is also a promise and commitment you make to the customers and public about who and what you are.
Today, we have introduced what branding is, its benefits and elements. Next week, we will take up the process of building a brand.