What is a brand? What is branding?
‘Brand’ is perhaps the most overused word in today’s marketing & business vocabulary. You will most likely agree when I say that a brand is any product or service that is trademarked and/or is differentiated from its competition by virtue of name, symbol etc. Great! You are not wrong, but not completely right either. That is what ‘brand’ meant about 50 years ago, or may be 75 years!
Today, in this ever changing world amidst liberalisation and globalisation, there is more competition for every company than ever before. That means there is more need for marketing. Companies are deploying their push and pull strategies to get maximum customer base. The customers that we are talking about are discerning, well-traveled and extremely conscious about his/her choice. How can that customer be tricked into a marketing gimmick? Or a fancy advertisement campaign? 50 years ago, a trademarked name was enough to make the purchase decision, or at least induce purchase behaviour. Today, even a unique value proposition may not be enough to inspire purchase. Every trademarked company (read brand) is talking about what it has to offer and how its products meet the needs. So, effectively in today’s world- every company has a value proposition that they want to talk about- some big, some small, some rational, some emotional. Thereby, everyone ends up talking the same language, confusing the customers even more – ”I have salt in my toothpaste, other says- I have sodium, third says- I have potassium chloride.” The companies may think they have differentiated offerings, but the truth is none of those offerings are remembered (poor recall and poor recognition) because all of them talk the same language. They are all fighting for ingredients, or in other words functional RTBs.
We can talk about 10 different things a brand has to offer but only one such thing is remembered. Every brand today needs to stand for one-something, and they have to communicate that effectively and live by it. In simpler words, the word ‘brand’ can be deciphered in two words:
1) Promise and 2) Experience.
Brands are not built on whims or competitive behaviour, they are built on values. You will only be able to keep such a promise that is true to you. If you overpromise- you will doom your brand. All advertisements are great, but they only increase awareness and seldom inspire any action. Branding determines what is to be communicated. Branding therefore is the art (more than aesthetics) and science (not rocket-science) of identifying that one-something. It is the belief, it is the core, it is your brand’s purpose built on value system of your company that will steer your organisation for the years to come.
Today, branding is not placing your logo on every touch point. It is the art of determining how can you visually and verbally translate brand’s core promise and use it across touch points in order to gain recall, recognition, awareness, et al and all other parameters that make a brand stronger.