We have probably all heard the term “brand” as it relates to companies, enterprises, products, services, celebrities and other prominent individuals.
Although we can only touch on this subject in a blog article, volumes have been written about branding. And if you are involved in marketing you should have some of them in your reference library.
What is a brand?
To begin, it’s not really one specific thing that makes a brand. It’s more like a set of elements, that together form an overall impression or concept in consumers’ minds and helps differentiate and position a company or product or individual vis-à-vis other similar companies, products or individuals.
Some of the elements that go together to form a brand are:
- Company or product name (Coca-Cola, Visa, etc.)
- Company or product logo (Nike, Starbucks, etc.)
- Colors associated with a particular company logo
- The set of attributes of a particular product or set of products (Apple, for instance)
- The identity or personality of a particular company
- For brick and mortar retailers, part of their brand is the particular ambience of their retail outlets, also the standardness of those outlets… that is, you expect a similar layout, ambience and products from one outlet to the other, no matter where they are located (think Starbucks again or McDonald’s)
- Reputation, word-of-mouth opinion about a company or its products
A KEY aspect of having a brand is that, properly established, your brand differentiates you from other companies in your industry. Positive Differentiation.
So a brand is really a collection or set of elements that together help distinguish a company or product from others in the marketplace, and is typically represented by a particular symbol (its logotype – name & symbol).
The term “brand” was used for cattle originally where a certain symbol was burned into the hides of cattle to distinguish them from other ranchers’ cattle.
Let’s look at Starbucks’ brand and see what elements could be part of that brand that help consumers or patrons of Starbucks to think of Starbucks in a certain way, compared to other coffee outlets, cafes, etc.
- Name: Starbucks (interesting, rolls off the tongue easily and naturally)
- Logo: the green mermaid or “siren”
- Main product: coffee served in various sizes, arrangements and flavors that have come to be associated with Starbucks. Generally a much better tasting coffee than typically found in restaurants and other similar outlets (subjective opinion, of course)
- Store ambience: friendly “baristas,” friendly place to purchase some coffee and snacks, hang out with friends, sit and read a book, easy hookup to the internet for people with laptops and tablets, and generally a place where you can feel comfortable and relaxed while you take a break and enjoy some Starbucks coffee and snacks.
- Standardness: same or very similar ambience, service, look, no matter where their outlets are located. In other words, you know what to expect when you patronize a Starbucks outlet.
So it’s not just the coffee, although that is the core of their brand. But the patron-friendly store ambience is also a key part of the Starbucks brand.
A name can also play a big part in helping a company “stick” in consumers’ mind, including even how easy it is to pronounce.
If you look at these two names, and say them mentally or verbally, which rolls off your tongue most easily: Visa or Mastercard? In their best selling marketing book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” the authors, Al Ries and Jack Trout, address this issue.
You could actually make a case that the biggest difference between those two credit cards is their names. Okay, there can obviously be other differentiation points between these two, but most people would be hard pressed to name what they are.
Bottom line, Visa is a much more popular credit card than Mastercard. “Visa” also implies travel, vacations, etc.
So… what’s in a name? Sometimes, plenty! By the way, if you are involved in any way in marketing a company, a service or a product, you definitely should have read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.”
Positioning as a subject is not going away, it’s not stale. That’s because it is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the way people tend to “arrange things” in their minds.
Protecting Your Brand
Successful companies that have a lot invested in the creation and maintenance of their brands go out of their way to protect that brand through continued marketing activities, ads, internet presence, legal protections and so on.
So… do you have a brand? Do you know what are the various elements that make up your brand? Do you protect your brand? How will you protect it in the future? Food for thought…
Written by Bob Nelson
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