Branding as a practice has been around since the dawn of time, when cattle ranchers marked their stock in order to differentiate its quality and ownership. In the last few decades businesses, designers and ‘Ad Men’, have jumped up and claimed to know its secrets and promoted the importance of a brand to all business.
Why are there so many theories of branding or brand development? Why are brands important? What do we know about brands and brand development that can help your business?
The reason there are different definitions and theories amongst practitioners is at the core of branding: differentiation. If one theory is different than another then it can be better, i.e. if my theory is different, more complicated and sophisticated, it’ll be better than anyone else’s. Not true.
The trouble is many so-called experts carry on about the importance of branding and their skill in it, but this is often based on ignorance and self-aggrandisement. Branding at its core is really simple. There is no magic. There is only ‘execution’.
So how is branding relevant to Sales or Marketing?
In the simplest form, some people make or do things for others. Those ‘things’ are sold: ‘Sales’ is the negotiation and transaction of things people make or do.
Other people want things or want people to do something. Those things are bought: ‘Marketing’ is the design and delivery of something people want to buy.
People want to trust that the product or service they bought will deliver it’s promise. Actually they want to trust their ‘idea’ of the ‘thing’. They want to own the idea.
The idea is the brand. They want the brand to deliver the functional, rational attributes, features and benefits and also a social, mental or spiritual dimension to the promise.
Those ‘brands’ that are designed to deliver the promise are those that are bought. The better the brand delivers the idea the more of these ‘products and services’ are bought, more frequently.
So what do we mean by ‘brand’, ‘brand identity’, ‘branding or brand development or brand strategy’?
For us a ‘brand’ is not a logo, not even a ‘visual identity’. It is a promise. Represented by a mark, usually in the sense of a ‘trademark’.
Brand identity is designing a visual identity linked to the promise of the brand: creating a blank canvas to which is added meaning.
Branding is the process of establishing the meaning and the process of creating, growing or sustaining perceptions of the brand.
Brand development is the concretisation of a framework or DNA formed by internal and external forces: Values, personality, propositions and vision, mission and positioning.
Brand Strategy is the culmination: Where the values are the pillars of the vision
So why is branding so important? We believe it’s because a successful brand is one that customers want to buy and influencers want to recommend. A brand has a sustainable competitive advantage and achieves higher market share. Brands with a high market share are more profitable as they generate a stream of future earnings.
Because successful brands have differential advantages, they are normally able to obtain higher prices – sometimes at the customer level and sometimes it is earned at reseller level Strong brands cannot be copied, can resist pressure for discounts, achieve higher customer loyalty and can even override occasional hitches in quality or availability.
Strong brands motivate their stakeholders making it easier to recruit and to keep onside their investors, their employees, the public – even local authorities and national governments onside.