What makes IKEA, IKEA? What makes Nike, Nike? What makes Peugeot different from Volvo? One could argue that branding, in a nutshell, is the result of how companies, products, or services are perceived by consumers and/or society.
Let’s start by defining what branding actually means, according to the American Marketing Association Branding can be anything from a symbol, design, name, term or any other attribute that identifies one seller’s goods or services from another seller. Other features such as taste, smell, quality can also help identify a brand.
Additionally branding considers many different aspects and essentially acts as an umbrella under which various practices, skills, and attributes sit. Graphic design, user experience, store design, visual merchandising, and an engaging website, are some of the elements used in capturing the attention of consumers and the tools used to build brands in order to lure consumers to engage with your brand, whether it be a product, service or experience.
Branding is in a way all the necessary tools used by companies to lure or urge consumers into buying their goods or services. This also means that brands have no value or power unless it is given to them by consumers. People give power to brands.
In order to build impactful brands it’s important to be aware of consumer behaviours, therefore psychology is always a big part in branding. Understanding the way in which consumers behave, how humans associate certain colours, smells or tastes with certain emotions can be what really sets you apart from other players on the field. After all, humans are complex emotional creatures so understanding and embedding certain psychological principles to your branding strategies could be the key that brings long term customer relationships. In a way, the Darwinian concept “survival of the fittest” works in this context of branding. Companies should always be agile and understand their target audience seemingly have a higher chance of building loyal relationships with their consumers. Brands who fail to deliver or meet the consumers needs may be replaced by another who provide the goods, service or experience the customer is looking for.
Think about some of the most well known brands around the world, take Coca Cola as an example. If you take away the name from the bottle, you might still recognise it as coca cola because of the way the bottle is shaped or their distinct coca cola taste or their bright red label. Coca Cola also has a way of connecting with their consumers. You might remember their campaigns where they put different names on the can, so that Emma could have a can of Coca Cola that says “Emma”. These are subtle, clever tactics to create relationships with the customers that all contribute to the way in which they perceive Coca Cola as a brand.
1. It makes you stand out from your competitors.
In today’s highly competitive climate brands need to be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors and sometimes learn from other companies’ do’s and don’ts in order to survive. Business model, product or service aside, branding is the component that really helps you communicate why or how you’re different from other players in your field. However, that doesn’t mean that the way in which you present yourself shouldn’t be true to who or what the company really is like. Furthermore, it would seem more beneficial to have the reality of the company culture aligned with the branding. Dressing a company in pretty pictures and clever words will not benefit anyone in the long term if the truth is different and eventually comes out.
2. A well built brand can generate long term, loyal relationships with clients, consumers and customers.
Brands that have values, features or attributes that resonate well with consumers face the possibility of long term, returning customers. Additionally these long standing customers are the ones who essentially might act as your walking advertisement and endorsement channel without having to spend masses amounts of money. However, this can also work to your disadvantage if you disappoint these consumers or suddenly show that your words, attributes or other features aren’t genuine or in line with the reality of how a company is run.
A good example of this is Forever 21 who collapsed as a result of not meeting consumer expectations, no matter how successful they’d been in the past. Because today’s consumers are more demanding than ever before concerning sustainability and transparency, companies such as Forever 21 will resonate less and less with a portion of their consumers as their actions and the way in which they present themselves are misaligned. More importantly, this becomes walking advertising in all the worst possible ways in the eyes of a company. Forever 21 has recently closed over 150 stores after they filed for bankruptcy as a result of consumers having found other brands that they are more in line with (npr.org, 2020).
Unfortunately, in today’s society there is a phenomenon known as the “cancel culture” which means that consumers don’t mind seeing companies who make mistakes fail. When this happens it may be a very long, hideous and costly road ahead to get back on track, and business might never be the same as the company by then might be known for all the wrong reasons.
3. The stronger the brand, the more influence you have.
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. As your brand awareness increases, so does your influence and power. Coca Cola was so well established and respected even in the 40’s that they signed a deal which resulted in over 5 million bottles of Coca Cola being consumed by soldiers and other military personnel during the war time.
“As the world emerged from a time of conflict, Coca-Cola emerged as a worldwide symbol of friendship and refreshment” – Coca Cola Company, 2021.
The amount of growth this would bring Coca Cola was immense, and yet again positioned themselves as capable, strong and definitely influential as they now reached millions of people who had up until this point maybe never tasted Coca Cola. But power and the possibility to influence comes with great responsibilities that ought to be carefully considered, every single detail and decision that is made could make or break your brand and business.
There are of course many other reasons to consider branding an essential part of your business. Hopefully this article will give you an insight and understanding of what branding is and why it is such an important factor to consider.
At MERPHI we consider branding in all of the project we receive and want to see all of our clients do well. Sometimes too much change to a pre-existing brand identity could actually be disastrous if the changes aren’t done with care, research, and a respectful manner. We respect the brands that our clients have built for themselves, meaning we would not give recommendations unless we really believe another perspective could be useful.
If you would like to know more on the topic, have ideas for your own brand that you would like to make reality or perhaps just want some pointers, we’re always happy to help and only a phone call away.