What is a brand? What is branding? Why is it important?
The definition of the concept of a brand is often confused with the definition of product and services. But it is in fact much more than that. Branded products and services, as opposed to commodities, are offers perceived by customers to have distinctive benefits distinguishing them from their competitors. The brand is the set of characteristics and associations which make this offer unique.
Branding is the process of creating and maintaining a favourable image for your products and services.
By identifying unique and relevant benefits, communicating them effectively and sustaining their consistency through time, you add value to your offer, build relationships and ensure your long-term success. These benefits can be functional, for example if you are the most convenient, efficient or available, emotional if you can build a sentimental attachment of your customers to your offer, or symbolic if the values your brand embodies makes people want to be associated with it.
Don’t let your offer be a commodity
Technology has made it easier than ever to communicate with your customers. It enables you and your competitors to reach a wider audience, in your whole area, the entire country, or even internationally. Within this larger and growing marketplace, the number of your competitors increases quickly. For any product or service, it makes it likelier that you are not alone on this market, or that you will not stay alone for long. For an established business, ensuring the loyalty of your customers is going to get tougher. For a new entreprise, you will need to make a name for yourself quickly, maintain and grow your reputation.
Competition between commodities, perfectly standard and interchangeable products, will take place on factors such as availability, convenience and quantity, but first and foremost the deciding factor will often be the price.
Branding can help you add value to you product, and justify a price premium compared to non-branded competitors. By maintaining consistency, you reduce risk for your customers. By making sure they remember you, you help them save time researching alternatives. Each repeated purchase will strengthen the desired perception of your brand, ensuring loyalty and enabling positive word of mouth, improving your bottom-line.
Branding as an investment
A relevant, meaningful and consistent branding gives you a competitive advantage, improving your revenue and securing your position. Your brand is an asset of your company, and will endure in the long-term. The best brands are eternal, and only need minor modifications through decades to adapt them to new customers preferences. Because they appeal to persisting needs and expectation from their customers, they grow in value by fulfilling these expectations and reaching new people who share the same needs and aspirations.
One at a time, you might change your logo, your tagline, your colour scheme, even the name of your company. But the essence of the brand you bring to the market should be based on what you stand for, your way to do business, what your customers like about you. These are the components at the heart of your brand’s identity, and the ones which will help you succeed.
As soon as you can think of one way your product, service, or the way you do business is unique, branding can help you prosper.