What Is a Brand and Why is Branding Important for Your Business?
This article explores the definition of the term 'brand' whilst highlighting the importance of strong branding.
What is a Brand?
The term 'Brand' is one which is used loosely, and often with a wide range of interpretation. This is to be expected as language evolves, though it can become confusing when people are using the same word for different purposes. In this article, I will attempt to de-mist some of the grey matter surrounding the word 'brand', which will in turn help highlight the importance of good 'branding'...
The primary definition of a 'brand' is: “The name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers...It is the idea or image of a specific product or service that consumers connect with by identifying the name, logo, slogan, or design of the company who owns the idea or image.”
The act of branding, however, was in fact carried out before the idea of advertising consumer goods. Over a century ago farmers used to 'brand' their animals which were to be sold at market so they could be easily distinguished from the animals of another farmer. As consumer goods also started to become available, companies started looking for ways to distinguish their own products from competitors.
Coca Cola is often referenced as the 'original brand' example, so I won't break the mould here. When Coca-Cola first hit the shelves, it wasn't the only bottled carbonated sugar drink. To differentiate themselves, they created a logo that was unique to the product they were offering. Over the last 130 years, there have been multiple tweaks and adjustments, but the core identity has been very consistent, and ultimately gives you the same feeling now as it did 10 (or 20) years ago.
The initial success of Coca cola allowed them to expand quickly by acquiring other carbonated drinks, and recipes which have since been sold under the Coke brand name. The same model was used by P&G who quickly became the market leader in household goods and toiletries. So it's plausible for a brand to start with 1 successful product or service, and then expand and grow by selling other brands within their own brand name. Again, this can complicate the consumer vision of what a brand is, and who they are buying from. This disguising allows some of the larger brands to have a wider reach through a greater number of offerings available. Which in turn makes entering such markets very tricky for smaller businesses.
Marty Neumeier, defines a brand by describing what a brand is not. “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product.” Neumeier concludes that,
“a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organisation.”
As more products and services have been introduced to the world, in conjunction with the concept of advertising, marketers started to realise that the consumers' vision of a product or service has stretched much further than simply a name. This concept is described by David Ogilvy (often referred to as the 'godfather of branding') as "the intangible sum of a product's attributes". Marketers saw they could manipulate the consumers' perspective surrounding the qualities and attributes of almost any product or service. They coined this perspective 'the brand'
Why Is Branding Important for your business?
The importance and power of good branding cannot be underestimated. Your 'brand' is essentially how you are making people feel when they see your product or service on offer. I'll use the banks as an example. Almost all the banks (at least in the U.K) use a shade of blue in their logo. This isn't by chance. Scientific studies have shown different colours trigger different emotions in us. Blue is a colour which gives us a feeling of trust and security, so it makes sense for a bank to utilise this. You might not feel as trusting of your bank if they rebranded themselves under a fluorescent pink and yellow logo. This example also only references colour, which is of course a small portion of what makes up a brand identity. With typographic and wording choice also paying a vital role. Now imagine they also changed the font on the logo to Comic Sans. Chances are they wouldn't be your bank much longer!
This isn't to say a brand can't be adventurous. We know that a brand needs to help customers by distinguishing themselves from another competitor, however, there are some unwritten rules when it comes to particular business sectors, which have come from years of moulded perception. It's important this perception is utilised as it will contribute to maximising customer reach. This should then feed into the business through referrals or 'word of mouth' and in turn, create positive momentum. This is only possible with a strong brand identity as referrals need to feel an instant connection. If this connection or identification is felt by a potential consumer, combined with the reinforcement of a referral, it's likely the consumer will indulge in the product or service on offer.
A popular technique to position your brand is to use the 'Story Brand' framework, as outlined by branding guru Donald Miller. The Story Brand is the framework Paddle Creative utilises when undertaking a branding exercise for our clients.
The Story Brand essentially takes the typical Hollywood formula and applies this to a brand. The formula pertains to a hero (who is your customer), who has a problem, and then a guide (which is your brand) to help the Hero achieve their goal or overcome their problem. This does sound on the surface a little like a wishy-washy marketing spiel. However, if you think about almost every single successful brand, this formula can be applied. Think about the runner who goes faster after choosing the Nike trainers (the runner is the Hero, Nike is the guide). Or how about the Creative who buys the new iPad Pro to work more efficiently (the creative is the Hero, their problem is lack of efficiency, Apple is the guide who helps them overcome the issue). See the pattern? When businesses approaches us, we first determine who their Hero is, what the Hero's problem is, and how the business can best position itself as the guide for the Hero.
The Hero's journey is one human find hard to resist, and its use within marketing can be powerful. This feeling can be enhanced with a 'call to arms' or a sense of community is created, activating emotion within the consumer. As soon as the customer has an emotional attachment to the brand, the marketing has done its job. After all, marketing is all about tapping into consumers emotion in some way to be effective.
At Paddle, we are well versed in creating a brand identity for new businesses and re-branding an existing business. If you are in the process of starting up a new venture or looking to re-brand your current offering, reach out to us via the contact form here, and we would love to assist you with this crucial stage of business development!