You are on page 1of 6

What Is Branding?

Branding is the foundation of marketing and is inseparable from business strateg

y. It is therefore more than putting a label on a fancy product. Nowadays, a cor
poration, law firm, country, university, museum, hospital, celebrity, and even y
ou in your career can be considered as a brand.
As such, a brand is a combination of attributes, communicated through a name, or
a symbol, that influences a thought-process in the mind of an audience and crea
tes value.
As branding is deeply anchored in psycho-sociology, it takes into account both t
angible and intangible attributes, e.g., functional and emotional benefits. Ther
efore, those attributes compose the beliefs that the brand's audience recalls wh
en they think about the brand in its context.
The value of a brand resides, for the audience, in the promise that the product
or service will deliver. Clearly, a brand can recall memories of a bad experienc
e. The value for the audience then would be to avoid purchasing that brand.
From the perspective of the brand's owner, the value of the brand often lies in
the security of higher future earnings, but may also be assessed in terms of vot
es for a politician, career for an executive, foreign direct investments (FDI) f
or a country, etc.
In conclusion, branding is the blend of art and science that manages association
s between a brand and memories in the mind of the brand's audience. It involves
focusing resources on selected tangible and intangible attributes to differentia
te the brand in an attractive, meaningful and compelling way for the targeted au
Brand management then becomes the organizational framework that systematically m
anages those customer-centric processes. It aims at gathering intelligence, allo
cating resources, and consistently delivering the brand promise over time at eac
h contact-point with the customer.
Coca-Cola, for example, has become a cliché of brand management. Before branding o
r even management emerged as disciplines, the Atlanta-based company was already
spending over US$ 11,000 on a mass advertising campaign as early as 1892. Its tr
ademark was officially filed in the US that year and has consistently been displ
ayed with the same script to this day. Over time, it also associated its brand w
ith a bright red color, the hour-glass shaped bottle (1915) and the ribbon logo
(1970). Together these aspects contribute to differentiating Coke from rivals su
ch as Pepsi-Cola, which has applied a competitive pressure since 1898.
Is Branding Different from Naming?
Naming is a subset of branding. Any combination of sounds, or phonemes, can comp
ose a name, and perhaps be unique enough as to identify a product or service wit
hout ambiguity. But that is not enough to make it a brand.
For internal purposes, engineers or designers often use code names to identify t
heir projects, such as PN96. To become a brand, however, a name has to be able t
o fit in its audience's memory in a way that will make the brand's attributes re
called. Thus, "PN96" turns out to be the best selling vehicle in the US, the F15
0 truck, "Built Ford Tough."
Nevertheless, naming is a critical step of branding, and it would be a missed op
portunity to leave it to Tarzan or the CEO's spouse. Deprived of access to the B
randchannel, Tarzan sought common nouns from his limited vocabulary to name his
adopted son and quickly ended up with "Boy." Little he knew! If new parents crin
ge at the idea of getting the new name past their mothers-in-law, brand managers
have to deal with a long battery of naming tests (and eventually the CEO's moth
er-in-law). On the bright side, a well-chosen name can be so powerful as to beco
me a one-word commercial. It is especially critical for small businesses, which
often lack of the necessary marketing budgets to promote their brand effectively
The story of a small business of California marvelously illustrates this situati
on. Until 1991, the airport of San Diego, California, was served by Supershuttle
, the franchise of a largely undifferentiated shuttle operator. Its brand experi
ence was no more than four wheels under a van, lacking any emotional appeal. As
a result, even former customers arriving at the airport were about as likely to
call a competitor, such as Sureride. That was good for the competition, but not
for Supershuttle.
Loaded with debt, the operator filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, restr
uctured its balance sheet, left the franchise network and changed its name. Sinc
e its phone number was 1-800-9-Shuttle and San Diegans live in a corner of parad
ise, the name Cloud-9-Shuttle came to mind. (To be on "cloud nine" means to be i
n paradise.)
At first, the new name seemed crazy and unbusinesslike, but it was clearly diffe
rentiated and San Diegans came to love it. Bearing its new identity, Cloud-9-Shu
ttle flew out of the rubble to quickly grab a 75 percent share of the local shut
tle market.
Does Branding Apply to Us?
The concept of branding applies to any individual, organization, product, or ser
vice, as long as there is a transaction between human beings. Indeed, branding r
elies on fundamental principles of psycho-sociology essentially the way our memo
ry processes, stores, and recalls information. Not to actively manage one s brand
name is therefore the equivalent of putting one s head in the sand and wishing for
the best.
Many law firms, for example, assume that branding would negatively impact their
reputation. However, branding should not be confused with television commercials
. Whereas relationships and quality work are still fundamental to the success of
a law firm, brand management can help a law firm in many ways, including (1) ma
king clients more loyal to the firm as a whole than to specific professionals wi
thin the firm; (2) communicating a focused message to attract new clients, who i
ncreasingly shop around for razor-sharp legal expertise; (3) retain talent and a
ttract bright new graduates, for whom the reputation of a firm is often an impor
tant non-cash factor.
Along the same lines, branding can usefully help David defeat Goliath when an as
ymmetry of resources makes the battle seemingly one-sided.
In 1981, the mighty IBM Corp launched the IBM Personal Computer -- the smallest
IBM computer to date -- at the aggressive introductory price of $1,565. The IBM
PC became an immediate success and an industry standard, epitomized as Time maga
zine's 1982 "Man" of the Year.
Apple Computer needed something radically novel to counter the new IBM PC. Unfor
tunately, Apple's own new products, the Apple III and Lisa, missed an opportunit
y to make much of an impact and were received with a cold shoulder. Working with
Frog Design, an industrial design firm, Apple decided to wrap its innovative te
chnology into an equally innovative product design that would contrast with the
boxy IBM PC. This collaboration gave birth to the original Macintosh, which is n
ow part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New Yo
There are branding steps that can have a considerable impact on revenues without
the need for big budgets, such as the brand positioning strategy, the naming of
the product, the packaging design, the delivery process of a service, the consi
stency of the brand experience at each contact-point with the customer, to menti
on a few.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Brand?
It takes as much time to build a brand as it takes a person to build a reputatio
n. The difficulty is not as much to perfect a strategy as to be focused, differe
ntiated, and consistent everywhere, every time. Will it take one, five, ten or o
ver twenty years? That essentially depends on the memory and openness of the bra
nd's audience.
For instance, it took about 15 years for Nike to build one of the strongest glob
al brands, thanks to (1) a focused brand positioning, (2) consistent 360-degree
delivery, and (3) its association with All-Star basketball player Michael Jordan
. BRS (Blue Ribbon Sports) first used the Nike brand in 1971, and introduced the
Air Jordan in 1985. By then, all the pieces fit well together, from the brand s
trategy to the product's air technology to distribution in over 40 countries. Re
venues soared from about $1 billion (1985) to over $9 billion (1997).
Nike truly distinguished itself in its ability to deliver a consistent message a
cross 360 degrees. Indeed, over a long period of time, Nike consistently deliver
ed its brand message at each contact-point with its customers, from product, to
advertising, to distribution, to merchandising, to website. For example, fans of
Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls could enjoy a remarkable consistency between Nik
etown and Nike's TV commercials, as the gothic atmosphere depicted on the small
screen could also be experienced three-dimensionally by the visitor at the Niket
own store on North Michigan Avenue in the Bulls hometown.
How Can Non-marketers Contribute to Branding?
Marketing and its sister branding are too important to be left to marketers alon
e. In a corporation, it is everybody's business to be cost-conscious as well as
customer-driven. In fact, it is the purpose of brand management to transform a c
ompany into a customer-centric organization to the point where the traditional w
alls that separate functions become permeable.
In a customer-centric organization, management can thus be defined as a discipli
ne of action that integrates holistically all the corporate functions to deliver
systematically value to customers beyond their expectation.
Although the development of a brand strategy typically involves a limited number
of executives and their aides, the successful implementation of a strategy is e
verybody's responsibility. Indeed, a major source of failure in the attempt to b
uild a great brand is the lack of consistency among all the contact-points with
the customer. In such a case, the brand message makes a promise on which the org
anization does not fully deliver. A sure way to ensure that the customer will co
nsistently enjoy the brand experience is to implement processes throughout the o
In the demanding hotel industry, for instance, the Ritz-Carlton has demonstrated
that -- with customer-driven targets, metrics, and processes -- the same high q
uality of service can be delivered all over the world, day after day.
Although the word process may connote something cumbersome, most processes can b
e (and should be) simple to the point of becoming second nature. As such, proces
ses become like the syntax that children learn to align words into meaningful se
ntences. They allow entire organizations to communicate with their customers mor
e effectively and convincingly.
(The Fundamentals of Branding, 2001-2010)
Almost every business has a trading name, from the smallest market trader to the
largest multi-national corporation. Only a minority of those businesses however
, have what could be classed as a brand or a brand name .
Branding is a word commonly referred to by advertisers and marketing people, but
what does it actually mean, how can you get it, and most importantly; how will
it benefit your business?
What is Branding?
There are many different definitions of a brand, the most effective description
however, is that a brand is a name or symbol that is commonly known to identify
a company or it s products and separate them from the competition.
A well-known brand is generally regarded as one that people will recognise, ofte
n even if they do not know about the company or its products/services. These are
usually the businesses name or the name of a product, although it can also incl
ude the name of a feature or style of a product.
The overall branding of a company or product can also stretch to a logo, symbol, o
r even design features (e.g. Regularly used colours or layouts, such as red and
white for Coca Cola.) that identify the company or its products/services.
For example:
The Nike brand name is known throughout the world, people can identify the name
and logo even if they have never bought any of their products.
However, not only is the company name a brand, but the logo (The tick symbol) is a
lso a strong piece of branding in its own right. The majority of people that are
aware of the company can also identify it (or its products) from this symbol al
The clothing and running shoe company Adidas is well known for using three strip
es on its range of products. This design feature branding allows people to ident
ify their products, even if the Adidas brand name and logo is not present.
How Can Branding Benefit My Business?
Recognition and Loyalty
The main benefit of branding is that customers are much more likely to remember
your business. A strong brand name and logo/image helps to keep your company ima
ge in the mind of your potential customers.
If your business sells products that are often bought on impulse, a customer rec
ognising your brand could mean the difference between no-sale and a sale. Even i
f the customer was not aware that you sell a particular product, if they trust y
our brand, they are likely to trust you with unfamiliar products. If a customer
is happy with your products or services, a brand helps to build customer loyalty
across your business.
Image of Size
A strong brand will project an image of a large and established business to your
potential customers. People usually associate branding with larger businesses t
hat have the money to spend on advertising and promotion. If you can create effe
ctive branding, then it can make your business appear to be much bigger than it
really is.
An image of size and establishment can be especially important when a customer w
ants reassurance that you will still be around in a few years time.
Image of Quality
A strong brand projects an image of quality in your business, many people see th
e brand as a part of a product or service that helps to show its quality and val
It is commonly said that if you show a person two identical products, only one o
f which is branded; they will almost always believe the branded item is higher q
If you can create effective branding, then over time the image of quality in you
r business will usually go up. Of course, branding cannot replace good quality,
and bad publicity will damage a brand (and your businesses image), especially if
it continues over a long period of time.
For example:
The Sunny Delight drinks brand was one of the biggest in the UK just a year afte
r its launch. However, constant bad publicity about the quality of the product h
as severely damaged the image of the brand, and sales have dropped for each of t
he past several years.
Image of Experience and Reliability
A strong brand creates an image of an established business that has been around
for long enough to become well known. A branded business is more likely to be se
en as experienced in their products or services, and will generally be seen as m
ore reliable and trustworthy than an unbranded business.
Most people will believe that a business would be hesitant to put their brand na
me on something that was of poor quality.
Multiple Products
If your business has a strong brand, it allows you to link together several diff
erent products or ranges. You can put your brand name on every product or servic
e you sell, meaning that customers for one product will be more likely to buy an
other product from you.
For Example:
Sony sells televisions, music equipment, consoles, camcorders, DVD players, vide
o players, and etc all under the Sony brand name.
You can also create separate brand names for your product ranges, allowing peopl
e to see your brand name, and then use the range brand name to work out what the
y wish to buy.
For Example:
Cadbury s makes a range of confectionary under many different sub-brand names such
as Dairy Milk, Boost, Flake, and Time Out. All of these are sold under the prod
uct brand, but all feature the Cadbury s brand name on the packaging.
(What is Branding, 2009)

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign,
symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and s
ervices of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those o
f other sellers.
Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your t
arget market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your pr
ospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.
The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:
Delivers the message clearly
Confirms your credibility
Connects your target prospects emotionally
Motivates the buyer
Concretes User Loyalty
To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers
and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your co
mpany at every point of public contact.
Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospe
cts. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you
can influence, and some that you cannot.
A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day.
It's important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building y
our brand. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It'
s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want t
o be without.
(What is Branding and How Important is it to Your Marketing Strategy?, 2010)
The role of branding in business and marketing has grown significantly in terms
of prioritization across the corporate and small business worlds, particularly w
ith the advent of positions such as chief brand officer and chief imagination of
ficer. The question remains: what is branding?
Despite branding s move to the spotlight, the vast majority of businesspeople stil
l don t have a firm grasp of what branding truly is. In fact, I dare say that many
businesspeople view branding as another funnel of expenditures by the marketing
team that does little in terms of generating ROI.
I have to adamantly argue against that line of thinking. While branding might be
more subjective and more challenging to quantify when it comes time to evaluate
results, it s no less important than any other tool in your marketing arsenal. I d
venture to say it s the most important part of your business.
Let s take a look at what branding is to gain a better understand of its importanc
e to businesses.
A brand is an image: A brand is synonymous with the image of the company it stan
ds for. Is your business young and hip, or traditional and reserved? Your brand
image should reflect that. A brand image can also be tangibly represented throug
h a logo, color palette, design techniques and more.
A brand is a message: A brand is made up of all the messages your business commu
nicates from your advertising to your customer interactions and everything in be
A brand is a promise: A brand is nothing if it doesn t stand for something and off
er some kind of promise to customers. In other words, customers should be able t
o count on your brand to deliver a consistent experience or value every time the
y come into contact with it.
As you develop your brand, do so with your stretch goals in mind. Don t sell your
brand short. Take some time to research and strategize and determine what you wa
nt your brand s image, message and promise to be. In other words, where do you wan
t your brand to be positioned in the marketplace and what expectations should yo
ur customers have for it?
(Branding in the Spotlight What is Branding?, 2008)