What is Brand?

A product identity, or brand image are typically the attributes one associates with a brand, how the brand owner wants the consumer to perceive the brand - and by extension the branded company, organization, product or service. The brand owner will seek to bridge the gap between the brand image and the brand identity. Effective brand names build a connection between the brand personalities as it is perceived by the target audience and the actual product/service. The brand name should be conceptually on target with the product/service (what the company stands for). Furthermore, the brand name should be on target with the brand demographic. Typically, sustainable brand names are easy to remember, transcend trends and have positive connotations. Brand identity is fundamental to consumer recognition and symbolizes the brand's differentiation from competitors.

Brand identity is what the owner wants to communicate to its potential consumers. However, over time, a products brand identity may acquire (evolve), gaining new attributes from consumer perspective but not necessarily from the marketing communications an owner percolates to targeted consumers. Therefore, brand associations become handy to check the consumer's perception of the brand.

A brand which is widely known in the marketplace acquires brand recognition. When brand recognition builds up to a point where a brand enjoys a critical mass of positive sentiment in the marketplace, it is said to have achieved brand franchise. One goal in brand recognition is the identification of a brand without the name of the company present. For example, Disney has been successful at branding with their particular script font (originally created for Walt Disney's "signature" logo), which it used in the logo for go.com.

Consumers may look on branding as an important value added aspect of products or services, as it often serves to denote a certain attractive quality or characteristic (see also brand promise). From the perspective of brand owners, branded products or services also command higher prices. Where two products resemble each other, but one of the products has no associated branding (such as a generic, store-branded product), people may often select the more expensive branded product on the basis of the quality of the brand or the reputation of the brand owner.

Your brand is the most valuable asset of your company. It is the driving force behind your business. In order to plan and implement a brand strategy, the current state of your business must first be analyzed to uncover your needs and issues that are unique to you and your industry. It’s only by gaining this understanding, and comparing it with your vision, that the brand strategy can be revealed.

Think of it this way; if you wanted to build your own home would you hire a builder and ask him to pour the foundation right about here? How about putting the kitchen over there? No, you’d hire an architect to develop the blue prints to which your builder would follow. Same philosophy applies to your branding and marketing efforts. Develop the blue print and ensure that every dollar you spend on marketing communications ties back to a corporate objective and strategy.

Brand Identity Guru (BIG) believes that finding a market niche is an important step in developing your core competencies. By assessing your brand, analyzing your competitors and considering corporate goals and objectives, our team can develop a strong brand strategy that will make you the leader in your industry.

Branding As a Simple Science

Bryan Eisenberg asks Do you remember playing Broken Telephone as a kid? You whisper something in one person's ear; she whispers it to another, and so on and so on. At the end of the game, the original story that has Bob going to the store now, has Bob vacationing with his neighbor's wife on the beaches of Hawaii wearing pink bunny slippers. This predictable but hysterical outcome is similar to what happens when you ask people to define "branding."

Branding may be the most misunderstood and misused term in marketing. Ask numerous "experts," and you'll wind up with as many interpretations of branding. The outcome can be as amusing as the results of Broken Telephone but have consequences when applied to real business and real money.

A colleague recalls a chat he had aboard an airplane. A marketing executive from a major computer manufacturer told him her company's new $14 million branding campaign was "built upon the consistent use of the same three colors in all their brochures and magazine ads." I'm not joking.

Rob Frankel, a branding expert who spouts advice, offers this definition (a good example of the broken-telephone spin): "Branding is not about getting your targets to choose you over your competition. Branding is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem." He's not completely wrong but he's not completely right, either.

We can trace the origins of virtually every marketing concept to a scientific discipline, such as psychology, neuroscience, or anthropology. If we wanted to play Broken Telephone, we could trace the thread as far back as Aristotle, although "branding" or "conditioning" was not scientifically validated until Pavlov published his paper "The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals" in 1903. You may recall Pavlov from high school science. He was the guy who made the dog salivate at the sound of a bell. He conditioned the dog to respond to a trigger (the sound of the bell) by associating it with the taste of meat. His experiment provides three key elements critical to understanding and implementing "branding":

Consistency -- Pavlov never offered food without ringing the bell and never rang the bell without offering food.
Frequency -- The bell rang several times a day, day after day.
Anchoring -- Pavlov tied the experiment to something about which the dog was emotional. Frequency and consistency create branding only when the message is associated with an emotional anchor. This is the most difficult and essential element to get correct.

When Pavlov tried the same experiment using dry bread or acid instead of meat, it didn't work. The dog learned to salivate at the sound of the bell because the dog craved meat. That is what it loves most. With anything but meat, bell ringing only annoyed the dog.

My ClickZ colleague Jack Aaronson spent the last year researching the psychological underpinning of customer interactions. In his forthcoming book, he talks about "Pavlovian Marketing," which he describes as "training users to be loyal to coupons." He warns these customers will not make your company profitable in the long run nor will they be loyal to your brand. It simply makes them loyal to your discounts.

Before you invest in a "branding exercise," make sure the associative memory you're implanting makes your customers salivate and aren’t a thinly disguised gimmick or prop. All a gimmick does is annoy the customer and cost you money. When you talk to the customer, in her language, about what is in her heart you're on the right track. Will you serve meat or dry bread to your customers?