Branding Fundamentals: all you need to know about Brand, Brand Equity, Brand Identity, Value Proposition and Brand Position.
Branding is quite a broad subject and it is neither PR nor a marketing. Having noticed many marketers in my connection are troubling to tell branding from marketing has prompted me to write this article. The most common trouble is that one can’t depict the exact borders of branding with adjacent disciplines.
In this article I’m gonna focus on the most important headings of branding so you can create a mind map for yourself.
BRAND AND BRAND MANAGEMENT
No, this is a logotype! No, that is a tagline! No, no… this is a symbol! Then what is a brand?!
Marty Neumeier mentions in his book “The Brand Gap”, a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s a gut feeling because we’re all emotional despite our best efforts to be rational. It’s a person’s gut feeling, because in the end the brand is defined by individuals, not by companies. Each person creates his or her own version of it. When enough individuals arrive at the same gut feeling, a company can be said to have a brand.
To compare a brand with its competitors, we only need to know what makes it different. Brand management is the management of differences, not as they exist on data sheets, but as they exist in the minds of people.
Brand equity is a set of assets linked to a brand’s name and symbol that adds to the value provided by a product or service to a firm or its customers.
Brand equity has four pillar: brand name awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality and brand associations.
Brand awareness is the extent to which customers are able to recall or recognize a brand under different conditions. It also has four main forms. Recognition is the “yes!” to “have you been exposed to Nike before?”. Recall is having “Nike!” among the answers to “what sport fashion brands can you recall?. If Nike is the first brand that comes to your mind then it is a top of mind brand. If it is the only brand that you named then it is the dominant brand.
All right. Then what is better, brand recognition or brand recall? Young & Rubicam Europe developed The Graveyard Model which perfectly depicts the recognition-recall relationship from different aspects. Several brands enjoy high recognition but suffers low recall. This is very bad. In fact this is a wasted money. Being in the graveyard is deadly: customers know about the brand, but it won’t come to mind when considering a purchase.
Brand loyalty describes a consumer’s positive feelings towards a brand, and their dedication to the brand’s products and services regardless of deficiencies, a competitor’s actions, or changes in the environment.
A strong brand loyalty enables a repeat purchase, activates a word-of-mouth and easies product extension. Furthermore, loyal customers have a strong willingness to pay higher prices.
Perceived quality has been proven to drive financial performance the most among others. Achieving perceptions of quality is impossible unless the quality claim has substance. Generating high quality requires an understanding of what quality means to customer segments. Creating a quality product or service, however, is only a partial victory; perceptions must be created as well.
A brand association is a mental connection a customer makes between your brand and a concept, image, emotion, experience, person, interest, or activity. This association can be immediately positive or negative and it heavily influences purchase decisions. Brand associations are important because they help customers recall your brand right away.
Brand identity is a unique set of brand associations that represent what the brand stands for and imply a promise to customers from the organization members.
The core identity is central, timeless essence of the brand which remains constant as the brand evolves. The extended identity includes elements that provide texture and completeness to fill the picture.
Brand identity can be defined as a product, as an organization, as a person or as a symbol. Each one of these perspectives has different advantages.
The goal of linking a brand with a product class is to gain recall of a product class when the brand is mentioned. Having people respond “ketchup” when Heinz is mentioned is not nearly as important as having Heinz mentioned when a ketchup is needed.
On the other hand organizational attributes are more enduring to competitive claims than are product attributes. It is much easier to copy a product than to duplicate an organization with unique people, values, and programs.
A strong symbol can provide structure to an identity and make it much easier to gain recognition and recall. Consider Nike’s “swoosh,” the McDonald’s golden arches, and the Mercedes emblem. It just takes a glance to be reminded of the brand.
Now let’s talk about a brand personality which is quite a large topic. Brand personality is the personification of a brand. Like any human being, every brand has a voice, color and many other attributes that evoke different emotions in their audience. In other words, brand personality is how people perceive a brand based on how it looks, what it says, how it acts and all sorts of other qualities.
When defining your brand’s personality a Jungian Brand Archetypes may help you well. Prominent philosopher Carl Jung identified 12 universal, mythic characters reside within our collective unconscious. This represents the range of basic human motivations and each of us tends to have one dominant archetype that dominates our personality. The 4 cardinal orientations that the archetypes seeking to realize are ego (leave a legacy on the world), order (provide structure to the world), social (pursue connection with others) and freedom (explore spirituality). Now, look at the brand archetype wheel below and let me know if you liked it. By the way, big kudos to whoever designed this.
Brand personality is so interesting topic so I’d like to bring another example from David Aaker. Can you tell the Stolichnaya’s personality from the Absolut’s? My guess is you’re saying things can’t have a personality. But as we talked earlier like any human being, every brand has a voice, color and many other attributes that evoke different emotions in their audience.
Stolichnaya vodka as a person is experienced, self-assured, and successful in a traditional career such as law or banking. He is male, drives a Lexus, and has no compulsion to follow the latest trends. He recognizes quality.
The Absolut person is younger, more contemporary, and flashier. Also a male, he is more likely to go to trendy bars and work in a creative occupation such as advertising or the arts.
Now keep in mind these descriptions and see their respective ads as follows:
A value proposition is a simple statement that summarizes why a customer would choose your product or service. A great value proposition may highlight what makes you different from competitors and should always lead to a purchase decisions.
How should a value proposition look like on your website or other digital assets?
- Headline. One short sentence about the final benefit that customers will get. A goal is to grab a customer’s attention immediately.
- Paragraph. A specific explanation of what you offer, for whom and why it is useful. 1 or 2 sentences must be your limit.
- Visual. Images communicate much faster than words. Reinforce your main message with relevant and catchy visuals.
- Call To Action. Not a fundamental part of your value proposition, however, completes the overall composition and guides your customers.
I highly recommend to watch Simon Sinek’s talk about the golden circle on YouTube before creating your company’s value proposition. In his book “Start with why” Simon Sinek says when most organizations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY.
Creative’s “5GB mp3 player” is exactly the same message as Apple’s “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The difference is Creative told us WHAT their product was and Apple told us WHY we needed it. People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.
When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they end up “overthinking”. In contrast, decisions made with the limbic brain, gut decisions, tend to be faster, higher-quality decisions. Companies that fail to communicate a sense of WHY force us to make decisions with only empirical evidence.
Brand position is the part of the brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience and that demonstrates an advantage over competing brands.
As Al Ries and Jack Trout stated in their bestseller book “Positioning”, positioning starts with a product. But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.
Positioning is an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances. The easy way to get into a person’s mind is to be first. The hard way to get into a person’s mind is second. Second is nowhere. If you didn’t get into the mind of your prospect first then you have a positioning problem.
More than anything else, successful positioning requires consistency. If you want to be successful today, you can’t ignore the competitor’s position. Nor can you walk away from your own. In addition to knowing market perceptions, it is useful to understand the heritage of the brand. Who were the early pioneers of the brand? How did it originate? What was its image when it first started?
The brand position must be attainable. There is nothing more wasteful than trying to achieve a position that is out of reach. Strong niche brands often fall into this trap when they attempt to break out of their niche.
All right, this is all I could share with you about branding in one article. In fact, it can be taught in one full semester. I recommend to read the books that I mentioned on bibliography. Enjoy!
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- “Building Strong Brands” by David Aaker
- “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
- “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier
- “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout
- “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout