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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

What is a brand?

Inevitably this question does not deliver a one sentence answer that satisfies. For example, it is often said that a brand is simply a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer, but what does this really mean?

What this definition does tell you is that a brand is different from a product or a service.
There are obvious but important things that help to create strong brands.

As we are photographers let’s take a quick look at Kodak. George Eastman took the technical element of photography and introduced it to the masses, creating a brand that has been used for over a hundred years to communicate the essence of the evolving products and company. The brands’ success has been down to:

  • A commitment to quality
  • The generation of awareness
  • The fostering of loyalty
  • The development of a strong and consistent brand identity

A brands' ability to work hard over time is crucial and as the Group CE of United Biscuits once put it ‘Buildings age and become dilapidated. Machines wear out. People die. But what live on are the brands’. Ultimately brands elicit thoughts and emotions from customers – when building a brand the business needs to know what they want these thoughts and emotions to be.

Each element of the brand then works towards delivering this result.
Generally brands begin as a recognisable promise of performance and authenticity. It is worth noting that due to rigorous legislation preventing forgery in this country authenticity remains key – you can be fairly confident that you have just purchased a real Gucci bag if you used a trusted supplier.

What is also key to successful brands is that on the whole they keep their promises by remaining consistent – visually and behaviourally
. And this is why we are more willing to forgive a bad bran
d experience – we believe it to be an exception to the norm. Consistency leads to consumers having certain beliefs about certain brands. It helps to build brand loyalty, allowing customers to relax and enjoy the experience, confident that the brand will deliver its promises. This does not mean that the product must remain unchanged – products evolve – but the promise and performance must remain the same. Because if the brand fails to deliver it will render the brand meaningless over time.

It is important to remember that in most markets there are many comparable products – so what makes consumers pick one over the other? Often it is subjective but what is clear is that it goes beyond basic performance. It can be about how the brand makes them feel and this is why consumers feel different relationships with different
brands. This is where the idea of brand personality comes into play. Giving brands human personality types means they will attract certain types of consumer and be able to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Another important thing to consider is the power of what choosing certain brands makes other people think. Ultimately people want reassurance that they have made the right choice – a choice that reflects where they want to position themselves in society. Therefore many brand purchases are also social statements and a currency for social exchange.

Crucially a logo is NOT a brand but an entry point and shortcut to the emotional response that has been developed from experiencing the brand.

Take this selection of logos. Each one will elicit a response that is about your experience or perceptions of the brand. Powerful isn’t it? I’ve added my logo to demonstrate that if you have not had experience of a brand then a logo can be nothing more than a name…

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