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Branding in a nutshell

Everyone uses the word branding. Executives want it; account managers plan it; strategies are formulated; money is spent. But very few people know what branding really means. Most businesspeople cannot determine what is and is not a successful brand. Some confuse a brand with a product.


Thanks to globalisation and the Internet, the competitive arena is often global, making brands more indispensable than ever. Building a brand is crucial, whether it’s about hamburgers, cars or retirement benefits. A brand is an end result. Branding is the process by which a brand comes into being. Branding is not simply creating the name for a company or a product and repeating it until it becomes a household word. Most brands get lost somewhere between the shelf and consumers’ mindsets. Many brand names have disappeared.

The difference is why

There’s a difference between Nike and New Balance, CNN and Al Jazeera, and Star Trek and Star Wars. Each has a distinct personality, which may defy definition but is easily understood. A brand is a promise kept 100% and a complex set of satisfactions delivered. Strong brands unlock profitability, build name awareness, and increase the odds of organisational survival. Great brands – sometimes also called power brands or superstar brands – aren’t just known and trusted. They’re loved, even adored.


Brands vs. products

Revlon’s founder, Charles Revson, was clear about the difference between the product and the brand: “In the factory we make cosmetics but in the store we sell hope”. Two client positionings illustrate this point:

Levi’s the product is: Five-pocket western heavyweight denim jeans. Levi’s the brand is: The original and definitive jeans; the embodiment of jeans values – freedom, individuality, rebellion, sex, masculinity, originality and youth.

Häagen-Dazs the product is: Super-premium, fresh cream ice cream. Häagen-Dazs the brand is: The ultimate sensual, intimate pleasure. ‘Ice cream’ is not in the brand statement, a sign of a clear differentiation between the product and the brand.


A brand keeps us from going hoarse
Without a brand, you have to make the case for why you should get the consumer’s business every time you get ready to make a sale. So, while brand owners are closing a sale, those without brands are still introducing themselves. Brands significantly reduce decision-making time.


Whether or not a client buys a brand depends on, among others:

  • the extent of its authenticity
    • the strength of its value proposition
    • the strength of the emotional connection made
    • the strength of the idea and its execution
    • the media positioning and budget reach.


The 4Ds rule of strong brand positioning

Typically, more than one positioning is available. One way to evaluate your positioning is the 4Ds rule:

  • Is it desirable by consumers?
    • Is it deliverable by the organisation?
    • Is it distinct from the competition?
    • Is it durable over time?


When to brand
Some of the key times to launch or refine brands are:

1. Opening a new business.
2. Introducing a new product or service.
3. Rebranding, refining, polishing or taking stock of your brand.
4. Fundraising for a non-profit organisation.
5. Taking your business public.
6. Going global.
7. Getting backing or financing.
8. Merging with another business.