Think about shopping routines in daily life: When you go for grocery shopping, what products do you buy and what clothes do you wear? What brand does your laptop belong to? There may be a lot of products you just buy because they are the cheapest ones or the easiest ones to get.
You don´t have any connection to these products, literally you don´t care at all. They are just in your shopping cart because of a lucky, random accident. And probably you´ll never buy them again. On the other side, there might be some products you are really passionate about. For example, there is only a specific coffee you drink or a certain laptop you use and you would never replace it with a different provider.
What makes these specific products differ from all the others existing?
There is one simple answer: Branding. Companies knowing about the importance of branding and investing in their branding strategy are more successful than their competitors. The perfect example to show the relation between branding and success of a company is Apple. Steve Jobs managed to make his products the most wanted in generation y. And the key to his success is his branding strategy.
If you think about Apple, its connection with its consumers has gone way beyond the emotional-it is connecting with their minds. Before a new product is even released, apple addicts are filled with a desire to obtain the newest product, lining up twelve hours before the opening in front of an apple store to be the first ones buying the latest I Phone. Apple consumers have learned that if they want the newest Apple product, they have to be present when the door opens, or they are forced to wait for weeks. Their minds are filled with Apple, leaving no space for thoughts about other competitive brands.
The Importance of Branding
As shown in the example, branding is as vital to the success of a business as having a vision for the future, or having quality employees. It is the essential foundation for a profitable operation. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers. That means customers that are willing to repeat purchases and making the company profitable in a long term perspective. It makes loyal customers, advocates, even addicts, out of those who buy.
What is Branding?
Branding is about creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers mind. Instead of activating buyers through marketing campaigns and “forcing” them to buy a product, branding is both preceding and underlying marketing activities. To become a memorable identity in the subconscious of the consumers mind, the company needs to establish a personal and emotional connection.
Therefore a brand needs to have an identity, a story to tell and above all, representing a lifestyle with certain values and beliefs customers can relate to. A brand should express the essential truth or value of an organization or the product. It helps the customers to define who they are. From this foundation establishes the emotional attachment to the customer.
The Branding Toolbox
The brand elements tell a story about quality, reliability, innovation and lifestyle of the brand and represent the brand identity. When creating elements like the name, logo or slogan of a brand, a lot of factors are influencing the quality of brand elements. Further elements are for example graphics, shapes, architecture, photography, colours and icon sets.
Establishing a consistent theme, through design templates and standards for your marketing materials, e.g. by using the same colour scheme and logo placement, is essential to make the brand successful. The brand equity also depends on memorability, meaningfulness and likeability of the elements. To make sure your brand elements appear aesthetically to your customers and are adaptable and flexible as well, it is important to integrate experts in the developing process of your brand.
The logo is your medium creating the first visual impression, telling the customer “This is what I am, this is what I stand for. If you like me, buy me and be part of my lifestyle.”
When implementing a brand, it comes to brand guidelines. Guidelines help employees, ad agencies and business partners to gain a deeper understanding of the brand philosophy and make clear how your logo is protected and can be used. While consistency is one of the most important things to take care of while creating the brand elements, market research has to be done before starting the creative process. Without a strategic brand analysis it is impossible to gain business insight or knowledge about your customers. And of course, it is necessary to know about the competitors brand strategy.
The emotional connection to your customers is based on tangible assets. It is impossible to deliver those emotional benefits on a long term basis without paying attention to a functional and technical level. When creating a brand it is as well important to focus on the hard facts of the product considering technical features and functional benefits. To gain a better understanding of how to create a successful brand, the brand strategy can be split into three levels, as shown in the brand pyramid underneath:
The technical features are measurable attributes of the product including pricing, services and the quality of the product. Functional benefits define what the brand does for its users. Apple for example helps users to enjoy a great selection of music and movies of high quality, connect, get information, get directions and get great customer support at their stores. The technical features enable the functionality and belief values.
At the same time the brand elements are embedded in the background of the pyramid. The elements enact as the medium of the brand strategy and therefore need to fit with every level of the brand strategy. The loyalty of customers and the profitability increases from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. Be the subconscious of your customers and incredible success is guaranteed.