What is a ‘Brand’?
In order to build a brand, we have to understand what one actually is.
Working within the design and marketing industry, we always hear the ‘B’ word bounced around.
A buzzword with its own kind of energy – it seems everyone wants to build a brand, but few can explain what a brand is?
What is a brand? The Definition.
A brand is so much more than a logo or a name.
Supported by separate brand components (which we will look into later), a brand is defined by perceptions. Outlined by Amber and Styles, 1996 as ‘a cluster of functional and emotional values which promise a particular experience’, brands are shaped through a collective effort to build positive associations in consumers heads, based on quality, consistency and values.
Therefore, brand building involves having a deep understanding of both the functional and emotional values that customers use when choosing between brands, and an ability to combine these in a unique way to create brand that customers prefer.
It is very often the case that the strongest brands are those that match their consumers emotional and rational needs to create ‘an attitude knitted into consumers hearts.’ (Kapferer, 2012). By taking a customer-centric approach, brands can ‘create a holistic experience that delivers emotional fulfilment so that customers develop a special bond with and unique trust in the brand’ (Kotler et al, 2009), which in turns becomes a competitive advantage to the brand.
Swatch Case Study
Swatch was founded on the recognition that watches could be marketed as fashion items to younger age groups. By using colour and design, Swatch successfully augmented a basic product – a watch- to create appeal for its target market. Swatch combined both functional and emotional values to create a successful brand.
The Components of a Brand
Brands comprise of both intrinsic or extrinsic attributes. Intrinsic attributes refer to functional characteristics of the product, such as its physical capacity, shape, or performance. If any of these are changed, they would directly affect the product.
However, extrinsic attributes do not alter the material functioning of the product or service itself but help consumers distinguish the brand by using devices such as brand name, values, pricing and marketing communications.
- Product itself
- Brand name
- Brand mark
- Description of benefits
- Trust, reliability
- Psychological pay-off
- Added value
Successful brands comprise of three core elements; promises, positioning and performance.
A brand promise is the emotional and rational benefits that customers will derive from purchasing a brands services and products. This has to be well-defined, to be effectively communicated. Confused propositions and inconsistent promises damage brands by inhibiting customer loyalty, brand relationships and brand associations.
The brand promise underpins what makes the company unique (e.g. the values, vision, history, and capabilities) and the benefits the customer is seeking. A well-defined Customer Value Proposition is the first step in aligning promises with the customer.
Creating a unique position in the marketplace involves a careful choice of a target market and establishing a clear differential advantage in the minds of those people. The strength of a brands positioning is built on six elements: brand domain, brand heritage, brand values, brand assets, brand personality and brand reflection.
Brand domain refers to the choice of the target market (where the brand competes) and the other elements provide different avenues for creating a clear differential advantage with these target consumers. The brand should support and reinforce a company’s positioning through all of its brand elements, such as logo, typography, website, culture, values, vision, colours and tone of voice. Essentially every brand touchpoint should communicate and support the claim.
Performance is about delivering on the brand’s promise. The brand promise and positioning will shape the expectations of the target audience, which must be met at every stage of the customer’s journey – before, during and after purchase.
It is vital to build quality into the core product; a major reason for brand failure is the inability to get the basic right. The core product or service on offer must achieve the basic functional requirements expected of it. Once a brand is associated with quality performance, it forms a formidable barrier for competitors to overcome.
What do the academics say….
Alexander L. Biel (1997) understands brands as being characterised by three elements;
Skills – Intrinsic attributes or the functional attributes of the product or service, Biel refers to as ‘brand skills’.
Personality – Brand personality is an intangible component of a brand that builds its fundamental traits concerning lifestyle and perceived value.
Relationships – Biel also reviews ‘brand relationships’ as a significant characteristic of a brand, which focuses on a brands ability to build meaningful, two-way relationships with its consumers.
These three elements combined, form what Biel refers to as ‘brand magic’, which underpins the added value brands can create for their products or services.
The Benefits of Building a Brand
A brand is successful when it’s components or characteristics are differentiated to such an extent, they cannot be easily replicated by competitors, creating brand value and equity.
Building a brand that consistently delivers on its promises and has strong levels of customer satisfaction over time, builds commitment amongst its consumers, meaning they will prioritise the brand when buying in that category. If consumers are understood as active problem-solvers, then branding helps by reducing decision-making time and associated perceived risks.
Niall Fitzgerald, Unilever chairman explained that brands are ‘a storehouse of trust which matters more and more as choice multiply’. Successful brands provide customers with a reassuring sense of order in the decision process by the brand being an implicit guarantee or promise itself. Moreover, brands can give status and recognition to customers, by signalling affiliations and acting as a badge of desired self-image. (Smith and Zook, 2016).
From the customers perspective:
- Signals certain level of quality
- Facilitates purchase
- Reduces perceive risk
- Adds value
- Creates desired self-image
From the company perspective:
- Permits premium pricing
- Hard to copy
- Contributes to corporate identity
- Creates competitive advantage
- Encourage customer loyalty
How do you build your brand?
Building a brand isn’t as easy as just picking a logo and a name. Multiple layers of commitment and consistency are key to delivering unified brand experiences, and Blimey are here to help those looking to develop meaningful brands that deliver competitive advantage. It’s no myth that consistent branding increases revenue by 23% on average. Which means your brand really matters, so see what Blimey can do to improve build your brand and your revenue. To talk brand contact email@example.com or call 0115 981 6276 (option 3).
Smith, P. and Zook, Z. (2016). Marketing Communications Offline and Online Integration, Engagement And Analytics. 6th ed. London and Philadelphia: Kogan Page
Biel, A. (1997) Discovering Brand Magic: the hardness of the softer side of branding, International Journal of Advertising, 16, 199-210.
Jobber, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F. (2016). Principles And Practice of Marketing. 8th ed. McGraw-Hill Education.
Kapferer, J,-N. (2012) The New Strategic Brand Management, London: Kogan Page.