Definition of branding
Branding is the procedure focused on creating a distinct image of a product, service or corporation, in the minds of the consumers. Branding for a particular entity involves image creation through advertising and promotional campaigns, which are devised and conducted in coherence with a consistence theme.
Branding provides the businesses with an approach to create a distinguished place for their products in the market, making the target consumers aware of its presence. The differentiation of product through branding is aimed at attracting prospective consumers and managing the existent bank of consumers, as a means to maintain and enhance consumer loyalty. (1)
Service branding is a relatively new concept in comparison to product branding. (2) It involves the selection and combination of intangible features and characteristics of a service to distinguish a process in a meaningful and compelling manner. (3)
Communication through branding
Today, branding is considered as an important element in the mix of dynamics that are believed to be essential for the survival of businesses in competitive markets. In essence, branding establishes a base for effective consumer communication, making a product or a service more identifiable and familiar to the target consumers. Not only branding serves as a means for product differentiation, but it also serves as a medium for conveying to the consumers, what businesses have to offer to them and what they may expect from the businesses.
Branding lets businesses create their actual or perceived images in the minds of the consumers and convey a business’ aspirations to the consumers. (5)
Brand image and recognition
For differentiation purposes, branding usually involves the use of distinct sentences, symbols, words, logos, names or a combined arrangement of any of the aforementioned elements. (6) Branding markets and promotes these elements in association with a particular product, service or corporation to make these more identifiable to the target consumers, especially in highly competitive markets. It includes the process of providing a product or service with distinctive identity among its competitors. This process of equipping an entity with a distinct identity to make it more familiar to the target consumers is referred to as brand recognition.
Creation of brand value
Branding allows the businesses to set aspiring standards and benchmarks to assist them with maintaining and enhancing the value and worth of their products and services. It is an all-inclusive process of image creation, which involves reputation building, innovation and expansion of product and service range, and provides the businesses with an opportunity to increase their revenues, accrued through the sale of their original brand. (7)
Branding includes communication endeavours and differentiation methodologies to communicate with the consumers, which highlights the necessity for making and modifying branding initiatives to hold maximum possible relevance to consumer experiences. This increases the chances of success for a branding strategy. (8) Effective branding involves the modification of a consumer product to enhance its relativity and relevance for the target consumers. (9)
The emergence of branding as a specialised field is not an anticipated and abrupt development. In fact, what is today known as branding among marketing and corporate circles is a consequence of gradual progress, changes and evolution.
Standardisation of consumer products
One of the major factors that coined and contributed towards the birth of branding is believed to be the extreme standardisation of consumer products during the mid-20th century. Standardisation and lack of disparity between various genres of consumer products gave rise to the realisation concerning the necessity of differentiation.
First major breakthrough in modern branding
Perhaps, the earliest marked development with respect to the birth and evolution of branding may be traced back to 1950’s, when corporate giants like Procter and Gamble and Unilever laid down the basis for brand management, a discipline that is today known as marketing. Observing the improved quality of consumer products, offered by their competitors, these organisations felt the need to appear distinct in the consumer market.
Hence, the basis for the establishment of structured study and analysis of the target consumers and consumer behaviour was laid. These developments and studies proved to be of functional, as well as, emotional value. With the realisation of the significance of emotional value for the attraction and retention of target consumers, it was seen as a means to reduce functional uniformity among various manufacturers and companies. Resultantly, branded products made it to the consumer markets.
Consumer loyalty and functional uses
Brands offering products of superior quality were able to increase the costs of the products marginally, as compared to the costs of their competitors, without having to fear about losing their consumer base. This additional cost set the standards to assess the success of the brand. If the accumulative cost of the products exceeded the cost of a branding campaign for a company, it was considered as an indicator of the progress and success.
The brand mix
Branding progressed simultaneously with marketing, which was moving towards specialisation rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s. Renowned brands like Tide and Kraft became heavily involved in marketing endeavours and set promotional standards, which today serve as marketing and branding guidelines. Consequently, disciplines like marketing and branding emerged, which shifted focus from the understanding and comprehension of the competitors’ behaviour to that of the consumers’.
Businesses began aiming at the achievement of a complete brand mix which is an all-inclusive combination of elements that contribute towards image creation and promotion, including the cost of the product, brand logo, positioning, packaging and advertising. (10)
Image creation and consumer loyalty
Branding provides that businesses with guidelines to modify their functioning and devise and implement effective strategies to become the first choice of their target consumers. It is employed for image creation and building of image perception. Through branding, businesses may manage and enhance brand perceptions, in relation to their offered products and services.
Branding is primarily employed as a source of differentiation between various similar consumer products and services, offered by different manufacturers and companies. (11) Through the distinguished placement of products and services via branding, businesses might find it easier to gain a competitive edge over others in the market. (12)
Branding adds value
Presently, brands are considered as valuable assets by various companies, as the brand images and perceptions usually outlive the associated product. The use of branding is not only limited to differentiation, but as implied earlier, through images creation and management, branding also serves the purpose of laying down a solid foundation for the uniform appreciation of a product or service range of same brand, in terms of quality, credibility and experience. (13)
It works as a communicative methodology, allowing the businesses to actively and effectively interact with the consumers. Branding conveys to the consumers what a business promises to offer to them and what the consumers may expect from a company. Businesses use branding to communicate the values that they have to offer to the consumers and the benefits of their product or services over their competitors. (14)
Branding provides the businesses with an opportunity to earn exclusivity for their products or services in their consumers’ minds and perceptions. It can be used as a means for ensuring consumer loyalty and creating an emotional bond between the consumer and the brand name or product to prompt the consumer to perform an intended action. (15)
Consequently, with all aspects considered and analysed, effective branding ultimately enhances or initiates the growth of a business. (16) Working as a driving force behind the growth of a businesses, the modern explanation and purpose of branding is not only limited to the conveyance of a business’ aspirations and values, but today it is considered as a practical approach to meet a business’ functional requirements. (17)
Another functional purpose that the branding contributes to is concerned with the increase in sales and prices. As branding is focused on the creation emotional value of a brand for the consumers, even if a company implements measures to increase the prices of its products or services reasonably, the emotional linkage and resultant consumer loyalty ensures that the affected consumer base is not lost or reduced. (18)
Since its emergence and early development, today branding has become a much more exciting and elaborative discipline. The dynamism that surrounds the field of branding is not only a consequence of modern tools and technology, but also a result of the realisation of the functional business requirements that are met through effective branding. (19)
Deeper study of the consumer behaviour
Hence, modern branding applications and trends are one of the major forces which contribute towards a business’ growth and progress. These include a more in-depth study and analysis of consumer behaviour and expectations to be able to comprehend the consumer needs and requirements which remain unarticulated. Resultantly, businesses channelize their branding strategies and activities to enhance brand values for ably meeting consumers’ expectations.
In the wake of increased consumer expectations, the need to make the brands more meaningful and valuable for the consumers is stressed. A product or a service may no more be perceived as only a sellable commodity, but advertently or inadvertently, consumers will expect these offer greater value and their buying decisions may also be dictated by the emotional value that a brand has to offer, apart from the functional worth. (20)
Despite the extensive employment of modern technology, direct consumer to brand interaction has not lost its worth in the eyes of the businesses. It is still considered as a means to improve buying experience and branding continues to centre on direct and efficient communication with the consumers. (21) This is a result of the realisation underlining the advantages of the creation of emotional value through branding. Emotional connection with the consumer has taken precedence over offering functional worth, and in the present times, branding is largely focused on enhancing emotional consumer relevance. In fact, emotional relevance has become a basis for differentiation of products and services. It is deemed, that in the coming times, most of the successful brands are to rely heavily on the creation of an emotional linkage to the consumers and classify the emotional values among their target consumers to direct their branding and marketing activities, making these more meaningful and worthy for the consumers. (22)
Consumer loyalty and experience
Additionally, branding has increased focus on the improvement of overall consumer experience and engagement. This branding strategy is believed to serve the purpose of earning consumer loyalty and ensuring consumer retention. Majority of the consumers today choose brands on the basis of the overall experience they have to offer.
However, apart from improving consumer experience branding has also become more dynamic regarding facilitating differentiation. Not only does it serve the purpose of product and services differentiation, but now it also includes the providence of exclusive consumer experience to enhance brand value and worth. (23)
As mentioned earlier, there has been a rapid and steep rise in consumer expectations, and apart from altering branding trends, it has also resulted in various branding challenges.
Redundancy of conventional branding
More aware consumers and excessive competition in the consumer market pose considerable problems for the businesses to ensure effective branding. These resultant problems are further enlarged with the increasingly nearing redundancy of the effectiveness and utility of conventional branding tools and methodologies.
Complex product portfolios
Additionally, product portfolios have become more complex than ever, blurring the distinction between various categories. Hence, branding is now faced with the challenge to devise and employ new and different approaches and solutions for product or service differentiation and placement, along with striving to meet the ever-increasing consumer expectations. (24)
Managing brand assets
Furthermore, with the realisation of the functional utility of branding, there is a looming threat that businesses might shift their focus towards the gain of short-term financial goals, rather than concentrating on the development of a strong and stable base for the building and maintenance of valuable assets. (25)
- http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpassikoff/2013/12/04/brand-and-marketing-trends-for-2014/ http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpassikoff/2013/12/04/brand-and-marketing-trends-for-2014/