"Marketing the universe, one planet at a time."

Brand Building


A brand is a promise made to a customer. The more consistent the brand, the more loyal the customer -- theoretically. Branding is not about the color and shape of the logo. Branding is a process that pervades all departments of an organization. It is about the ability of the customer to count on the brand holder to serve, protect, and enhance customer selection over time.

Some people distinguish between the associations of brands, such as thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, perceptions, attitudes, and so forth. But lets keep it simple.

Image of brandingThe brand experience is what is important. When you dial an 800 number, visit a store, try to return a product, use a coupon, interact with technical support, all these things reflect the brand. Wikipedia says, "The psychological aspect, sometimes referred to as the brand image, is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service". That's a good working definition.

Some brands enjoy exceptional value despite some missteps. Apple and Google are good examples. Some brands struggle to fulfill their promise to their target audiences (yet still seem to enjoy success). Verizon and Microsoft are examples that come to mind.

Why build a brand?
The simple answer is that customers do business with people -- and brands -- that they know and trust. Having a successful brand is a means of shortening the path to the bottom line. Search engines? Google. MP3 player? Apple. Diapers? Pampers. Brokerage? Charles Schwab. Insurance? Metropolitan. Social networking? Facebook.

Conversely, who wants to be the Enron of energy? Or the Madoff of pyramid schemes? Or the BP of oil drilling management. 

One of the most amazing brand developments of our time is the marketing of branded water to consumers. Used to be, water was an entitlement and we didn't think twice about it. Now, at a fancy restaurant, you will be ask whether you want tap water or bottled water, and after that, whether you want it plain or fizzy. And, depending upon how you order, you may raise or lower your status among your fellow diners at the table. And, lately consumer groups have told us that bottled water, for which we pay more than $1 per bottle is no more pure or healthy or refined that the stuff that flows out of the tap. 

So, what's next? Ah, air. Yes, that really hasn't been exploited yet. Air is a green field of brand building. But I digress. 

Here are some elements that will have you position your brand: 

1. Relevance to your target audience -- The more related your brand is to your customer's everyday life, the better for your brand. Think of Harley owners. Or Volvo people. Or American Eagle customers. The owners of these brands know who they are. And others do, too. Because the brand communicates the attitude, nature, and relevance of the brand to the person.

2. The brand promise must be consistent -- Hooters. Virgin airlines. Amazon. The promise that is conveyed must be continued to be filled over time. This takes work, perseverance, and a focused adherence to certain simple messages. This promise is conveyed throughout the life cycle of the customer's experience with the brand.  There is a little caterer in Orange, Virginia that has opened a lunch spot called Real Food. And they deliver. They prepare fresh soups, sandwiches, and other simple foods daily and sell out every day. Their retail shop is meager. The sign out front is amateurish. But the line starts at 11:30 and doesn't trickle off until the afternoon. Its a brand carried through.  

3. The brand promise must be appropriate to the product -- When I was working on an airline account, we had fun with a new slogan. "Because it flies" we tossed around inside the office. Its funny because it promise nothing. It makes no promise so doesn't have to fulfill anything. But a real product must develop its brand consistent with its audience. United says, "Fly the friendly skies." You can discuss whether or not they are able to fulfill the promise but the message conveys a lot more than simple transportation. Visa has launched a campaign touting its digital payment system as the Currency of Progress. Aimed squarely at those who are comfortable with paying for everything with plastic credit and debit transactions, the message is designed to promote Visa as the leader in the cashless society. Firefly is a terrific turn on commodity cell phone use aimed at older customers. The user interface is dirt simple, the numbers are big, and the audio offers amplification.

Ask yourself these questions
Who are your competitors and what brand promises are they conveying?

How is your offering different or, more importantly, how can you convey your offering differently to distinguish your brand from your competitors?

What markets should you target for your products?

Are there extension opportunities for your product or service that will foster a unique positioning?

How will promotion help position your product or service for particular audiences?

Can the brand name be easily pronouned and is it attractive to say and hear?

What about regulatory issues? How will your brand deal with certain claims and positioning?

If we can help you with developing our brand, give us a call.

More information on branding is available here.


Building your Brand -- a good article on creating a consistent winning image for your business or project.