Branding is all the rage on the internet. It’s almost ubiquitous and understood that businesses need and are a brand. Now, many people are working hard in an effort to create personal brand. It’s almost incessant.
With all the talk about branding these days I think it’s necessary to understand what a brand is and to define the components of what makes up a brand. This post will share with you the five components of a brand and how those work as a whole.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss how we, as westerners, have come to understand branding. It goes back to the wild west where cowboys had herds of cattle all across the fruited plains. With all the cattle across the country it was a problem for them to keep their herds straight and know which cows belonged to whom. Enter the Brand, a crude and probably cruel way to mark cattle. Ranchers worked hard to make a unique symbol that stood for them and their unique cattle.
Now, in the modern world a brand and branding I suppose starts with a logo, a modern day version of a cattle brand. But, a brand goes much deeper than just a logo. Here are the five components of a healthy brand.
A Brand Starts with Identity
A firm or organization starts with an identity. This includes the business’s name, logo, color scheme, and the products and/or services the company offers. These elements comprise the identity. We are all familiar with big brands like CocaCola, Apple, Harley-Davidson, McDonalds, and a host of others. Probably when you read the names of these companies you could automatically remember the logos of each company, their color scheme, and clearly the products they offer.
It’s vital that businesses and marketers understand this first.
A Brand Develops Its Image
After a business has its identity in place, then it begins to develop its image. An image isn’t just a photo or illustration of the company. No, it’s much more. Your brand’s image includes the positive and negative associations that consumers have of your company. Think about Nike. Nike is obviously well known and enjoys great associations with world class athletes like Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, et. al., But, Nike also has had some negative associations over the years. Examples include the fact that for years they would use sweatshops to produce their products and that their products are very expensive. These associations might create a negative view of a company and thus, make you less compelling or attractive to some.
While your brand’s associations are important, a brand’s image comprises more than just your associations, whether they are good or bad.
There is a third component of your brand’s image, and that is your brand’s promise. Your brand’s promise is what your business pledges to do for your customer when they do business with you. Examples are endless; save time, increase revenue, comfort, style, status.
I probably could use more explanation but for brevity I’ll just simply state that it’s vital that what ever your brand promises your brand delivers consistently. You ensure that you’re doing this by surveys, data analysis, case studies, etc.
A Brand Develops and Acquires a Personality
Personality is a little harder to describe and takes longer to develop and acquire. A brand’s personality emerges gradually and results from all the exposure and interaction that a company’s customers or consumers have with each other.
An interesting thing here to note is that a brand will sometimes and often does pick up the personality traits of the brand’s users. Think Apple here. Because a large part of Apple’s consumers are creative, edgy, free thinkers, and perhaps liberal, Apple’s personality shows up in similar ways.
What we have discussed thus far is largely internal for the firm or company. The brand’s identity, image, and personality are largely things that the firm has worked hard to establish and maintain.
The next question that we have to address is what can a strong brand do for the consumer and for the company?
A Brand Benefits and Attracts Consumers
Consumers have a lot to consider when making purchases and doing business with brands. A few considerations are:
- How will this product/service help me?
- Is this product/service a good one?
- Do I identify with the company’s purpose or identity?
Of course, these are only some of the questions consumers ask when buying products or services.
If a brand is strong enough then it has done the work to ensure that what they offer will deliver on the promises the brand makes and therefore helps to lessen the risk consumer’s face when considering a multitude of options. This helps attract consumers and hopefully retain them over time.
If a brand also is strong enough it will also encourage and develop loyalty because it simplifies decision making.
An example of this is the typical journey a consumer has toward becoming an Apple loyalist. For many years the first introduction to the Apple brand was an iPod. Its ease of use and reliability encouraged people to try out and purchase their iPhone. Then, as consumers became familiar with the brand further, they decided to also purchase larger ticket items like laptop or desktop computers. Probably now the AppleWatch has replaced the iPod as first introduction to the brand, but all along the way they are reinforcing the brand.
A final thing for consumers and brands alike is that when a brand is strong enough, a strong brand can attract consumers because they share the same identity and supports a customer’s efforts for self expression.
A Brand Becomes a Company Asset
It’s interesting to think about a brand as being an asset for the company. In many ways, the company is in fact an asset to itself. Practically, as a brand gets stronger it benefits the company by giving it pricing power, and the ability to leverage channels.
Pricing power is the ability to command a certain price for a product or service. For an example, consider Apple again. Their latest laptop computer with an impressive feature set of 16 inch display, 8 TB storage, and 64GB memory, and new processor commands a whopping $6,000 price tag. For brevity, we’ll just say that when you combine features of a product and the brand reputation and reliability, consumers are more likely to pay that price for an Apple Laptop than they would an HP or Acer. The same goes for Nike, Harley-Davidson, and other higher end products in their category and market.
Another thing that companies benefit from when the brand is strong is the ability for more stores to carry their product and place their products prominently in their stores. For the store they want to carry good products so people come shop there, so those stores offer better brands better shelf locations and perhaps better promotions.
A company with a good brand can expand their offerings to new products and new services more easily than those that don’t.
These are just some of the benefits or aspects of a brand as an asset for a company.
A company’s top aim is to establish a strong brand. The company starts with their identity, then works to develop their image, and then maintains and grows their personality. The company then will enjoy attracting and retaining consumers and then becomes an asset for the company.
Where do you think you are in the process of building your company’s brand?