The concept of branding is a confusing topic that many seasoned marketers don’t even clearly understand. What is a brand? What is branding? It seems like a simple question, but the answer is anything but simple. If you’re confused by your brand, your customers will be confused, too. The last thing you want to do is waste time and money by developing a weak uncertain brand.
At its core, a brand is a promise to consumers. What will consumers get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella? The brand promise incorporates more than just those tangible products and services. It also includes the feelings that consumers get when they use your products and services.
Example: Think about your favorite brand and what that brand promises to you. If you’re a Nike fan, the brand might represent athleticism, performance, strength, good health, and fun. Your brand promises something to consumers. What is it?
Brands are built by consumers, not companies. Ultimately, it’s the way consumers perceive a brand that defines it. It doesn’t matter what you think your brand promises. The only thing that matters is how consumers perceive your brand. You need to work to develop consumer perceptions that accurately reflect your brand, or your brand is doomed to limited growth potential.
Example: What are consumers’ perceptions of Lady Gaga? You can bet everything she does is meant to create specific consumer perceptions.
Based on your brand promise, consumers develop expectations for your brand. When they pull their hard-earned money out of their pockets and purchase your products or services, they assume their expectations for your brand will be met. If your brand doesn’t meet consumer expectations in every interaction, consumers will become confused by your brand and turn away from it in search of another brand that does meet their expectations in every interaction.
Example: Imagine Rolls Royce launched a $10,000 car. To say the least, consumers would be extremely confused because such a product doesn’t meet their expectations for a luxury brand.
Rather than asking, “What is a brand?” a better question might be, “Who is a brand?” Every brand has a persona. Think of your brand as a person. What is that person like? What can you expect when you interact with that person? From appearance to personality and everything in between, your brand persona is one that consumers will evaluate and judge before they do business with you.
Example: Think of it this way. Who would you rather spend time with — Apple or Microsoft? These two brands have very different brand personas. Your brand should have one, too.
Your brand is represented by the intangible elements described above as well as tangible elements such as your brand logo, messaging, packaging, and so on. All of these elements must work together to consistently communicate your brand promise, shape brand perceptions, meet brand expectations, and define your brand persona. If one element is awry, your entire brand can suffer.
Example: There is a reason why that blue Tiffany’s box has been around for so long. It means something to consumers.
Bottom-line, a brand is clear, reliable, and believable to both your consumers and your employees. However, brands aren’t built overnight. Before you can define and live your brand, you need to do some research so you don’t waste time taking your brand in a direction that won’t allow you to reach your goals. You must understand your competitors and audience, so you can develop a brand that promises the right things to the right people. Research should be first, definition, strategy, and execution should follow, and in time, your brand will grow.
Special thanks to AYTM for this detailed explanation.