When you strengthen your brand, you reach several goals supporting your brand’s performance but don’t just stop with the visual elements of your brand. Some people think of branding as a logo since this is like a name that differentiates a brand from competing ones. But, successful branding is about so much more than just creating recognizable logos. A strong brand differentiates itself from peers when it communicates what a business does, its market position, the type of consumer it targets, what the brand stands for, and the benefits provided through the purchase of the brand by building an entire backstory behind the logo. Visual elements can aid in this process of defining the brand for consumers. For instance, Starbucks’ green logo reinforces the notion that its products are responsibly sourced, while Godiva’s name (and gold packaging) imply something rich and a little naughty pleasure.
Everything from the packaging materials and font to the color of the logo, the tone of the website, and marketing communications combine to create a strong brand. When you strengthen your brand, you find that your efforts create many benefits for your firm, including improved differentiation, and make a significant difference to your sales and profitability.
Before we delve into the many reasons why you should work to strengthen your brand, let’s take a step back to discuss why brands matter in the first place.
Not all products are branded. We call these homogeneous products or commodities. Produce, meats, and similar commodity products are often sold without an associated brand name, and consumers buy the product by choosing the items that best fit their needs. So, when you go to buy an apple, you might choose between different species, such as gala, red delicious, or any one of the hundreds of species available in your local market, but you don’t choose a brand because they’re not available. The reasoning behind the decision to sell unbranded products is one of cost/ benefit. It costs money to build a brand, including advertising, packaging, and labeling. Companies spend money to build a brand only when the benefit outweighs the cost. In the case of commodity products, there just isn’t a sufficient basis for differentiation that might impact consumer choice. In other words, consumers think one apple is as good as another because they look and taste identical.
Meanwhile, other products are differentiated and branded because the brands are different from each other in a meaningful way to consumers. For instance, while green beans are sold without branding, canned green beans do benefit from branding as consumers see a difference across canned green bean brands in terms of quality, healthfulness, and taste. It’s important to note that these are subjective evaluations that might not bear any resemblance to objective differences between brands. Something I drill into my students’ heads is that perceptions drive purchase intentions while reality has no place in the discussion when it comes to consumers. The US and other developed nations are unique in the number of products differentiated through branding. For instance, products like sugar, salt, and flour are sold as commodities without differentiation in many countries.
Related to the concept of differentiation is the concept of segmentation. With segmentation, we’re talking about differentiation across consumers rather than products. That’s because different consumers face different wants, needs, and desires. In response, brands position their products to meet the needs, wants, and desires of a specific group or groups of consumers. By aligning their brands with a target market segment, a brand captures more of the demand from that segment because the products fit the group better.
Strengthen your brand
Think of a brand as your name. A brand name allows people to discover more about you by following you on social media or Googling your name. The same is true about branding. Consumers can discover all kinds of things about brands, including their associations, reviews, news accounts, and advertising messages that help them flesh out what a brand is.
Based on our prior discussion, you can see there are a number of tools that help to strengthen your brand, including:
- Improve your understanding of your target market’s wants, needs, and desires
- Craft marketing messages showing how your brand aligns with this target market not only in product features/ benefits but in company values
- Share your marketing message across multiple platforms where you find your target market, including social media, Internet search, and traditional advertising messaging platforms
- Ensure sufficient differentiation between your brand and those produced by your competition along attributes important for decision making by your target market
- Highlight your unique selling proposition over your competition
- Make sure everything associated with your brand reinforces the image you wish consumers to see
- Be consistent
Now that you have some idea of the ways you might use to strengthen your brand, here are some of the benefits that you might achieve when you make an effort:
1. Differentiate Your Products
A strong brand and a successful digital marketing strategy go hand in hand. In marketing, building a USP (unique selling proposition) and differentiating your products is crucial to gaining a competitive advantage, as we discussed in the earlier section. Building a solid brand with clearly defined features and benefits is the perfect way to make this happen. Building a strong brand by focusing on the unique qualities of your products will ultimately help you to increase sales and business thrive.
When you differentiate your products from those of the competition, you provide consumers with true choice among available options and they choose the option that best fits what they’re looking for.
2. Increased awareness of your business and products
A strong brand that’s marketed with a consistent message across both visual and textual elements makes your products more memorable in the eyes of your customers. As you consistently use the logo, tagline, and packaging, you increase your brand awareness among your target market. In the example you see below, Starbucks changed its logo over time, eventually removing the brand name from the logo to help it perform well in other countries as language impacts consumer acceptance that a brand is “for them”.
The perception of your brand is essential, and if you create a brand that appeals to your target market, you will find it captures their attention and encourages them to buy your products. Ensuring every element of your brand is tailored toward your target market and reflects their values will be a lot easier for you to attract more customers and speed up the process of brand awareness and recognition.
3. Build Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is when a customer chooses to buy the same brand over its competitors. Brand loyalty doesn’t always mean that consumers buy one brand to the exclusion of all other brands, especially in countries where there’s a lot of competition. Instead, they often exhibit a brand commitment or shared loyalty to a small group of brands they see as equivalent. For instance, a consumer might prefer Apple computers while choosing a Samsung phone over the iPhone. You also need to understand that external factors impact brand choice. For instance, a stockout might lead a consumer to choose an alternative brand with sufficient stock (an especially critical factor in these days of supply chain disruptions), or a price increase might lead consumers to choose a less expensive brand.
Regardless of the exact nature of brand loyalty, branding is a factor in the choice between brands. Brand loyalty develops for many reasons, such as customers enjoying the quality and feel of your products, believing in the values your brand represents, or simply because they like the aesthetic of your brand and the image it portrays. Below, you see the impact of values, for instance, on product choice.
4. Family branding
Family brands are like human families; they act as a shortcut to reflect the meaning behind the brand. If you’re a younger sibling, you probably had to work to show teachers and fellow students that you’re different from the siblings that came before you. If your siblings were studious and well-liked, you have a leg up, but the opposite is true if they were trouble makers. The same is true for family branding. You give your brand a built-in image by choosing to name your brands under a family umbrella, such as Ford Fiest, Ford F-150, etc. That can backfire when one product in the line fails and Ford faced years of challenges after the fiasco surrounding the Ford Pinto.
When you build a strong brand or strengthen your brand, you produce tangible benefits for your company. Among these benefits are better differentiation, greater awareness of your brand, improved brand loyalty, and a family to pull through other products within the family.
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