5. Advanced Branding – Much More Than a Trademark
Contrary to common belief, a trademark for a product or company is NOT a brand. A brand is much more than simply a trademark. A brand is a set of beliefs that a consumer holds about a company or a product that affects their buying decision. A brand is a communication tool a company uses to profit from the consumer’s perceptions about the company, product or service. The consumer’s perceptions and belief may or may not be based in fact and may even be far from the truth. Nevertheless, it is from our perceptions and beliefs about what is being sold that we make our buying decisions.
Companies can be brands, like Nike, Apple, McDonalds and Coca-Cola, or companies can own brands, like Jell-o (General Foods), Cheerios (General Mills) and Tide (Procter and Gamble). For the latter, the brand is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes, namely, its appearance, its quality, its name, its packaging, its reputation, its price, its history, and the way it’s advertised. A brand is defined by our own experience with the product and our impressions of people who use and/or endorse the product. A brand differentiates a product from all other competing products. A brand is not a name or a logo or a slogan, a motto or a mission statement. A brand is not a corporate identity program.
A brand is important to customers, employees, investors, regulators and the media, among others. Having a strong brand increases a company’s value in primarily four ways: 1) awareness, 2) loyalty, 3) associations, and 4) perceived quality. Working to establish the value of a brand not only increases a company’s own sales, it increases the company’s marketing efficiency, increases customer and partner loyalty, enhances competitive advantage and simplifies customer purchasing decisions.
Today, customers are demanding more from companies. It would appear that the price for entry into any market is that you have a high quality product at a reasonable cost. And most companies strive to keep up with their competitors through providing similar products and services at lower and lower prices. With all of the similarities in today’s markets, eliminate the need to compete by price alone by establishing recognized brands that evoke a desire in customers to purchase the company’s products regardless the price. Sell something much more than your competitors by creating a brand through all aspects of the customer’s experience with your company.
Establishing a brand is an involved process that requires strategic planning and much thought into what the brand for your company or product will be. Successful brand development takes much more explanation than can be provided here, but here are some introductory suggestions:
- Discover your own brand identity through customer research, internal surveys and review of marketing messages.
- Determine your market and ideal customers.
- Identify the realities, limitations, obstacles of your market and customers.
- Uniquely define yourself – don’t let your competition define you.
- Don’t just brand your company as the best of the best, brand your company as the only one who does what you do.
- Show customers that you stand for something.
- Ask yourself:
- Who are we?
- How are we unique?
- Who are our competitors?
- How are we different from our competitors?
- Test your results on your business partners.
- Choose your “Real” brand – What makes you want to come to work every day?
- Implement the brand throughout all aspects of your business and marketing. All employees, all the time. Make the myth a reality.
By planning for brand success through organization and understanding of branding, companies can significantly increase the value of their trademarks. Federal registration is an important step in the process so that competitors can be stopped from benefiting from your work in establishing a brand. Unless there is significant value in the brand, however, the incentive to defend the trademark is comparatively small.