What is Brand and Branding? Concepts, Characteristics

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Introduction to Brand

More and more firms and other organizations have come to the realization that one of their most valuable assets is the brand name associated with their products or services. When a marketer creates a new name, logo or symbol for a new product he or she has created a brand.

It is a truth now universally acknowledged that a company with powerful brands succeeds in the marketplace. Branding has been around for centuries as a means to distinguish the goods of one producer from those of another.

What is a Brand?

According to American Marketing Association (AMA) a brand is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition”.

A brand in short is an identifier of the seller or the maker. A brand name consists of words, letters and/or numbers that can be vocalized. A brand mark is the visual representation of the brand like a symbol, design, distinctive colouring or lettering. Mercedes Benz is a brand name and the star with it is a brand mark.

Essentially, a brand is a promise of the seller to deliver a specific set of benefits or attributes or services to the buyer. Each brand represents a level of quality. Irrespective of the fact from whom the brand is purchased, this level of quality can be expected of the brand. A brand is much more complex. Apart from attributes and benefits, it also reflects values.


Evolution of Brands

Brands start off as products made out of certain ingredients. Over a period of time, brands are built through marketing activities and communications. They keep on acquiring attributes, core values and extended values.

Branding makes it easier for consumers to identify products and services. Brands ensure a comparable quality when products are repurchased. Brands simplify a consumer’s shopping. Choosing a commodity is far more complex than choosing a brand. The firms find that brands can be advertised. The firms also get the advantage of recognition when brands are on the shelves of the retailers.

There is no confusion between branded products amongst consumers. Branding makes price comparisons difficult. Good brands help build a corporate image. Branding gives added prestige to the marketer. Branding also gives legal protection to the seller. Brand loyalty protects a firm against competition. Branding enables a seller to segment the market.

The distributors prefer branding as an identification tool for vendors, as a convenient tool to handle the products. These are some of the factors which encourage the sellers to brand their products.

Evolution of Brands-Summary

Brand evolution has interesting history. In ancient Roman and Greek society,
shopkeepers hung pictures above their shops of the products they sold. There was a
high degree of illiteracy in those days, the pictorial representation did help the buyers.

Each retailer then started developing symbols to represent his speciality. This led to
the development of brand logos. Logos are short-hand devices indicating capability of
a brand. The trend is continuous even now.

In medieval times, craftsmen put their marks on products to indicate the skills which went in to making them. Branding based on the reputations of craftsmen has existed over the centuries. Thus suppliers started distinguishing themselves. Branding was used as a guarantee of the source of the product.

Later it came to be used for legal protection against copying and imitation. Trademarks now include works, symbols and package design, and are registerable.

Branding was associated with the mark put on cattle by red hot iron as a proof of ownership, and this must have influenced Oxford English Dictionary’s lexical meaning of a brand as an indelible mark as proof of ownership, as a sign of quality or for any other purpose. Ranchers in the old west used brands to identify their cattle.

As fencing was not invented, this was the only way to mark their valuable property. Brands thus became differentiating devices, and remain so even today. They identify the products of one seller or group and competitors. Brands can be a name, term, sign, symbol or design or any combination of them.

Classical brand management developed in the retail grocery stores. Manufacturer – retailer relationship underwent transformation in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Wholesalers were a dominant force then. Manufacturers sold unbranded products to the wholesalers and had little contact with the retailers. But technological advances enabled manufacturer to mass produce goods in anticipation of demand.

They questioned their reliance on wholesalers. They tried to protect their investment by branding their products, and by patenting them. They tried to bypass the wholesalers by advertising these brands directly to the consumers. Advertising then focused on creating awareness of a brand, emphasising its reliability, and guaranteeing that branded goods were of a consistent quality.

Manufacturers also began to appoint their own salesmen to deal directly with the retailers. All this happened by the second half of the 19th century.

The power shifted from the wholesalers to the manufacturers thanks to the branding process. Manufacturers took efforts to create brand awareness, and to make their brands different from those of the competitors. They also strove to maintain a consistent quality level. Brands came to have three dimensions- differentiation, legal protection and functional communication.

After the World War II, the consumers hankered after the goods which were short since resources were diverted to the war efforts. People started life afresh and wanted security. Family provisions were a desirable objective. It augured well for the manufacturers. Many of today’s great brands emerged in this period. Brand management became a respectable subject.

In the last century, brands came to acquire an emotional dimension also. They made personality statements and represented buyer moods.


Concept of a Brand

A successful brand is a conglomerate of the marketing resources, and represents valuable marketing assets. It provides an income stream in future. The buyer or the user decides the ultimate value of a brand. We may communicate the added values to our target audience, but their perception is such that it fits their prior beliefs.

Marketers start the branding process. Buyers develop the mental image of a brand. It may or may not tally with the marketing thrust.

Brand by definition identifies a product in its broad sense, and the product being branded is augmented so as to receive unique added values which are perceivably relevant to the buyer or user. Brands offer a bundle of benefits, which are conveniently classified in to those satisfying buyer’s rational and emotional needs.

Brand can be considered in terms of four levels: Generic: It is the commodity level which satisfies the basic needs such as transportation. It is so easy to imitate a generic product. A brand continues to add values so as to reach the expected level. Expected: A generic is modified to satisfying some minimum buying conditions such as functional performance, pricing, availability etc.

Augmented: Brand is refined further by adding non-functional values along with the functional ones. We may direct advertising to the social prestige, the possessor of the brand is likely to enjoy. Potential: As brands evolve, we become more critical. Creativity plays an important role to grow up the brand to its full potential. If no creative effort is taken, there is danger of the brand relapsing to its augmented or expected level.


Characteristics of Brands

Brand can be considered in terms of four levels:

Generic

It is the commodity level which satisfies the basic needs such as transportation. It is so easy to imitate a generic product. A brand continues to add values so as to reach the expected level.

Expected

A generic is modified to satisfying some minimum buying conditions such as functional performance, pricing, availability etc.

Augmented

Brand is refined further by adding non-functional values along with functional ones. We may direct advertising to the social prestige, the possessor of the brand is likely to enjoy.

Potential

As brands evolve, we become more critical. Creativity plays an important role to grow up the brand to its full potential. If no creative effort is taken, there is danger of the brand relapsing to its augmented or expected level.


Branding Today

We have already examined the evolution of brands. Brands have a very large scope. Branding only for visibility is not a correct approach. Brands have been classified into several categories depending on their role in advertising. At one extreme we have simple brands associated with advertisement slogans. At the other extreme, we have structured branding in which certain objects represent a product.

Brands, according to Langmaid and Gordon, move from simple verbal to aural to visual association to branding devices to symbols, to analogies, to metaphors, to tone of voice and ultimately to structure. Brands are treated as perceptions in the consumers’ mind. In the purchase process, consumers seek values of the brand’s capability. They evaluate a brand perceptually against criteria such as reliability, feel-good factor, superiority to other competitive brands etc. A brand once marketed is the domain of the consumer.

A well branded product adopts a personality of its own. Packaging can have important brand equity benefits for a company. Often, one of the strongest associations that consumers have with a brand relates to the look of its packaging. Structural packaging innovations can build or reinforce valuable brand associations. New packages can also expand a market and capture new market segments.


Brand Management Topics


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