Brand, branding, brand names, brand awareness. What does it all mean and why does it exist? In today’s society we all share the common agreement that the average consumer in general is being bombarded with brand messaging of epic proportions. So why is it so important to always be ‘on brand’ as a business now more than ever?
Brands are used to represent a product or service in its most simplistic form. In meat production, cattle are ‘branded’ with a hot iron to distinguish one farmer’s cattle from another’s. The reputation built from the perceived quality and perceived value of livestock from a consumer perspective directly determines the consumer’s perceived understanding of who the farmer is and what they stand for.
Founders of businesses, big or small, know what their businesses stand for and who they are, as it is the psychological foundation and reasoning as to why they want to pass what they have out to the world. This value placed upon themselves is one that must be marketed in such a way that each consumer coming into contact with the business must ‘understand’ what is being said to them is true. Whether it is that the brand stands for exceptional service, remarkable quality and value for money or any other way it wishes to differentiate itself, it ultimately comes down to the consumers perceived outlook on that ‘brand’. Spelt simply, here is an explanation of branding:
1. Your business communicates to your potential consumers through marketing; “we deliver the most exclusive service”
2. Through public relations, your business uses third party endorsement to say to your potential consumer; “They (you) deliver the most exclusive service”
3. Your business uses advertising to bombard the potential consumer with message; “WE DELIVER THE MOST EXCLUSIVE SERVICE!” “WE DELIVER THE MOST EXCLUSIVE SERVICE!” “WE DELIVER THE MOST EXCLUSIVE SERVICE!”
4. Your potential consumer eventually comes to you in the mindset of “I understand that you deliver the most exclusive service?”
During this initial interaction, your brand values must meet or exceed the perceived values of the prospective consumer (i.e. your service levels are better than what they were expecting). This must be shown in such a way that the said consumer will be aware of your brand first and foremost amongst competitors, be loyal to your brand, associate your brand with elements attributable to their own lives (i.e. style, quality) and find that their perception of quality on your product / service exceeds those already present in the consumers mind. When present within the consumers mind, this forms the foundation of equity within your brand, otherwise known as brand equity.
So if the driver of brand equity is the consumer’s relationship with your brand, so what happens when a consumer’s beliefs, values, expectations and habits change over time? Is it not essential that your brand must also change to suit these variables? Brand evolution is the key in ensuring the founded brand values at the core of any business change to reflect on how your business is currently positioned. Social media is highlighting how fluid brands are, and how audiences control and shape them. So in addition to design, it’s important to invest in an online presence for your brand; one that matches your brand’s current values.
Jason from one of Australia’s leading online marketing websites sums it up quite simply in 4 easy steps in ensuring your brand stays top of mind.
1. Great brands represent values – “From font to colour palette, match your branding with the key value you want customers to perceive. JB Hi-Fi for example is about ‘bargain prices’, and they use a strong visual signature with bold colours and a lot of handwriting to emphasise the bargain basement persona”.
2. Great brands offer connection – “To help them (the consumer), your brand must work to differentiate your products from your competitors. A useful exercise can be to imagine your brand as a car. Mercedes, for example, says ‘class’, Volvo says ‘safety’ while Toyota says ‘reliability’”.
3. Great brands are memorable – “What makes a memorable brand? Again, simplicity helps. Often, it’s simply a colour or a scheme (think Cadbury’s purple or NAB’s red and black). Sometimes it’s a slogan ‘Lowest prices are just the beginning’ or ‘Eat Fresh”.
4. Great brands evolve! – “Ask yourself, is your brand suffering a hangover from when your business was something else?”
Summing up, brand goes much further than a simple design element. The best brands ensure they know how their consumers are changing (in their market due to macro pressures and within their own lives) and how they must evolve both visually and psychologically to ensure they remain top of mind. The Ford logo evolution image is an example of how an iconic vehicle manufacturer has evolved their brand and positioning over time. When was the last time you had a good look at your brand?