What is a Brand?:

Before we begin, let me clarify a common misconception.

Branding is NOT the same as Marketing.

Although they have similar characteristics and both are focused on achieving similar goals, they are very much different in how and when they should be used.

Here are just a few examples to help you understand the difference:

  • Marketing is how something is achieved, while Branding is why something is created.
  • Marketing focuses on short-term results, but Branding is focused on long-term goals.
  • Marketing defines the tactics of how something is done, while Branding defines the trajectory of where it will go.
  • Marketing is the reason someone first buys, and Branding is the reason someone continues to buy.
  • Marketing generates an immediate response, while Branding Builds loyalty over time.
  • Marketing is the process of doing, while Branding is how a company exists.
  • Marketing will acquire the customer, but Branding is what keeps the customer.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, and you are clear on how branding and marketing are different, let’s take a look at a few other things that a brand is not.

A brand is not your logo, it is not your products, it’s not your tagline, it is not your promise to the customer, and it’s not what you say about your brand.

Your brand is the perception of your business within the minds of your customers. It is what they say you are, not what you say you are.

So instead of telling people what your brand is, and what you want your brand to become, you need to define your messaging, your values, your personality, and your visual identity, in such a way that it creates a specific emotional response in the customer.

It is that emotional response, and how it is then authentically articulated and shared by your customers, that will become your brand.

Brand Functions

Let’s begin by discussing the 3 brand functions that are necessary for a brand to get noticed and begin to build a community.

Without these vital functions your brand will fail to stand out, build awareness, or attract new customers.

The first vital brand function is NAVIGATION.

Properly positioning your brand in the marketplace is critical to the success of your business and helps consumers choose from the variety of choices.

Brand positioning is how you differentiate your brand from the competition by creating a distinctive offering.

Strategic brand positioning involves creating brand associations in customers’ minds to make them perceive the brand in a specific way.

When implemented properly, brand positioning will influence consumer loyalty, increase the willingness to make a purchase, and increase brand equity.

For example:

Are you a luxury brand or a budget brand?
Are your products provocative or conservative?
Are your customers Indulgent or Practical?

In an upcoming module, I will help you define your business and show you how to target your ideal audience, so you can properly position your brand in the marketplace.

But for now, here are 6 reasons how positioning your brand attracts new customers, clarifies your purpose, and differentiates your brand from the competition.

  1. Positioning creates Positive Brand Associations, which means customers perceive it as favorable, different, and credible. These associations are critical to achieving customer preference and customer loyalty.
  2. Positioning Differentiates Your Brand from the competition. It will help to communicate value and justify pricing.
  3. Positioning Boosts Brand Awareness and makes your brand more memorable to customers. When your brand is constantly in the minds of the customers, they are more likely to select it when comparing their options.
  4. Positioning Facilitates Purchase Decisions because it builds trust and takes the guesswork out of the purchasing process.
  5. When you position your brand in front of the customer, it will Dictate Pricing Power by clearly establishing your brand’s value and making the customer more likely to pay a premium price over a less effectively positioned competitor.
  6. Proper brand positioning will Clarify Your Message, allowing you to craft a consistent, compelling narrative across all brand touchpoints.

The second vital Brand Function is REASSURANCE.

This is ‘WHY’ someone should do business with you.

You know why your company is great, but do your potential customers know what sets your brand apart, and makes it better?

You need to demonstrate the value and quality of your products and services so customers are confident they have made the right choice.

This is your promise of value to be communicated and delivered to the customer.

This value proposition should be convincing and explain the benefits of why your product or service is more valuable than similar offerings from the competition.

Describing these benefits quickly and in an easily understandable way will help make an immediate positive impression on your customers.

Here are 6 tips to help you define an effective value proposition.

  1. Be concise and easy to understand.
  2. Define and explain with confidence what you do .
  3. Make it easy for someone to find you, either online or offline.
  4. Explain how your product solves a problem or resolves a pain point.
  5. Display your value proposition prominently on your website, marketing campaigns, and all your touchpoints.
  6. Answer this question: “If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you instead of any of your competitors?”

And the final of the 3 vital Brand Functions is ENGAGEMENT

This is how a brand uses distinctive imagery, language, and messaging to identify the brand to the customer.

How you engage with your audience is considered your Brand Strategy.

A properly developed brand strategy defines the how, what, where, when and to whom the brand plans to communicate.

Your brand strategy should be segmented into six distinct parts:

  1. Your Purpose, which is the core of your brand.
  2. Your Audience, or who your ideal customers are.
  3. Your Competition, who also does what you do.
  4. Your Messaging, this is how you speak to your customers.
  5. Your Visual Identity, which is how your brand is expressed visually.
  6. Your Touchpoints, which are the places where you engage with your audience.

Brand Ideals

In addition to the 3 vital Brand Functions, every brand should have a set of Brand Ideals that they uphold in everything they do.

Brand ideals are the higher purpose of a brand and go beyond a company’s products or services.

These ideals become the reason why customers purchase in the first place and hopefully become loyal brand advocates.

The first of these ideals is the Brand Vision.

A brand’s Vision is often initiated by an effective and passionate leader who is able to articulate how the future should look and how the brand will evolve.

A brand’s vision is sustained by individuals who have the ability to imagine what others cannot see. They possess the tenacity to deliver what they believe is possible, when others may see it as impossible.

As a result, leaders who take the time to share their most audacious dreams and challenges, often inspire not only their internal team, but also the purchasing decisions of the consumer.

While a Brand Vision is a look into the future at what a brand inspires to become, the second brand ideal is a Brands Meaning.

This is why a brand even exists in the first place.

It could be a big idea, a strategic position, a set of values, a reason for being, or a common cause.

A brand’s Meaning becomes more powerful over time with frequent use and exposure.

People will begin to relate and connect to what the brand stands for, which increases brand equity and loyalty.

The next brand ideal is Brand Authenticity.

Authenticity is defined as when a person’s actions are consistent with their beliefs and desires, despite external pressures to conform.

When you know what your brand stands for, and it’s core purpose, you will make decisions that support those beliefs.

Remember, your brand can’t be everything to everyone.

All you can do is be true and consistent about your brand’s purpose and who your brand is for.

Think about it this way. You can’t promote your business as a budget brand to a large audience one day, then turn around the following month and define your business as a luxury brand to a completely different audience.

People will immediately become confused about what your brand stands for and question your authenticity.

Consumers will identify and engage with messaging and a belief system that is memorable and perceived as authentic.

Whenever a customer experiences a brand, it should feel familiar and they should immediately be aware of the desired effect or the outcome they will receive.

Therefore you must also establish coherence and consistency with your brand strategy.

Being consistent, especially with your visual identity, will unify your brand and build trust, loyalty, and familiarity with your customers.

However, while you want to create consistency within your brand, you actually want to do the opposite when it comes to your competition.

Brands are constantly competing with each other within their business category, and at some level, compete with all brands that want our attention, our loyalty, and of course our money.

The question you should be asking yourself is …
Why should people choose your brand over the competition?

To help separate your brand from the competition, you must demonstrate brand ideal number 4, Differentiation.

This ideal makes it easier for customers to understand what makes you special, and more valuable.

Another question to ask yourself when defining your brand ideals is …
If your brand suddenly didn’t exist, would anyone miss it?

Now, I want to be clear and make sure that you’re aware that the brand strategy that you will be developing is not meant to be a completely rigid set of rules.

Yes, you will need to be consistent with your brand to build awareness, and avoid confusion, but you must also have Flexibility within your brand so you can position your company for change and growth in the future.

The marketplace is consistently evolving, and your brand must be able to quickly and easily make adjustments to seize new opportunities.

A carefully designed balance between control and creativity will make it possible to maintain brand standards while allowing the ability for change when it’s necessary.

While we are on the topic of future growth in your brand, this is the perfect time to address the next brand ideal, which is Longevity.

After all, you want your business to continue to thrive and grow for many many years, right?

To achieve longevity you must build consumer trust.

Brands who are able to stay the course through times of change and uncertainty are able to rely on a foundation of consumer trust.

These are the brands that will survive and be successful, regardless of the ever changing marketplace.

When developing your brand strategy it’s not a one and done process.

It takes Commitment to actively manage, protect, preserve, nurture, and enhance your brand assets to ensure it’s integrity and relevance.

You must constantly be engaging with your audience and your team.

The best companies provide their employees with tools that make it easy to be a champion of the brand.

And finally, the last of the brand ideals is Value.

Building awareness, increasing recognition, communicating uniqueness and quality, and expressing a competitive difference provides measurable results.

All this hard work and dedication creates Value in your brand that you must continue to uphold throughout the life of your business.

Brand Equity

Next up in learning the basics of branding is Brand Equity.

I’ve already mentioned that your brand will become your company’s most valuable asset.

Well, brand equity can be considered your brand’s monetary value and actually determines the worth of your brand.

It’s measured by the level of influence a brand has in the minds of consumers.

Organizations establish brand equity by creating positive experiences that entice consumers to continue purchasing from them instead of the competition.

Well-known brands who have established significant brand equity can generate revenue simply from brand recognition alone.

Consumers perceive the products of well-known brands as better than those of lesser-known brands.

There are 8 key drivers that build on brand equity.

If you focus on these attributes, over time your brand will indeed become your company’s most valuable asset.

Brand Equity Driver #1: Brand Familiarity

This refers to the amount of time that is required to process information about a brand, regardless of the how or where the consumer came into contact with the brand. Brand familiarity is the most basic form of consumer knowledge.

Brand Equity Driver #2: Brand Personality

A brand’s personality is simply a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand. This personality is something a customer can relate to. Brands increase equity by having a consistent set of traits that a specific consumer segment enjoys.

Brand Equity Driver #3: Brand Association

Brand associations are the attributes of a brand which are present in the mind of the consumer.

Brands should associate themselves with something positive so that the customers relate your brand to being positive.

Brand Equity Driver #4: Brand Availability

Mental availability is when customers are thinking about your brand and are aware of how they can access it either online or online.

Brand availability refers to the distribution of your product or service, and how they can be quickly and easily found through multiple channels and devices 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Brand Equity Driver #5: Brand Preference

Preference simply means when a consumer chooses a specific company’s product or service over other equally priced and available options. Brand preference is a reflection of customer loyalty, successful marketing tactics, and brand strengths.

Brand Equity Driver #6: Brand Awareness

Also referred to as Brand Recognition, Brand Awareness is the extent to which a consumer can correctly identify a particular product or service just by viewing the product or service’s logo, tag line, packaging, messaging, or advertising campaign. Brand recognition can also be triggered via an audio cue, such as a jingle or theme song associated with a brand.

Brand Equity Driver #7: Brand Consistency

Consistency is the delivery of brand messaging in line with the brand identity, values, and strategy over time. Consistency means your target audience is being exposed to core messages, visual branding, and other brand elements repeatedly, which can help to solidify brand recognition.

Brand Equity Driver #8: Brand Loyalty

This refers to a consumers positive feelings towards a brand and their dedication to purchase the same product or service repeatedly, regardless of a competitor’s actions or changes in the environment.

Brand Architecture

To close this out, let’s talk about Brand Architecture.

Specifically what brand architecture is, why it’s important, and what type of structure may be best for your organization.

Brand Architecture is how a single company structures its hierarchy of individual brands, subsidiary companies, products, and services under the main corporate umbrella or parent brand.

This strategy of organizing the relationships between sub-brands and products enables an organization to target many different customers by developing a variety of brands using different names, colors, imagery, logos, promises, positions and personality traits.

Even though each sub brand or product may be very different, they will retain elements of the parent brand strategy.

Maintaining consistency in these elements is important to retain the focus and strength of the parent brand, which will help the entire company grow.

Effective brand architecture includes an integrated system of similar visual elements like logos, symbols, colors, and imagery as well as a common voice and messaging to build upon the brand equity already established with the consumer.

These similarities are important because they are the key to solidifying your brand in the customer’s mental organization and how they conceptualize your business and products to satisfy their needs.

The positive experiences and brand equity that a parent brand has established with the consumer will automatically transfer to all products and sub brands.

For example, If a customer has an existing relationship with a parent brand, they are much more likely to try one of its sub-brands.

There are a few different types of brand architecture to choose from.

The one that is best for you will be based on your specific company and the products or services you offer.

Take the time to evaluate which of the following brand architecture strategies is best to support future growth in your business.

The first is a Monolithic Brand Architecture.

This is characterized by a strong, single master brand. Customers make choices based on brand loyalty.

Examples of monolithic brands are:

  • Google + Google Maps
  • FedEx + FedEx Office
  • Virgin + Virgin Mobile
  • Apple + iMac
  • Harley Davidson + Soft-Tail

The second is Endorsed Brand Architecture.

This is characterized by marketing synergy between the product or sub brand and the parent.

The product or sub brand has a clearly defined market presence, and benefits from the association, endorsement, and visibility of the parent.

Examples of endorsed brands are:

  • Residence Inn + Marriott
  • iPad + Apple
  • Polo + Ralph Lauren
  • Oreo + Nabisco
  • Navy Seals + Navy
  • Kelloggs + Corn Flakes
  • Honda + Accord

The third type of architecture is a Pluralistic Brand Architecture.

This structure is characterized by a series of well-known consumer brands. The name of the parent may be either invisible or irrelevant to the consumer.

Examples of pluralistic brands are:

  • Cadillac (General Motors)
  • Godiva (Yildiz Holdings)
  • Hellmann’s Mayonnaise (Unilever)
  • Kleenex (Kimberly Clark)
  • Elmers (Newell Brands)
  • Gerber (Nestle)

Now that we know what brand architecture is and the type that may be best for your business, here are 5 benefits to why you should implement a hierarchy of sub-brands or products within your organization.

Benefit Number 1: Brand Architecture Better Segments of Your Audience:

Structuring a proper architecture within your business and across all your brands or products will allow you to target their individual needs.

All of the products or brands within your organization may not be intended for the exact same demographic.

Therefore, creating a sub brand within your main parent brand strategy provides you the benefit of marketing each or your individual offerings differently to various audiences.

Benefit Number 2: Brand Architecture Reduces Your Marketing Costs:

Building a brand architecture will allow you to run campaigns more efficiently.

Plus, it creates opportunities to cross-promote between brands, making your marketing more effective as well.

Benefit Number 3: Brand Architecture Articulates Your Position and Message:

Developing structure to your organization is similar to performing a brand refresh because through the process you will gain more clarity into your brand.

As your business matures, a modular and intuitive brand architecture makes it easier to add brands, products or services in the future.

Benefit Number 4: Brand Architecture Increases Customer Experience and Awareness:

Each of the sub brands or products will pull equity from the main parent brand, while providing the parent brand the power of diversification by highlighting the unique strengths of its distinct sub-brands.

Benefit Number 5: Brand Architecture Increases Brand Equity:

What all these benefits create is more brand equity for your company and a strategic competitive advantage over the competition.

And as we’ve already learned, increasing your brand’s equity compounds your returns and solidifies your brand as an authority.

To continue your training, please be sure to download the FREE Brand Builder Toolbox and complete the Action Guide.

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Chris
Chris McCarthy is a designer, creative director, brand strategist, consultant, business coach and the founder of Brand Identified. Contact Me.

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