Articles

What Is A Brand?

A brand is the personality of a business.

By: Nancy Marino
Chief Development Officer, The MonarchFx Alliance

Logos

Believe it or not, one of the questions often asked by clients is, “What is a Brand?” There is an enormous amount of confusion as to what a brand is.

Most consumer products are identified in two ways either by a name associated with the manufacture, such as Sony or Nike, or by a name associated with a store in which the product is sold, such as Victoria’s Secret or Macy’s INC. Consumers link certain characteristics, such as price, quality, styling, and reliability to product names.

However, in all of the confusion around the concept of what constitutes a brand, it seems like a simple question, but the answer is anything but simple. If the consumer is confused about what the brand stands for, the result is a lack of brand integrity and brand persona.

What Is A Brand?

Any good semantic exploration should start in the dictionary with our basic understanding of the word:

“A brand can be any noun (person, place, or thing) that needs someone else to take action (purchase, promote, advocate, and so on). A brand does this by creating a series of ideas and touch points that build a larger message which draws the desired party close, engages them emotionally, and inspires them to take action”.

Brand name merchandise is identified by a name and / or symbol associated with certain product characteristics. Lucky Brand, Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, and Gucci are all brands. Certain product characteristics are associated with each brand, Lucky Brand (Trend), Levi’s (Moderate Price), Ralph Lauren (Style), and Gucci (Prestige).

Their geographic range of distribution classifies brands and is defined by their shopping preference, popular price – mass merchants, moderate price – department stores, and higher price – luxury specialty retailers. Consumers recognize products and presentations relating to their specific needs and gravitate towards those brands.

A brand is the emotional and psychological relationship that it has with its’ customers. It is the idea or image of a specific product or service that the consumer identifies with the brand, the personality of the brand.

Think of a brand as a persona and what attributes make up this personality:

  • How does it wear – quality?
  • Who and what does it epitomize – design?
  • How does it communicate – positioning?
  • Who does it associate with – target market segment?
  • Is it well known – brand awareness?

The personality of a brand varies distinctly between businesses. Ralph Lauren –Premium lifestyle products for home and apparel. Toyota – High quality reliable vehicles and innovative service. The MonarchFx Alliance – Consistent reliable delivery services.

Why Is It Important To Define What A Brand Is?

Branding

Competition for consumer dollars is fierce. Brands are a tool that product developers and retailers use to drive repeat business. A brand is the cumulative image of a business, product, or service communicated to consumers through a distinctive name, sign, or symbol. Consumers associate with a particular brand because it offers an overall experience or value that is unique and indefinable. A brand is a competitive strategy used to distinguish and market the brand though the development of product, advertising, and promotions. This strategy is organized around a coherent and consistent message that encourages sales, driving an emotional connection with the consumer.

A brand has value based on how well it is known and the sales that it generates. Increasing and sustaining brand power and brand equity is vital for corporations, retailers, and designers. It is important to consider what a brand is and what it is not.

A brand can be a:

  • Business — Addidas, Apple, Gap
  • Product — Echo, iPod, Oculus Rift
  • Organization — Humane Society, Girl Scouts
  • Person – Sports Professional, Celebrities
  • Places — Communities, Cities, or Countries

A brand is not just:

  • A logo
  • A slogan, mission, positioning statement, or credo
  • What website copy says
  • How employees engage customers online and off
  • What is posted on social media sites, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.

A brand in fact is all of these factors and more, working together in concert. These are the aforementioned touch points that define the personality of what a brand is and what it is all about. It is important to understand that the brand that is consistent in clearly communicating its’ personality and image, which comes from the sum of all of the touch points, or the sum of its parts, is successful. Brands are “gestalt principles” in action.

We Do Business With Brands We Know, Like, And Trust.

This tried and true expression has guided marketers for decades, helping align organizational beliefs with actions. However, like most popular axioms, it is easy to nod along at these words, without fully internalizing their meaning. Impacting the success of a brand are digital tools, such as social media and content marketing, which have changed every aspect of how we build brands online and off.

Brand equity is defined, as a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand name and symbol, which add to or subtract, from the value provided by a product or service. Connecting “brand” to the concepts of “equity” and “assets” has radically changed the marketing function, enabling it to expand beyond strategic tactics and get a seat at the executive table.

Brand equity has four dimensions, including brand loyalty, brand awareness, brand associations, and perceived quality; each providing value to a firm in numerous ways. Once a brand identifies the value of brand equity, it can follow a roadmap to manage its’ potential value. Brand equity translates into premium pricing. With social media being more important to a brand than ever before, when integrated with offline strategies, helps to foster brand devotion and stimulates customer relationships. There is a reason why Tiffany & Co.’s blue box has been around for so long, it means something to its’ customers.

The Brand Equity Outline:

  • Brand Loyalty
    • Reduced marketing costs – brand recognition.
    • Attracting new customers via awareness and reassurance.
    • Ability to respond to competitive threats.
    • Its’ core values and what the brand stands for are relatable.
  • Brand Awareness
    • Anchor to which other associations can be attached.
    • Familiarity which leads to liking – brand perception.
    • Visibility that helps gain consideration.
    • Signal of commitment – brand expectation.
    • Customer experience of what the brand promise is.
  • Brand Associations Including, Perceived Quality
    • Helps communicate information.
    • Differentiate / Position – brand persona.
    • Reason-to-Buy – brand promise.
    • Create positive attitude / feelings – brand elements.
    • Basis for extensions – licensing potential.

Brand Equity Outline

The introduction of brand loyalty was and is still controversial, when you buy a brand or place a value on it, the loyalty of the customer base is often the asset most prized. It makes financial sense to include it. When managing a brand, the inclusion of brand loyalty as a part of the brand’s equity allows marketers to justify giving it priority in the brand-building budget. The strongest brands have that priority.

Another aspect of the definition of brand equity is the belief that brand equity also provides value to customers. It enhances the customer’s ability to interpret and process information, improves confidence in their purchase decision, and affects the quality of the user experience. The fact that it provides value to customers makes it easier to justify in a brand-building budget. This concept provides a perspective of brand equity as one of the major components of how Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is used to invent new brand strategies and creative execution, incorporating a mix of advertising, public relations, publicity, sales promotion, special events, and interactive direct and viral marketing.

Branding

Summary Points:

  • Branded merchandise is identified by a name and / or symbol that consumers associate with certain product characteristics such as price, quality, fit, styling, design, persona, and prestige.
  • Consumer purchases are brand-driven when clear distinctions exist among competing brands and when the distinctive characteristics are important to the consumer.
  • Brands are extended by the addition of related products or product lines. Licensing is a form of brand extension, utilized by a brand to create a life style experience, such as Burberry, DKNY, Calvin Klein, etc.
  • Private label merchandise is exclusive to a retailer’s product mix and affords a retailer an opportunity for higher profit margins or to create a total experience, which is a vertically integrated brand, such as the Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Express, Apple, Talbots, Men’s Warehouse, etc.