IntroductionA brand is a multi-faceted marketing element that positions a product positively in the minds of consumers. Brands are effectively the company’s foot soldiers out to win consumers in the marketing battlefield that is staged in the consciousness of consumers as Reis and Trout (1986) succinctly pointed out. The same authors earlier showed the value of branding to position a product in the markets (Reis & Trout 1981). Since the release of these books, nothing much has changed other than a more global landscape where the same branding strategies apply but with more immediate results thanks to the internet.
A brand is often perceived to be a name, a symbol or logo to identify a product and its maker. But more than this, a brand has a humanizing element that transforms marketing into perception-building (Haig, 2005) where values, culture, and emotions figure prominently in the choice of a product. It would be a grave error for marketers to view brands as merely a textual and visual identification of a product. A brand is a totality that includes what the product means to consumers, what it exudes and whether such perceptions create the need to acquire the product. It requires creativity artistry and marketing savvy to put all these together in a brand (Hornor 2011).
Advertising and Branding
Logos and Branding
Logos create the signature image for a brand that sticks in the mind of consumers. When people mention McDonald’s, the immediate mental image is that of yellow arches forming the letter “M” When people talk about Cupertino’s Apple products, the first thing that comes to mind is the apple fruit with the bite mark, and so on. Logos put a distinctive face and humanizes a brand (Klein 2000). The key is often simplicity as Adamson and Sorrel (2006) espoused. Simplicity takes out the clutter so that the symbolic significance of the message can create lasting and compelling perceptions - the main defining attribute that can endear a brand name in the minds of consumers. But logos are just the start in the branding process that covers just about every aspect of shaping consumer perception of the product. Branding can even allow marketers to advertise the brand even before the physical item is manufactured. And this leads us to say that branding is not necessarily the same as the product it brands.
The brand is not the product
Depending on the book or article one reads, branding is variously defined but one thread common is that it is marketing strategy that effectively dresses up a product so that it contains visual, emotional, cultural and symbolic content (Bautista 2006; Tuominen 1999). Even the visual aspects of a brand creating a trademark identity leads to a brand personality that humanizes the product with competent design evoking an emotional link with customer perceptions. Visual elements such as color, logo, typography, taglines, and images are triggers for such perceptions. Reis and Reis (2002) even made the choice of color among its immutable branding laws when they declared the “Law of Color” where a brand should use colors that are the opposite of its main competitor.
Another way to look at the difference is the persistence of the brand in the minds of consumers. The figure above shows four logos of coffee shop brands and one of them simply stands out – the familiar green logo from Starbucks. It probably didn’t matter that the logo had “Star Wars” in it, but the immediate recognition is there due to the strong persistence of the logo has on the mind.
How brand presentations affect the audience opinions
Brands have been known to make misimpressions due to wrong choices in typography, placement or choice of words in the brand name. However, it is not uncommon that some brands could deliberately manipulate customer perception through suggestive imagery.
One thing is clear - a brand is not the product (Haig 2003; Reis & Reis 2001; Klein 2000). Brands can last a lifetime; products do not. The iconic Colgate brand of toothpaste has lasted for decades, while the toothpaste itself can only last a few days depending on size and consumption. This is the simplest way to difference the two. It is this independence that allows branding designs to have the creative license to go beyond what the product or service delivers. Al and Laura Reis (2002) put it as one of the laws of branding when they said that difference between brands is not in the products behind them, but in the perceptions of the consumer. For instance, Rolex and Seiko watches are perfectly competent timepieces. But it is evident that branding has allowed one to exude prestige while the other could not, leading to a yawning price gap. Will a $150 Rolex watch succeed? It probably would sell like hotcakes considering the mystic associated with a Rolex brand on your wrist. After a while, a cheap Rolex effectively destroys this mystic along with the expensive ones. Why would a moneyed celebrity or royalty buy a Rolex when a mere office clerk can wear one?
Apple and IBM
Both of these computer brands have had their storied successes, with IBM lording over the corporate markets for the most part of the 20th century until today, while Apple taking the consumer markets by the turn of the 21st. But where IBM failed in the consumer markets, having given up its PC and home printers to Lenovo, Apple became the darling with its range of iPods, iPhones, Macs and iPads.