Artefact’s Introduction to Branding

O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz
My Friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends
O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

Branding is one of the most crucial aspects of marketing. The importance of effective branding cannot be overstated. Good brands are often the biggest – sometimes the only – differentiator between products. An obvious signature of a brand is a name and /or logo, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many companies invest huge resources in developing their brands – often more than they put into developing their products. Think of the cola marketing wars, the Nike check mark. Nike does not manufacture running shoes – that’s all contracted out – it brands and markets them.

Brand is a big concept. It is about the whole set of attitudes, values and reputation your name conveys. It communicates the essence of the company. It is managed carefully and communicated in a range of ways. Your branding effort is the net effect of promises, statements about yourself, images and impressions you deliberately put out in the market place. It is not the same as the company’s image which can include negative perceptions about things like, say, pollution you are held to be responsible for. Causing is not part of your branding. However, if you are working hard to minimise pollution and are ensuring that everyone knows that you are environmentally friendly, that is part of your branding.

A strong brand is a very valuable asset, so much so that in many cases the brand has a financial value attributed to it on some corporate balance sheets. Familiarity leads to feelings of connectedness. People who feel they know you are more likely to deal with you than with someone they don’t know.

You walk into a store on a hot day looking for a can of cola. In the cooler there are some cans of Coca Cola side by side with some cans of Bill Hick’s Country Cola. The Coca Cola is more expensive by 10 pence. The storekeeper tells you that there’s really no difference between the two – he’s held blind tastings and no-one can tell the difference! Most often, you’ll pay the extra for the ‘real thing’. You know the product, the dependability, the taste, the reputation, the advertising. You know there’s a big corporation standing behind it. You know that everyone goes for it. There’s only one ‘Coke’! Bill Hick’s Country Cola may be a terrific brew but why risk it when you know the brand you want is there for you? That’s the power of branding.

Online brands have rapidly become established to the point where some are household names. Think of Yahoo and Amazon. If I want to buy a book I’ll most likely head straight for Amazon or Barnes and Noble. They may or may not be the best on inventory, price and service – but they certainly have the strongest brands. I feel confident that the item will ship pretty efficiently, that I won’t be the victim of credit card fraud, that I won’t get the wrong item due to incompetence. That’s brand – it’s not just the name but what the name says about the people you will be dealing with, the value, the consistency.

Your brand does not have to be a huge mass-market brand. You may have a niche product or service aimed a select market. Have you heard of Kindle? No? Well, if you were in the market for banking system software you would be well aware of that company and you would know it as a top brand in its field. It has built a name for sophistication, expertise, track record, professionalism. Here’s the important point – they didn’t do it by massive advertising but by the quality of their product and their effectiveness at communicating and delivering that product to their chosen market.

So there’s more than one way to build a brand. In fact a lot of effort in many different directions goes into building any successful brand. If you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk your customers experience what is called ‘cognitive dissonance’ – that’s a psychologist’s way of saying that they’re hearing one thing about your product but their experience of it does not match up – and they don’t like that so they don’t like you and they won’t be back for more!

With the technology and knowledge available nowadays it’s relatively easy to replicate a competitor’s successful product in a short space of time. You can match his price too if that’s what it takes. If he gets the jump on you in terms of delivery time or service quality you can take some rapid measures to catch up. BUT – if your competitor is better regarded than you are, if he has a better all around reputation – in short a better brand image, then you’ve got a real mountain to climb. Bill Hick’s Country Cola will have to work very hard and for a very long time to get the sort of market credibility that Coca Cola has spent decades nurturing and building!

From the point of view of your business, your brand can identify your product and enable your customer to remember who to come back to for repeat purchases. It can generate loyalty to give you ongoing stable cash flow. If it becomes strong enough your brand can allow you to charge a premium price. The reputation that you build into your brand can enable you to introduce new products which will be perceived to have less risk, so customers will at least give it a try.

Customers like brands. It makes it easy for them to distinguish between products, sometimes just for simple functional reasons. you may happen to like one brand of tea better than another and it is by the brand that you distinguish one from the other. Sometimes the brand is used to deliver psychological values of status, image or just plain feel-good – that’s why people like the idea of owning a Mercedes Benz. A car just gets you from A to B but a Mercedes Benz car says something about You!

Your target customer makes decisions in a blink. How are they doing it so fast?
Look into your own mind for the secret. Behind every decision you make, mental images display how you want things to be. You buy: when you see something that matches up with this movie of what you want. You pass: if it doesn’t match the movie of unmet desires. This occurs all the time in business and your personal life. Are you shouting it in your marketing materials/through your branding? Most marketing campaigns fail because the Sales Moment wasn’t clearly defined in the overall brand projection and before designing materials. Artefact Ltd clarifies your Brand positioning and values before creating any brand or advertising materials. Every company has a Sales Moment. We have developed an efficient process to identify your company’s Ownable Sales Moment and helps you to communicate that through all of your branding materials, at every customer touch point.

If you would like to discuss your branding in more detail, then please contact Wil Lyons to discuss at 01 8330081/ 086 2750662.