18 May, 2018
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We have been buying and selling goods since 6000 BC. The first entrepreneurs, the ancient Mesopotamians gave the world a gift when they started bartering goods, making it possible for skills and products to be shared, exchanged and valued. Branding came another four and a half centuries later in 2700 BC, when the Phoenicians began to brand cattle to differentiate herds and declare ownership. From then to the first signboard, the first paid print ad and then the first television commercial, businesses rapidly learned to use their unique identities as a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
As the number of products, media and messages continue to grow, branding has now become crucial to thriving and not just surviving in the marketplace. But what is branding? What is the difference between a brand and a product to begin with?
A product according to the Economic Times is “an item offered for sale. A product can be a service or an item. It can be physical or in virtual or cyber form. Every product is made at a cost and each is sold at a price. The price that can be charged depends on the market, the quality, the marketing and the segment that is targeted.”
A brand, however, is the face of the product. It is how the consumer sees your product. It is a unique identity that adds a set of values, a personality and a promise to your product. It is a complex idea that begins with a name, symbols, imagery and language but is not limited to these things.
The difference between a product and a brand is the difference between ‘water’ and ‘Bisleri’, ‘shoes’ and ‘Nike’ or ‘cow’s milk’ and ‘Amul’. Water, shoes or milk have no particular personality for us. It is the unique identity created by the logos, the colors, the language of brands that make Bisleri synonymous with quality.
We think Bisleri, we think high-quality water. With Nike we don’t just think of shoes, we think of running shoes, meant for athletes or for people who take charge of their lives and ‘Just Do It’. When we think of Amul, we think of a national institution, a little girl with blue hair that has a tongue-in-cheek comment about the life and times of India and we think of Indianness itself. And of course, we think of a pouring stream of creamy milk.
Branding helps us to be remembered by the consumer. Your brand becomes your promise. Once established it is a shorthand, a signal that will bring alive all that not just your product but also your organization stands for. It allows you to tell the consumer who you are without having to be introduced every time you meet in the marketplace or at a shop counter.
To create your brand, you first have to create a system of communication that is consistent across every encounter your consumer has with your product. The elements of branding include but are not limited to:
The process of creating a brand requires a deep understanding of your product, your consumer, the market and your competition. It culminates in creating a unique identity that is right for your product. During this process, you collaborate with an expert to create a brand personality in keeping with who your consumers are and what you want to say to them about yourselves. This, in turn, creates your brand values and eventually your brand proposition. Along with your logo and marketing communication your brand identity system establishes a unique space in the consumer’s mind so that she or he can instantly recognize you.
Today there are a vast number of choices available to a consumer. The reality is, there is very little that businesses can do to offer a product that is different from their competitors in a significant way. Branding your product gives it a competitive advantage by connecting with the consumer, by being identifiable and eventually familiar. It helps you build loyalty, which means that the consumer can ask for your product by name, firmly believing that she is getting much more from a brand name she trusts. By branding your product you can turn water into a luxury product like Perrier, clothes into a style statement like Dior or a car into a symbol of luxury and success like Mercedes Benz. With your brand defined, you shine the light on a clearer path, not just for the consumer but also for your business.