A brand is a collection of feelings toward an economic producer.
Feelings are created by the accumulation of experiences with the brand, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary.
A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service. A brand serves to create associations and expectations among products made by a producer. A brand often includes an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, which are developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality.
The brand, and “branding” and brand equity have become increasingly massive components of culture and the economy, now being described as “cultural accessories and personal philosophies”.
Some marketers distinguish the psychological aspect of a brand from the experiential aspect. The experiential aspect consists of the sum of all points of contact with the brand and is known as the brand experience. The psychological aspect, sometimes referred to as the brand image, is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service. The unicist approach to brand building considers the conceptual structure of brands, businesses and people.
Marketers seek to develop or align the expectations comprising the brand experience through branding, so that a brand carries the “promise” that a product or service has a certain quality or characteristic which make it special or unique. A brand image may be developed by attributing a “personality” to or associating an “image” with a product or service, whereby the personality or image is “branded” into the consciousness of consumers. A brand is therefore one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme, as it demonstrates what the brand owner is able to offer in the marketplace. The art of creating and maintaining a brand is called brand management. You’re creating the story.
A brand which is widely known in the marketplace acquires brand recognition. Where brand recognition builds up to a point where a brand enjoys a mass of positive sentiment in the marketplace, it is said to have achieved brand franchise. One goal in brand recognition is the identification of a brand without the name of the company present. Disney has been successful at branding with their particular script font (originally Walt Disney’s signature, but later translated to go.com).
Brand equity measures the total value of the brand to the brand owner, and reflects the extent of brand franchise. The term brand name is often used interchangeably with “brand”, although it is more correctly used to specifically denote written or spoken linguistic elements of a brand. In this context a “brand name” constitutes a type of trademark, if the brand name exclusively identifies the brand owner as the commercial source of products or services. A brand owner may seek to protect proprietary rights in relation to a brand name through trademark registration.
The act of associating a product or service with a brand has become part of pop culture. Most products have some kind of brand identity, from common table salt to designer clothes. In non-commercial contexts, the marketing of entities which supply ideas or promises rather than product and services (eg. political parties or religious organizations) may also be known as “branding”.
Consumers may look on branding as an important value added aspect of products or services, as it often serves to denote a certain attractive quality or characteristic. From the perspective of brand owners, branded products or services also command higher prices. Where two products resemble each other, but one of the products has no associated branding (such as a generic, store-branded product), people may often select the more expensive branded product on the basis of the quality of the brand or the reputation of the brand owner.
Advertising spokespersons have also become part of some brands, for example: Mr. Whipple of Charmin toilet tissue and Tony the Tiger of Kellogg’s.
In economic terms the `brand’ is, in effect, a device to create a `monopoly’ – or at least some form of `imperfect competition’ – so that the brand owner can obtain some of the benefits which accrue to a monopoly, particularly those related to decreased price competition. In this context, most `branding’ is established by promotional means. However, there is also a legal dimension, for it is essential that the brand names and trademarks are protected by all means available. The monopoly may also be extended, or even created, by patent, copyright and other sui generis intellectual property regimes (eg: Plant Varieties Act, Design Act, confidential means of manufacture (secret recipe) etc).
In all these contexts, retailers’ `own label’ brands can be just as powerful. The `brand’, whatever its derivation, is a very important investment for any organization. RHM (Ranks Hovis McDougall), for example, have valued their international brands at anything up to twenty times their annual earnings!
In terms of existing products, brands may be developed in a number of ways:
- Brand extension
The existing strong brand name can be used as a vehicle for new or modified products; for example, after many years of running just one brand, Coca-Cola launched `Diet Coke’ and `Cherry Coke'; although its subsequent change to its main brand and the retrenchment to ‘Classic Coke’ demonstrated some of the problems this may cause! Procter & Gamble (P&G), in particular, has made regular use of this device, extending its strongest brand names (such as Fairy Soap) into new markets (the very successful Fairy Liquid, and more recently Fairy Automatic).
Alternatively, in a market that is fragmented amongst a number of brands a supplier can choose deliberately to launch totally new brands in apparent competition with its own existing strong brand (and often with identical product characteristics); simply to soak up some of the share of the market which will in any case go to minor brands. The rationale is that having 3 out of 12 brands in such a market will give a greater overall share than having 1 out of 10 (even if much of the share of these new brands is taken from the existing one). In its most extreme manifestation, a supplier pioneering a new market which it believes will be particularly attractive may choose immediately to launch a second brand in competition with its first, in order to pre-empt others entering the market.
Individual brand names naturally allow greater flexibility by permitting a variety of different products, of differing quality, to be sold without confusing the consumer’s perception of what business the company is in or diluting higher quality products.
Once again, Procter & Gamble is a leading exponent of this philosophy, running as many as ten detergent brands in the US market. This also increases the total number of `facings’ it receives on supermarket shelves. Sara Lee, on the other hand, uses it to keep the very different parts of the business separate –from Sara Lee cakes through Kiwi polishes to L’Eggs pantyhose. In the hotel business, Marriott uses the name Fairfield Inns for its budget chain (and Ramada uses Rodeway for its own cheaper hotels).
Cannibalism is a particular problem of a ‘multibrand’ approach, in which the new brand takes business away from an established one which the organization also owns. This may be acceptable (indeed to be expected) if there is a net gain overall. Alternatively, it may be the price the organization is willing to pay for shifting its position in the market; the new product being one stage in this process.
Own brands and generics
With the emergence of strong retailers the `own brand’, the retailer’s own branded product (or service), also emerged as a major factor in the marketplace. Where the retailer has a particularly strong identity (such as Marks & Spencer in clothing) this `own brand’ may be able to compete against even the strongest brand leaders, and may dominate those markets which are not otherwise strongly branded. There was a fear that such `own brands’ might displace all other brands (as they have done in Marks & Spencer outlets), but the evidence is that – at least in supermarkets and `department’ stores – consumers generally expect to see on display something over 50 per cent (and preferably over 60 per cent) of brands other than those of the retailer. Indeed, even the strongest own brands in the United Kingdom rarely achieve better than third place in the overall market.
Therefore the strongest independent brands (such as Kellogg’s and Heinz), which have maintained their marketing investments, should continue to flourish. More than 50 per cent of United Kingdom FMCG brand leaders have held their position for more than two decades, although it is arguable that those which have switched their budgets to `buy space’ in the retailers may be more exposed.
The strength of the retailers has, perhaps, been seen more in the pressure they have been able to exert on the owners of even the strongest brands (and in particular on the owners of the weaker third and fourth brands). Relationship marketing has been applied most often to meet the wishes of such large customers (and indeed has been demanded by them as recognition of their buying power). Some of the more active marketers have now also switched to ‘category marketing’ – in which they take into account all the needs of a retailer in a product category rather than more narrowly focusing on their own brand.
At the same time, probably as an outgrowth of consumerism, `generic’ (that is, effectively unbranded goods) have also emerged. These made a positive virtue of saving the cost of almost all marketing activities; emphasizing the lack of advertising and, especially, the plain packaging (which was, however, often simply a vehicle for a different kind of image). It would appear that the penetration of such generic products peaked in the early 1980s, and most consumers still seem to be looking for the qualities that the conventional brand provides.