What Is A Brand?
A brand is a set of mental associations, held by the consumer, which adds to the perceived value of a product or service. These associations should be unique (exclusivity), strong (saliency), and positive (desirable).
Brands Create Value
Brands differentiate products from others, and confer meaning through images and storytelling, turning brands into signs.
Consumers value brands as signs, symbols, and associations; they also value brands for enabling, enticing, and enriching benefits. Such benefits induce feelings of trust, love, and respect.
Brands can generate loyalty and advocacy behaviors when they create benefits for consumers, but high loyalty is rare, and is partly a function of market share.
Earning more revenue and profit is one of the reasons companies value brands. Companies also value brands for their customer loyalty and talent acquisition benefits. Brands also make it easier for companies to extend offerings into new categories. Businesses also value branding for maintaining focus, consistency, innovation, and purpose.
Your brand is among your organization's most important assets. A brand gives your business identity and supports your marketing and advertising efforts. A brand can bring employees pride and encourage consumers to buy from you.
Brands encourage customers to buy by facilitating choice; they make the decision-making process more manageable.
Brands reduce risk by acting as:
- Signs of product origin, facilitating choice by reducing economic and functional risk
- Anchors of associations, reducing experiential risk
- Symbols for consumers to shape their status and character, reducing psychological risk
- Symbols to assess the status and character of others, reducing social risk
Brands can be categorized into those that are functional and those that are emotional.
All brands have functional elements - the things that deliver core benefits. For example, the functional aspect of coffee is that it gives you energy. Some brands compete on functional value, but this is not sustainable unless product quality is truly superior.
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Most brands need to generate emotional responses to compete in the market. For example, coffee brands often try stirring associations and attitudes associated with family time or daily rituals. Even low-involvement brands strive to provoke an emotional response related to positive attitudes.
Consumers' emotional associations of a brand are challenging for competitors to replicate. Therefore, it creates a more defensible brand position.
Brands act as symbols for consumers to identify with; identification can occur in terms of character, image, and customer segmentation. Brands can also serve as a means of symbolic differentiation.
- Highlights the functional aspect of tea
- Targets lower-class to lower-middle-class homemakers. The ad reflects housework and domestic work (less leisure time and more working-class).
- Highlights the symbolic aspect of the product - purity. Purity reflects itself in the white dress the woman wears; color psychology associates white with purity and innocence.
- Features refreshments and leisure time. It is likely aimed at middle to upper-class women. The ad uses an actress, lending the product added social distinction.
What Is Branding?
Branding is developing and applying distinctive features to your organization and products. Branding helps consumers associate your brand with your products or services. Brands only exist in the minds of consumers—the management of brands is the management of perceptions. Branding is a critical element of the product value in a competitive marketplace.
Why Is Branding Important?
- Differentiation: branding differentiates you from the competition. It highlights how you are different, special, and unique.
- Recognition: branding helps you achieve a distinct and memorable style. This creates recognition in the market.
- Consistency: branding builds a cohesive customer experience at each brand touchpoint. The brand experience should have continuity, whether that touchpoint is your website or social media marketing efforts.
- Control: branding allows you to control or influence your perception in the market. You align market perception with your business objectives.
Connection: branding fosters an emotional connection and encourages consideration and loyalty.
Brand equity resides in the minds and hearts of consumers and has many dimensions. Brand equity results from the awareness, associations, attitudes, and attachment of consumers.
Keller's brand equity model offers a visual way to conceptualize brand equity. The model's two key dimensions are brand awareness and brand imagery.
Brand equity reflects a brand's value; it’s formed from the consumer’s perception of, and experiences with, the brand. These brand perceptions and experiences create financial implications.
Brand equity’s financial implications consider the asset value to the company. A strong brand with high positive brand equity has monetary value; it’s more likely to gain market share and generate greater profits. Monetary value follows from the consumer's response to that specific brand.
Brand equity is the result of consumers’ understanding and experience. Brands with positive brand equity often have loyal customers and a large market share. They may charge a higher price premium than competitors in their category.
Brand equity from the consumer perspective has three phases. First, awareness of the brand leads to emotional associations. Next, these associations grow into brand knowledge and attitudes. Finally, strong brand knowledge and attitudes create a preference for the brand and loyal behavior.
The power of a strong brand comes from the sense of familiarity it evokes. Brand awareness fills your sales funnel; consumers can't consider purchasing your products if they're unaware of your brand.
Brand awareness is the first step in grooming your target audience to hold specific attitudes, expectations, and perceptions about your brand. These attributes differentiate your brand in the market.
Brand awareness plays a role in high and low involvement buy decisions.
Consumers can be highly involved with the product, brand, or purchasing decision. The more relevant consumers find a product, the more involved and invested they are. The greater the involvement, the more significant potential for brand loyalty.
In low-involvement situations, customers perceive all brands as similar, so top-of-mind awareness is the most crucial factor in decision making.
"Brand awareness is critical to companies in mature commodity markets, such as tea and coffee. In such cases, brand awareness and differentiation are winning attributes."
Brand salience is the strength of a brand's awareness in relation to other brands in the category. It is the extent to which consumers think of, or notice, your brand during a purchasing decision. Unaided and aided brand awareness contributes to brand salience.
Brand salience is the foundational goal of branding. It must be achieved before higher-order branding can occur. Increasing market share is achieved through increasing brand salience, according to research.
Brand attitude is the association in a customer's memory link to a brand; it’s critical in building brand equity. Brand associations are built over time. Such associations must be strong, positive, and unique to the brand to create a brand attitude that produces equity.
All communication that a customer hears about a brand forms brand associations. A brand communication strategy can subsequently shape brand attitudes.
Brand Resonance And Brand Loyalty
Brand resonance consists of behavioral loyalty, attitudinal attachment, sense of community, and customers' active engagement towards a brand. When brands achieve resonance, they gain loyal customers. Such customers act as brand ambassadors and advocates for a product (or service).
Strong loyalty to a brand often characterizes substantial positive brand equity. Brand loyal customers have a reluctance to switch brands, as they have bonded with a brand. Strong brands enjoy higher brand loyalty and advocacy behaviors.
However, brand loyalty is not secure or straightforward. Only when the consumer is fully satisfied and switching costs are high, can loyalty be assured.
A competing brand may lure even happy customers away if the switching costs are low. This is especially true for low involvement purchase products. Such products include most fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), like ready-to-drink tea or coffee.
Brand loyalty is partly a function of market share, according to research. The Double Jeopardy Law shows larger brands have more buyers who are slightly more loyal. Smaller brands with less market share have fewer buyers, and these buyers are somewhat less loyal in their buying and attitudes.
This suggests customer loyalty isn't just a reflection of a brand's meaning (i.e., what it stands for). Instead, brand loyalty is a function of brand salience, top-of-mind brand awareness, and market share.
"What distinguishes a brand from its unbranded commodity counterpart and gives it equity, is the total sum of consumers' perceptions and feelings about the product's attributes and how they perform, about the brand name and what it stands for, and about the company associated with the brand."
For example, when customer-based brand equity is applied to the tea and coffee market we see that more prominent brands, such as Lipton, Twinings, and Tetley, benefit most from brand equity. Such mass-market brands can cultivate brand awareness in the broadest audience.
It's no coincidence that Lipton (Unilever), Twinings (Associated British Foods), and Tetley (Tata Global Beverages) are the most important tea brands by revenue, globally.
A strong brand can be "extended " from its core products to other categories that are further from its core. Strong brands leverage their image and what they stand for, to enter new and unrelated product lines.
Brand extensions exemplify the move from tangible to intangible values. This moves from a single product-based promise to a more significant brand benefit, allowing the brand to cover a broader range of products.
For example, Louis Vuitton began by creating quality luggage bags for travel. These luggage bags were easy to stack and distinct in appearance. Louis Vuitton is now a major global luxury brand that makes purses, shoes, and jewelry.
Brand Extension Vs. Line And Range Extensions
Line and range extensions must be distinguished from brand extensions.
- Brand extension is a significant diversification towards different product categories and customers
- Range extensions involve creating new product lines, serving more segments of the market
- Line extensions include expanding product lines to better meet the specific needs and preferences of consumers.
How To Build A Brand
Brand voice refers to the personality and emotion infused into a company's communications. Your brand voice should always be consistent, however, your brand tone may change based on context.
Brand voice is defined in your brand communication guidelines. Communication guidelines often make communication easier by identifying a list of dos and don'ts. Your brand voice should be consistently applied on your website (e.g., copy, product descriptions, calls to action), social media (e.g., captions), and other channels.
Brand Voice Chart
We're passionate about changing the way the world works
We're Not afraid to challenge the status quo and be ourselves
We take our product seriously, we don't take Ourselves seriously
We're going to give you the tools and insight you need to make your job easier. That may not always be through Our product
Brand communication guidelines draw from your brand strategy, and your brand strategy defines your brand's personality. Your brand personality articulates characteristics your brand would have if it were a person.
It's vital that your strategies interconnect: brand strategy, logo design, brand identity guidelines, and communication guidelines should all interlink.
Brand trust reflects the consumer's confidence in your business and products.
Enablement Benefits - Solves Problems - Feeling Empowered - Brand Trust
Enablement Benefits - Saves time - Feeling Relieved - Brand Trust
Enablement Benefits - Solves Problem - Feeling Confident & in Control - Brand Trust
Two essential elements of brand trust are the standardization of product quality and customer service. A product and service become an embodiment of the brand, so the brand becomes real.
A cohesive visual brand identity is critical to building brand trust. Visual identity is all the imagery and graphical information expressing who your brand is and how it's different. It includes elements such as your logo, imagery, typography, colors, and creative design.
Brand Strategy, Brand Management, And Brand Tactics
A brand strategy relies on one key idea that persuades consumers to buy or support the brand. Brand strategy is distinct from brand management and brand tactics.
Brand management involves developing tactics that deliver on a brand strategy. Such tactics include the specification of product and service designs, and advertising campaigns. Tactics also include customer experiences, store layouts, service procedures, and pricing decisions.
Brand valuation relies on the use of proxies.
- The stock price can be treated as a proxy for brand value.
- Market share and penetration can act as a proxy for brand growth.
- Purchase frequency (relative to the product category) and buyer spending can proxy brand loyalty.
- Sentiment monitoring and social media listening are proxies for brand perception.
Branding Frequently Asked Questions
A brand strategy is a document that specifies the core purpose, unique social and utilitarian benefits. It also defines the quality level, styles, stories, and ideal consumer responses you want to evoke by offering products under a particular brand name.
A brand strategy is important because it helps differentiate you from your competition and makes you more recognizable to customers. A brand strategy provides a clear purpose for engaging specific customers and how you are doing so. Having a comprehensive, well-built brand strategy helps you communicate clearly with your desired customers.
Branding is the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design. Marketing communication focuses on the way a business communicates its message to its target market.
Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism speaks to the six facets of brand identity: physique, relationship, reflection, personality, culture, and self-image.
The diagram below shows how I used the model in branding my own business, Steeped Content.
Branding is the marketing practice of defining, shaping, communicating, and protecting your brand. Brands are complex signs, symbols, legal entities, mental associations, business assets, and lasting commitments that are managed differently. Branding differentiates your company from your competitors.
Branding is important to companies and consumers. Companies with a strong brand can differentiate themselves from their competitors and charge price premiums. Brands benefit consumers by facilitating choice (e.g., reduce economic, functional, and physical risk), and act as symbols to evaluate status and character (e.g., reduce social and psychological risk).
There are ten steps to create a brand:
- pick your purpose,
- identify your target audience,
- define your voice,
- tell your story,
- create your visual identity
- differentiate yourself
- build your brand
- promote your brand
- create brand evangelists
Brand voice is one component of a brand strategy. Creating a brand voice draws heavily from your brand personality and considers nuances such as emotion, language, tone, purpose, and audience. A brand voice is summarized in a table so that its application is clear and consistent.
Brand voice reflects your brand's personality; the brand tone is how you say what your brand has to say. Brand voice is enduring, and brand tone is situational.
Defining your brand personality is one component of your brand strategy. Once defined, a brand personality should be consistently brought to life. Like the personality of a person, a brand’s personality is made of many traits. These traits fall within five main categories: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness.
Brand positioning is the conceptual place you want to occupy in your target audience's mind. It involves conjuring up the benefits and associations you want them to think of when they think of your brand.
Creating strong, effective brand positioning is one component of a brand strategy; it requires thought and specificity. However, companies use five general brand positioning strategies to establish strong market positions: customer service, convenience, price, quality, and differentiation.
Brand awareness, or the extent to which consumers are familiar with your brand’s distinctive qualities, is broken down into two forms: deep awareness and broad awareness. Deep awareness consists of the customer’s ease of recognition and frequency of consideration. Broad awareness considers when and where consumers think of your brand. To grow brand awareness, you must go deep and broad.
A trusted brand is built when a brand demonstrates competence, integrity, and transparency. Establishing brand trust requires a commitment to overcoming consumer resistance by creating opportunities for trust.
Branding your business involves three steps:
- creating your brand identity (e.g., logo, colors, typography),
- crafting a brand strategy (e.g., personality, positioning, and more), and
- marketing your brand (website, SEO, SMM, PPC, and more), which is brought to life in a digital marketing strategy.
Visual brand identity is the visible elements of a brand, such as color, design, and logo that identify and distinguish the brand in consumers' minds.
Brand equity describes a brand’s value, which resides in the minds and hearts of consumers. Brand equity is built through phases - awareness, recognition, trial, preference, and loyalty. When brand equity reaches the loyalty phase, there’s a financial payoff for a company, which gives the brand an advantage over competitors.
Brand identity is the aspect of your brand's uniqueness and value that makes it different from others. A brand identity is created by the company and specifies the brand's meaning, self-image, and aim.
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