1. Branding in the 21st Century
Things have always been highly competitive in the business world -- the phrase "dog-eat-dog" has been around a long time for a
good reason. But today's fast-paced, technology-driven, and hypercompetitive marketplace is more brutal than ever. The "fine art of
selling" is a thing of the past, replaced by self-service and hassled customers drowning in a sea of product choices. There's so
much static in the air that most product messages never even penetrate the customer's awareness. In short Branding and
marketing concepts are experiencing more changes now than in the past several decades. New marketing techniques require new
ways to brand.
New research indicates that branding as it has been used for the past several decades is dead. Branding is probably the most
overused and often times misused (and sometimes the most misunderstood) marketing tool. When branding is used properly, a
company realizes grand scale recognition which translates into sales. With the new media world of marketing, branding has to take
on mobile marketing, online social marketing, digital advertising as well as maintaining, at least for now, a print and television
persona. It’s a brave new marketing world that demands brave new ways to brand.
Brand has become a strategic issue for companies. In a competitive landscape, brands are a key to customer loyalty and business
growth. The challenge for any organization is to build powerful brands that will deliver long-term results.
Many marketers claim they are running a "branding campaign" while in fact all they're doing is selling. Price-based ads or ads
offering promotions based on discounts or beating the competition on price alone are not about branding. They are one-shot efforts
to move product. There is no relationship with the customer being formed and no long-term promises to deliver being made.
In contrast, a true branding effort involves communications that inspire an emotional reaction in the recipient. Branding does not sell
a specific product. Rather, it creates an image of what the brand stands for (often called "image campaigns" in the ad trade).
Further, that created image evokes a positive emotional response in the consumer's mind.
A white paper published by MIT Sloan Management Review in the winter of 2007 provides a simple and accurate definition of
branding: “At root, brands are symbols around which companies, suppliers, supplementary organizations, the public and, indeed,
customers construct identities.” The authors continue by saying that branding is a "critical issue" for marketing and sales. A strong
brand presence facilitates repeat purchases and builds a stronger financial picture for the corporation.
Branding is not about being creative and it's not something that comes from the Creative Department of your ad agency. It's about
that warm, fuzzy feeling your customer gets when he or she sees your product display. It's about your customer service and how
salespeople greet your customers even when they're having a bad day. It's about how your company is portrayed in the media. It's
about how fast your product is shipped or delivered and how the package looks sitting at home on your shelf. In short, branding
involves the complex matrix involving every single contact that occurs between any product and human representative of your
company and any customer or potential customer in the whole wide world.
Customers don't just buy products or services; they buy particular brands, and those brands are based on psychological
positioning. Positioning involves defining and communicating, both overtly and subtly, the one core idea that your brand stands for
in the mind or heart of your customer. Effective brand positioning:
• Is rooted in your customers' values
• Clearly differentiates your brand from competitive brands
• Articulates the underlying strategy and rationale for important pricing, promotion, product development, and distribution
Unless your brand stands for something, it stands for nothing
Having the latest products or services or the best-engineered, best-manufactured widget is not enough. You must create a
compelling marketing message to communicate how your product differs from all the others. You must simplify your marketing
communications and focus your branding message exclusively on winning customers' hearts and minds.
2. Your "brand" is how people perceive your company. If company branding in the past was a company driven monologue, today's
branding can be considered two-way conversations between the consumer and the companies they do business with. Social media
has given consumers more and more control over the way your company and your brand are perceived.
Effective marketing today demands compelling marketing messages based on:
• A clear understanding of exactly what business you are in
• Marketing strategies reflecting that "essence"; and
• Communications that powerfully express just what it is that makes you different from your competitors.
One of the most amazing branding stories of recent years has been of Amazon.com. Amazon.com has done an exemplary job of
creating one of the world's strongest brands in record time. How did they achieve this? By recognizing what their real business is,
as stated clearly by CEO Jeff Bezos: "We're not in the book business or the music business. We're in the customer service
The Amazon.com story highlights what brands really are:
• A promise that the marketer delivers on consistently
• A partnership between the marketer and the customer
• A "community" of passionate users of the company's products or services
In other words, customers identify with the brand. The brand resonates emotionally, leading customers to think: "this brand is a
reflection of me... this brand is meaningful to me."
What’s New in Branding?
What’s new in branding is what’s new in marketing. Four major factors make today’s marketing challenges different from those in
the past several decades. First, the mobile generation demands a different marketing platform. Second, online social networking
has redefined so many landscapes but especially marketing and public relations. Third, the evolving new green world and
ecosystem savvy consumers require a new branding look. Fourth, the over branding experienced by most consumers offends many
customers and as such they tend to tune out marketing and branding. To effectively brand today, marketers have to address all four
Powerful branding campaigns are carefully planned, designed and implemented. They are based on a logical and a supportable
strategic foundation. Successful branding is based on simplicity and clarity. And there's no point trying to be all things to all people.
That outdated strategy is doomed to failure in today's highly segmented markets.
What do you stand to gain from a well-positioned brand? Nothing much, just:
• Insulating your company from competitors
• Increasing customer loyalty
• Making your loyal customers less price-sensitive during the crucial purchase process
• Building the value of your brand as a financial asset
On the other hand, having a poorly conceived branding strategy, which really means not knowing what business you are in, can:
• Make consumers indifferent to your brand
• Waste your advertising budget
• Contribute to unproductive expenditures in operational areas that contradict what your brand stands for
• Cannibalize your core business
• Lead to new product launches that bomb
There is much work to be done to implement the ‘new branding’; marketers will need to do thorough research for ways to effectively
implement. Today consumers are very smart and so savvy, if a company is not sincere and dedicated to the branding methods
implemented; consumers will know and will not buy.
The core of branding strategy lies in knowing – beyond a shadow of doubt – exactly what business you are in. And if you think your
core business is defined simply by the product, technology, or business category in which you compete, then think again. Ask
yourself hard questions:
• What kind of relationship are we trying to establish with our customers?
• How do we want our customers to think about our brand?
• What do we want to symbolize our brand?
• How are we "experienced" by customers?
• What do we represent?
In getting your branding strategy right, you have to communicate a unique idea that separates your brand from the competition.
Make sure you have the credentials and product quality to render your "unique image" real and believable to customers. And keep
it concise - the more you say, the less people hear. Powerful ideas are best communicated with fewer words and simple but
Here's a branding guideline that a lot of people forget: remember to put your clients' needs first - always. Yes, you're creating a
brand and that is all about you, but the bottom line is always about your clients. How can you make their lives better? It's really all
about how you can help others. A huge part of your brand image should be customer satisfaction.
3. Concentrate on fulfilling your customers' needs and communicate what differentiates your product from the competition. Successful
brands respect or meet customers' emotional needs. There's nothing wrong with exposing the other guy's weaknesses, but don't
dwell on the negative. Instead, keep returning to the theme of your own brand's unique advantages. Your goal is to create a
perception in your customers' minds that "There is no other product in the world quite like this product - this product is for me."
When you win hearts and minds like that, you eliminate your competition from the race. You have achieved brand loyalty.
Change is the only Constant…. and Good for your Brand
It is a brave new marketing and public relations world. It is also continuing to evolve. And, the new
challenges make life interesting and keep marketers and public relations professionals at the top of their
“At root, brands are symbols around which companies, suppliers, supplementary organizations, the
public and, indeed, customers construct identities.”
Satisfied customers identify with the brand, brand resonates emotionally, leading customers to think:
"this brand is a reflection of me... this brand is meaningful to me."
The "fine art of selling" is a thing of the past, replaced by self-service and hassled customers drowning
in a sea of product choices.
Many marketers claim they are running a "branding campaign" while in fact all they're doing is selling.