To understand this concept, would need to understand the primary difference between products and brands. Anything from a hotel stay, a flight, a language course, to clothes, food, a toothbrush etc, can and is a product.
To illustrate this the role it occupies in defining branding, let us look at water (H2O):
Water is a free resource that every form of life needs to live and survive. Yet it became a product the day humans and companies started to commercialize it, by packaging and selling it as mineral water in glass and plastic bottles. But water everywhere looks the same! It is liquid and transparent. Its basic qualities and features are common across the world. So, how do different companies sell the same product but still convince people to purchase their bottled water instead of the one from the competition?
The answer - by creating ‘a brand’.
The brand is the idea or image people conjure up in their mind when thinking about specific products of a company, both in a practical and emotional way. It is not just physical features that create a brand but the emotions and feelings that consumers develop towards the a specific company’s product. This combination of physical and emotional cues is triggered when exposed to the name, the logo, the visual identity, or even the message communicated.
A product can be easily copied by other players in a market, but a brand will always be unique. For example, Pepsi and Coca-Cola look similar, taste some what close, however for some reason, some people feel more connected to Coca-Cola, others to Pepsi. And there are others who have stepped in to compete and have succeeded in their own space…like ThumsUp in India
Let’s illustrate this again with the water example.
What has been done? In order to convince people to purchase a particular water, companies developed different water brands, such as Evian, Perrier, Fiji or Volvic.
Each one of these brands provides a different meaning to the product water:
In the end, a brand is a person’s feeling about a specific product or company. Every individual creates their own version of it, and some brands increase or decrease in popularity because of how consumers feel about them. In today’s social media driven world, reputation is key and must be managed…very, very well!
Branding is the process of giving a meaning to specific products by creating and shaping a brand in consumers’ minds. It is a strategy designed by companies to help people to quickly identify their products and organization, and give them a reason to choose their products over the competition’s, by clarifying what this particular brand is and is not.
The objective is to attract and retain loyal customers by delivering a product that is always aligned with what the brand promises.
Consumers: As discussed above, a brand provides consumers with a decision-making-shortcut when feeling indecisive about the same product from different companies.
Employees/shareholders/third-parties: Besides helping consumers to distinguish similar products, successful branding strategies are also adding to a company’s reputation.
This asset can affect a range of people, from consumers to employees, investors, shareholders, providers, and distributors.
As an example, if you don’t like or don’t feel connected to a brand, you would probably not want to work for it.
However, if you feel like the brand understands you and offers products that inspire you, you would probably desire to work for it and be part of its world.
Companies tend to use different tools to create and shape a brand.
For example, branding can be achieved through:
The visual identity of the brand (logo, website and colors, are just some examples).
In our example of branding water, packaging design and advertising are perhaps the most powerful tools used by marketers:
The silent salesman that will grab busy consumers’ attention in-store. It informs consumers about the product’s properties and visually differentiates the brand from the competition on-shelf.
A successful example in my eyes is Fiji Water, which managed to create a beautiful bottle design that perfectly reflects the brand’s values: purity is reflected through transparency effects and nature is perceived through the image of tropical flower and leaves in the background.