While I’m on the subject of past articles, here’s one that may be of use to those of you establishing a business right now. This was written during my tenure as Content Co-ordinator for the Multimedia Internet Network, during which time I was responsible for, amongst other things, writing articles about business, marketing, etc for start ups. While it was written a few years ago, I think it’s still relevant.
Multimedia Internet Network (min)
by Sally McLean
What’s in a name? Almost as much as is in an image, if the modern world is any indication. Everywhere we turn we see a brand. Just looking around my desk I can see Marbig, Intel, Samsung, Pilot – on the way to work I will have seen a hundred others on bus stops, public transport, billboards and buildings (well, I do drive for an hour to the office!). I’m sure that if some of us look in our wardrobes, we’ll find at least a couple of brands visible on our clothing (most likely on the odd hat or t-shirt – I know I have a min t-shirt in the second drawer of my dressing table). Wearing or using a brand product lets the consumer claim their own little piece of your company’s image (and gives you great free publicity).
A good branding campaign gives instant recognition to your company’s logo, even if seen without the company name. What do you think when you see a white tick on black? A yellow “m” on red? A red target on a white background? In Australia – a red seven in a circle? (Or a multi-coloured number seven? – A good example of the re-branding process).
The other kind of branding is the use of the company name – Ericsson, Hoover, Kellogg’s, Cleo, Kodak – all examples of companies whose brand names have become household names.
The third (and most recent) addition to the brand name game is the dot coms. Yahoo, Amazon.com, Looksmart, Sausage Software, Altavista, Lycos and others are all known names on the Net. People know who they are and what they do, just by seeing their name.
What is Branding?
Branding is considered to be the cornerstone for any marketing campaign. Through your brand you communicate your company’s image, philosophy and reputation to the world at large. Basically, it instantly communicates to your potential buying public all the qualities you have endowed on your product and company.
When you brand something, you mark it as your own. The easiest way to describe it, is to refer to the practice of branding livestock. A stockman has a herd of cattle, that look very much like his neighbour’s herd of cattle. To keep the two herds separate, he (and his neighbour) brand each and every cow with one identifying mark – their brand.
In the world of corporate business, branding is a very similar process, only with the emphasis on sales and marketing. With so many products on the market – the only way to make yours stand out from the herd is to brand it with your mark.
The branding process starts with developing your company or product’s philosophy, image and niche market. Then comes your brand, usually signified by a logo – your mark. Developing your logo is best done by someone who knows the branding process well, so I’d advise getting in an expert. However, you can start the process yourself. What does your company do? Software, communications, special effects? What is the market you are aiming for? Business, youth, the general public? Where do you see your brand being displayed? Billboards, t-shirts, your company’s promotional brochure? (Ideally, you should be able to see your brand on just about every promotional tool you can think of).
The trick then is to get your brand seen in as many places as possible, so that when the public think of your product category, they think of your brand first. What name comes to mind when you think of running shoes? Tissues? Computers? Chances are, you think of the name you have on those products in your home, office or car, or the name you’ve seen displayed the most predominantly.
You know you’ve really succeeded in the branding process when your product name is the same name people use when talking about that product category. In the UK, you don’t say vacuum cleaner, you say “Hoover”. The same as “Durex” is the name used when talking about tape for wrapping presents in the USA (although we have another product in Australia that is called the same thing, but is very different!). In Australia when asking for whiteout, we ask for “Liquid Paper”, but in the UK they call it “Tippex”.
You can increase your brand awareness by using several strategies. The most obvious, yet expensive way is to have a known personality or celebrity visibly seen on television, billboards and out in public wearing or using your product. However, you could also sponsor major events and causes that directly relate to your company’s image or philosophy, devise a strong advertising campaign using different techniques that makes your brand highly visible to the public, possibly use stunts and guerrilla tactics to generate talk about your brand. One case of stunt meets sponsorship was when a company sponsored a “building artist” who wanted to cover one of New York’s skyscrapers with a cloth drop sheet, and make the Guinness Book Of World Records. In return for their sponsorship, the drop sheet sported the company’s logo. And that makes for a very large billboard.
Your brand is the most enduring and valuable asset your company can own. If given a high enough profile, it can increase your company’s market value and, in turn, make attracting further investment from other sources, or getting listed on the stock exchange a lot easier and more profitable.
When’s The Right Time To Brand?
Right from the start. These days you need to enter the market with a well-thought out brand already developed and ready to do business. As more brands enter the market, so the competition increases, making late branding a difficult task. Before you launch your product or company, it is best to have created your brand and then use that to launch your product with a bang. Getting consumers’ attention is difficult, so it is best to go in with all you’ve got.
This means that you need to spend some time planning and researching before jumping into your market. If you create a strong enough brand and promote it well, you stand a better chance of getting a share of the market’s profits, than if you don’t.
Levels of Branding
There are different forms of branding that companies use. A brand is not created on a universal level – as that is not what branding is about. Branding is used to deliberately target individuals and niche markets, inviting them to be part of an elite. Therefore companies use different kinds of branding for different kinds of product lines.
This kind of brand covers the company’s core industry or business. It is usually responsible for bringing in a large percentage of the company’s revenue, so should be given the most attention with publicity campaigns in order to firmly place it in the public’s mind.
The products that fall under this category are usually supplemental to the core business of the company. If a company’s main business is book publishing, and they start another sideline of CD-ROM publishing, they may name their new CD-ROM venture with their company name, followed by a description of the product. (i.e. Smith’s Multimedia). This sideline doesn’t need it’s own name, as by branding it with the core brand, then adding a descriptive noun, the company is strengthening it’s core brand and giving the new product the benefit of their core brand’s reputation.
The “no-name” brand has now become a brand in itself. Most companies have a “no-name” brand in their stable, and this is done to enhance the company’s image. This kind of branding therefore, doesn’t usually have a name attached, but is branded simply by a descriptive generic phrase. A company that manufactures breakfast cereal will have their Primary Brand, and then, if also manufacturing a generic brand will call it something like “Breakfast Food”.
If you’re serious about creating a brand that will work well for you, the best thing you can do is think about what your company does, what market you are aiming for and then get in a branding professional to help you create the best brand for your company and it’s product, that will attract your target market.
The brand’s the thing – and your company’s future could well depend on it.