Many people think companies only sell products. But in reality, they sell more than that – they sell feelings, ideas, and the way things make you experience. Take Coca-Cola, for example. They’re not just selling a drink; they’re selling happiness and the feeling of being together with your loved ones.
This is what branding is all about- a powerful ideology that helps brands shape the entire buying experience for their customers.
This guide to branding is here to assist you in building and maintaining a powerful brand. A brand that will attract customers, leave a lasting impression, and make them choose your business over others. So, continue reading or use the links below to navigate to the information you’re looking for quickly.
What is a brand?
A brand is like the unique identity and story of a company that sets it apart from others selling similar things. The purpose of branding is to carve a place in the minds of the target audience you want to reach and become their top preferred choice when they want to conduct business.
Brands serve as a powerful tool for companies to express their vision. A brand defines a company’s identity and its purpose for existing- apart from monetary reasons. Additionally, a brand encompasses the complete encounter people have while engaging with a business – whether as a shopper, customer, social media follower, or even as someone simply passing by.
What is branding?
In simple terms, branding can be defined as the cumulative process of creating an authentic brand identity or brand experience of a company. The goal of branding is to create positive mental associations of the brand itself in the minds of the customers, helping them organize their knowledge about the different products and services a brand has to offer in an easy way that helps them make an informed decision and, in the process, provides value to the firm.
In fact, 88% of customers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding which brand they want to choose.
In simple terms, branding is about researching the target audience and their preferences amongst many other things, developing a thought strategy and products based on the research conducted, and implementing unique marketing techniques to promote the brand in a way so that consumers can begin to associate the brand with its products or services it has to offer.
The cornerstone of effective branding lies in consumers being able to readily distinguish the unique qualities among brands within a particular product category.
Branding refers to the process of shaping a company’s brand identity. This process involves creating supportive materials like logos, taglines, visual designs, and even a distinctive tone of voice.
But it’s not limited to areas like social media captions, billboard colour schemes, and the packaging materials brands use. Companies that establish strong brands understand that their brand identity has to be consistent through each touchpoint their consumers have with their brand, whether the interaction lives on social media or physically with the product itself.
For instance, one of the most recognizable logos in the world is that of the Coca-Cola brand. The enduring blend of timeless red and white colours, combined with its astounding artwork and distinct font, has successfully captured the hearts of its loyal customers for well over a century.
With a history of being among one of the favourite brands globally, the Coca-Cola brand exemplifies the strength of unwavering and effective branding.
That being said, the process of branding is continuous and demands a deep understanding of both your customers and your business. Nevertheless, it’s important to realise the importance of the brand and the consumers’ relationship while creating a brand identity that is easily able to connect with the customers.
Next, we discuss how the brand-consumer relationship is perceived in the current market.
Exploring the Brand-Consumer Relationship
The brand-consumer relationship, often referred to as the consumer-brand relationship embodies the degree of connection between a brand and its consumers. It prompts us to ask how good or bad the relationship is between consumers and the brand. What is the overall brand sentiment like for the consumers- Is the brand perceived positively or negatively?
Do consumers merely interact with the brand merely on the functional level, or are they invested in themselves emotionally? Such emotional connections with the brand backed up by a great product are the fundamental reason why first-time buyers turn into loyal customers of the brand.
Take a look at the dating app Bumble which challenges the status quo by empowering women to make the first move. In 2023, Bumble has 50 million active users. This rise over the years is due to its consistent brand identity and fun, quirky and bold marketing techniques.
Social media channels like YouTube and Instagram play a key role in Bumble’s marketing strategy, helping the brand easily connect with its target audience. But apart from that, Bumble often uses the power of traditional marketing by putting up OOH billboards, sometimes even about women’s empowerment issues. Such as they did recently in support of the Women’s World Cup 2023.
In the billboard shown below, Bumble crafts a narrative that resonates deeply with its target audience. This not only establishes a strong emotional connection but also reinforces their brand values and what it represents for all women.
Bumble not only captures attention but also solidifies its position as a brand that transcends products to stand for a purpose.
Unveiling the Significance of Branding- Why is branding important?
In an era where marketplaces are growing increasingly saturated and authentic consumer connections are harder to forge, the role of branding has never been more crucial. The image brand marketing forges into the hearts of their current and prospective consumers and acts as the medium through which companies convey their unique narratives and reshape perceptions by offering customers a belief to embrace.
It serves as the catalyst for curiosity, beckoning customers to embark on a journey of exploration, learning, and establishing a memorable rapport with the brand.
Roles Brands Play For Consumers:
- Identifying the source of the product.
- Quality level.
- Symbolic device.
- Cost of the product. Is it worth the cost?
- Emotional connection with the brand.
- Assigning the responsibility to the maker of the product. For example, is the product sustainably made?
Roles Brands Play For Manufacturers:
- Is the product competitively well positioned?
- Is the product going to be a good source of financial income?
- Is the product’s unique features legally protected through patents and copyrights?
- Endowing the products with unique associations.
- Is it providing quality products to satisfy its customers?
From an economic perspective, brands allow consumers to lower search costs by providing them with information about the products and services through informed advertising. On the other, with the implicit understanding that brands will behave a certain way based on what mental image consumers have already formed in their minds, consumers offer their loyalty and trust in the brands as long as they derive some sort of satisfaction from product consumption.
However, it’s important that the brands also recognize that consumers might encounter challenges when evaluating attributes and advantages of experience and credence goods. In such instances, brands emerge as pivotal markers of quality and other essential characteristics.
Brands play a pivotal role in mitigating the uncertainties inherent in product choices. Consumers often perceive diverse forms of risk when considering purchases and product consumption:
Functional Risk: The product falls short of anticipated expectations.
Physical Risk: The product seems to potentially cause harm to the user’s well-being or that of others.
Financial Risk: The product fails to justify its price.
Social Risk: The product results in a public embarrassment.
Psychological Risk: The product impacts the user’s mental well-being.
Time Risk: The product’s failure necessitates the search for an alternative, incurring an opportunity cost.
Brands serve as beacons of assurance, addressing these risks and providing consumers with a sense of reliability and trustworthiness in their product decisions is invaluable.
To put it into a real-world context, let us take the example of when Coca-Cola faced such issues back in the day.
Case Study of When Coca-Cola Missed the Mark: A Lesson in Branding
In the year 1985, Pepsi and Coca-Cola were practically rivals competing to acquire a higher share of the market in the United States.
Owing to that, PepsiCo launched the audacious “Pepsi Challenge” campaign in Texas, which sparked an intense rivalry. The campaign consisted of running T.V. advertisements for Pepsi while also conducting blind sampling tests in retail stores where people were given Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
To everyone’s surprise, consumers preferred the taste of Pepsi over Coca-Cola. Pepsi won these tests by a landslide margin, and afraid that if the promotion expanded nationally, it could take a big bite out of Coca-Cola’s market chunk, Coca-Cola felt compelled to act.
Here’s what they did:
Coca-Cola went for a daring strategy switch to heat things up. The folks at the company thought that to compete with Pepsi (and with the shift in the consumer’s new preference of liking sweet cola) it was in their best interest to change the formula of their existing Cola and make it sweeter- thereby aligning to the sweeter taste of Pepsi.
Over 190,000 consumers tasted this newly formulated Coke in a controlled test held in Texas.
Initially, people loved the taste of the new formulation over the classic one. Armed and confident with this data, Coca-Cola launched this new Coke.
However, within three months of launch, Coca-Cola faced severe backlash. Their die-hard fans and loyal consumers took matters into their own hands as they led a revolt against the new Cola, insisting that the company bring back the classic Cola.
In Seattle, an “Old Cola Drinkers of America” hotline was set up by a person where customers could call to vent about it. Some merchant in Beverly Hills, California purchased 500 cases of the classic old cola and was selling it at a premium. Meanwhile, at Coca-Cola headquarters, customers flooded them with emails and calls, expressing their disappointment in their decision to make
How Coca-Cola Managed this Crisis💡:
Witnessing the drop in sales, and the overall negative market sentiment regarding the new Coke, Coca-Cola returned to its roots, reverting to the tried-and-true flagship product, in a desperate attempt to win back the hearts of its loyal customers.
A Lesson in Brand Crisis Management:
This new product launch taught the people at the company a few hard lessons. But also for other existing and new brands trying to win the hearts of their customers in the market.
Here are three important lessons to take away from this Coca-Cola Branding Fiasco:
- Emotional Connection Should be Valued: Coca-Cola’s miscalculation stemmed from underestimating the emotional resonance of its brand with its customers. To the people, Coke was not just a beverage; it was seen as an emblem of heritage and nostalgia.
- Going Beyond Research Data: The incident reminded the company that while consumer research is crucial, it should be supplemented by a holistic understanding of the consumer’s preferences as well. The taste tests captured preferences but overlooked the intricate emotional threads that bind consumers to brands.
- Navigating Short-Term and Long-Term Goals: This episode brought into focus the precarious balance between short-term tactical manoeuvres, like responding to competitors’ sudden tactical moves, and also factoring in the brand’s long-term goals. Yet also making sure that if any quick business decisions are made to compete with its competitors, the decisions align well with how the brand is perceived by the people in order to nurture brand loyalty over time.
Curating a good brand identity is essential to ensure the brand’s relevance and loyalty amongst consumers. As Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple famously said, “It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us”.
The chance to create a memorable experience for consumers is the essence of brand marketing.