Branding is one of the hottest topics in business today. It has become the business buzzword. Indeed, some refer to it as a Branding Revolution. The reason couldn’t be more straightforward and underscores a clear business message in today’s crowded marketplace: Your brand defines the unique point of differentiation for your products and services and is, perhaps, your only real opportunity to stand out.
Companies today are beginning to realize that capitalizing on one of the most important assets they own- the brand- may help them to achieve their longer term growth objectives not only more quickly, but also in a more powerful and productive way. These companies are starting to view their products and services as more than just a “thing” a customer buys. This makes sense, because brands are not only what a company sells, they are what a company does and, more importantly, what a company is. In fact, most brands are why a company exists, and not the other way around.
A brand is an intangible but critical component of what a company stands for. While a consumer generally does not have a relationship with a product or service, a consumer can have a relationship with a brand. A brand represents a set of promises. It implies trust, consistency, and a defined set of expectations. The strongest brands in the world own a positioning in the consumer’s mind that is unique to that brand and can universally be articulated by almost everyone. When you think of the brand 3M, innovation comes to mind. When you hear the brand Hallmark, caring comes to mind. When you hear the brand FedEx, guaranteed delivery comes to mind.
A brand differentiates products and services that appear similar in features and attributes, and possibly even benefits. Is Tide that much better than Cheer? Is Starbuck’s that much better than Chock Full o’Nuts? Is Sony that much better than Panasonic? Maybe, maybe not.
What makes these lead brands better than their competitors is the PATH they travel to the human mind. The PATH is an acronym for promise, acceptance, trust and hope. This PATH is intangible. This PATH can be emotional. This PATH strikes at the core of who we are as humans. Can you actually buy a promise, acceptance, trust and hope? Well, yes. That is what makes these seemingly intangible characteristics tangible in the brand world. This is what separates strong brands from weak brands.
With Nike shoes, a person may, in fact, be buying the potential to perform better than ever before. When we use FedEx, we are buying the assurance and security that our packages will get where they are suppose to go and will get there on time. Buying John Deere means buying the best piece of machinery money can buy; buying a Volvo means buying a higher level of safety.
So, a brand is about confidence and security, In a world in which we are exposed to 6,000 advertisements on an average day and over 25,000 new products in any given year, a brand takes away the confusion. It helps us cut through the clutter and the proliferation of choices available to us in every product and service category.
And remember, the best brands ultimately reside in the mind of the customers.
–Bradford Schiff, Pierce-Coté