Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Branding the product.

The idea of branding initially developed in medieval Europe. Plagues were a major ordeal at the time and people became ill from drinking brews infested with germs and vermin. The German purity law of 1516 was a very successful attempt to change that. As a result, beer brands sprang up to tell drinkers which of the available lagers were brewed in accordance with the regulations. From then on, brands were used to confer quality on products and consumers were prepared to pay more if they were assured of higher quality.

A brand isn't just a famous name. A brand is a set of differentiating promises that link a product or a service to its customers. Research shows that prospective buyers of business printers, for example, consider and compare the brand leader’s products and those of only one other company before making a purchase. If a corporate brand isn't on this short list, it generally won’t be purchased. Without a strong corporate brand to separate it from others, even superior new products will be overlooked by the majority of buyers. Brand equity is that aspect of corporate reputation (such as reassurance of product quality and trusted service) that leads an individual to buy a company’s products or services. Brand preference increases directly as awareness increases. Advertising builds brand equity and hence leverages the company’s marketing ability.

One of the first jobs of any branding endeavor is to break through the communications clutter and get products into the buyer’s consideration set. Sell your brand to multiple audiences but be sure to change the message for each different audience. Nowadays, brands are increasingly becoming icons of a particular life style and attitude. So, brand positioning must include attitude and personality - it’s an image, it’s a flavor. Your positioning is very, very important - it’s the spot you own in the business universe. What’s your positioning? What’s your differentiation? An example could be, “We make your Web site faster and we guarantee it.”

In consumer markets, brands are everything, They reassure bewildered consumers and help lift a company’s products out of the commodity marketplace so they can command both loyalty and premium prices. A brand is an emotional shortcut between the company and its customers. In some ways, you could say that a brand is a type of packaging, wrapping itself around the product, guaranteeing a certain quality and consistency. It creates a gravitational pull to your company. Intel spent billions of dollars on marketing, almost half as much as it spent on R&D. As a result, its branding of “Intel inside” became a “trustmark,” (that is, a trademark that consumers regularly put their trust in). That became as much a part of its dominance as its technical leadership.

Branding helps new companies survive long enough to secure a market foothold for their products and services. It helps them retain a loyal following and boosts their credibility when they announce plans to enter a new market or launch a new technology. As technology becomes more complex, it enables customers to short-circuit often baffling buying decisions. Remember the slogan, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

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