In 1882, Henry P. Crowell adopted new milling technology in his oatmeal plant. At the time, most Americans thought oats were for horses. The new technology was such a success that Crowell’s Iowa plant was soon producing twice as much oatmeal as the market could absorb. Noted economic historian Alfred Chandler wrote in his book The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, that “a new market had to be found if the great volume of output from the new machines was to be sold.” Crowell began what we would now call “building a brand”. He packaged his Quaker Oats
in convenient 24-ounce boxes with the now familiar Quaker on the label. He introduced scientific endorsements, testimonials, prizes and innovative products. Crowell sold the surpluses created by the automatic flour mill, and in the process revolutionized branding.
Everyone is talking about it. But what is it?
Over a century later, branding has evolved. Today, strategic brand design must comprise the means to market, promote and define a brand in order to stand out in the crowded playing field. And brand development goes beyond product functionality; it is the determined process of designing a brand with quality and attitude.
What is this thing called brand? Brand is the emotion maintained by the buyer describing the experience related to doing business with the company.
Four Ps, Seven Ms
Certain business preliminaries must be accomplished before working on brand. First, a company needs to define an opportunity. This will focus a company’s vision and target by asking who wants the product and who needs the product? This focused information can be used to attract investors and raise money, which can in turn hire a team to build the product. Only then can the company turn to marketing and the Four Ps of product, price, place and promotion. For many business owners, promotion is the most mysterious part of this process.
Product, price and place are based on exhaustive demographic studies, user groups and surveys. But there are so many possible promotion techniques—which ones are right for which product? For which audience?
The Seven Ms can further define promotion: mission, markets, message, measurement, media, money, mix. These Seven Ms of promotion can and should be applied to any promotional tool. For example, if a fashion company is putting together a special event, like a launch party at a gallery, then the marketing team should make sure the company mission, market and message is clear in the invitations and the party planning, andthat there is a way to measure the event’s success. The Seven Ms of promotion can be applied to any number of MarCom tools, from Corporate ID to Social Networking.
Standing Out in a Crowded Playing Field
The marketplace is overcrowded and teeming with competition. The average consumer is exposed to 3,000 marketing images each day—and remember, this includes target audiences like editors, investors, employees, prospects and business partners. There are currently 150 brands of lipstick on the market. Craftsman Tools has 140 sub-brands. 3,000 new brands are introduced every year.
Given this incredibly competitive market, it is all the more spectacular that certain brands consistently differentiate themselves to elicit warm and fuzzy feelings. How many times has a technophile said “I love Sony! Everything I have is Sony!”. Think of brands like Kodak, Gap or Campbell‘s soup—how Campbell‘s has virtually become a part of the family, conjuring an image of Mom caring for a sick child. In the last few years, even software brands have used strategic brand design to elicit feelings of warmth. Companies like Adobe, PeopleSoft, Yahoo and Intuit attract loyal customers through building a brand personality.
So how do these brands differentiate themselves? An effective brand model should include:
1) competencies—what we do
2) standards—how we do it
3) style—how we relate with our marketplace
Furthermore, a brand identity is anchored by a reason for being, a fundamental belief and value that drives the company, a promise to customers, and core strengths—engineering prowess, appreciation of customers, creative engineering environment, worldwide distribution channel.
In the marketplace, effective brand development results in an asset, brand equity.
Brand equity consists of:
(i) brand name awareness and preference
(ii) brand loyalty
(iii) perceived quality
(iv) brand associations
Brand equity results in:
• the shift from simple consumer recall to dominance in the category
• positive attitudes and familiarity with customers
• a solid reason for the consumer to purchase your product
• an opportunity for premium pricing
• faster information processing, as the consumer already understands the brand.
Two critical elements in a brand are perceived quality and attitude.
Quality Drives ROI
“Perceived quality is a major contributor in driving financial performance.”
–Source: Journal of Marketing, 1986
Quality is often the differentiating factor in a purchase decision. In Building Strong Brands, David Aaker goes so far as to say that “quality is a measure of goodness that spreads over all elements of the brand like thick syrup.” Most brands fall into one of four categories: prestige brand, price brand, consumer brand, or B2B brand. Ultimately, the perceived quality of the brand will drive ROI (return on investment). Companies have a chance to increase ROI at every step of the process. Quality is built bit by bit as Human Resources recruits great team players, as engineering and production provide differentiating features, as marketing communicates through symbols, nuances, typography, layout, illustration and photography.
Building a Brand with Attitude
Attitude is the second significant factor in building brand equity. David Aaker‘s Brand Identity System names four brand types: brand as product, organization, person and symbol. “Brand as product” and “brand as organization” are two more traditional concepts—Verizon is easily synonymous with telephone service, and Bank of America is synonymous with a big, national bank.
But “brand as person” and “brand as symbol” are newer, arguably more sophisticated brand types. They differentiate a brand as warm and fuzzy within the crowded marketplace.
The “brand as person” capitalizes on brand personality and customer relationships. Brands like this are often ascribed human characteristics and traits. Intuit‘s web site uses terms like leader, personal, strike a chord, pioneer, thriving, and relentless. Even the name Intuit is synonymous with human instinct and emotion.
By contrast, “brand as symbol” includes visual imagery and metaphors to create something larger than the product itself. For a company that markets “brand as symbol”, images and ideas immediately come to mind. Coca-Cola is an excellent example—the red and white can is instantly recognized. Furthermore, the Coca-Cola slogan—“Coke is it”—is itself an open-ended metaphor. Coke is what? Coke is fun, family, America, youth, health.
To further understand these four categories (brand as product, organization, person, symbol), try to imagine Amazon or the Post Office as a person, or as a symbol. What, if any, human characteristics or images come to mind?
Now that we’ve reviewed key elements, let‘s look at what you need to consider when starting a branding project. The first step is to hire an agency or brand consultant. It‘s branding experts outside the organization who can develop an objective view of the firm, estimate its strengths and challenges, and realistically analyze its current and potential positioning. An agency or brand consultant will help you:
(i) Define the essence of your organization. Who is the company? What are some images, feelings, words that you would use to describe the firm? What is its unique selling proposition? Imagine: if Volvo is “safety”, and FedEx is “overnight”, what is your company? What is the one attribute that you want to communicate?
(ii) Design a unique look and feel to convey brand messages. An agency will be able to understand the essence of your organization, developed in (i) above, and translate this feeling to a brand look and feel.
(iii) Introduce a brand personality with a unique corporate voice. Once a look and feel is developed, the agency can move forward to create a brand personality. Who is your brand? Which personality would represent it? Is it funny and outgoing like Robin Williams? Or is it trustworthy and a source of knowledge, like Peter Jennings? When defining a brand personality, you can also look to an industry other than your own and choose a well established product to describe your brand: “If your brand were a car, which car would it be?” Is it accessible and reliable, like a Ford Focus? Or is it a sporty, luxury item to which one aspires, such as a Porsche? This kind of brand analysis helps to define positioning, a personality and a corporate voice.
(iv) Develop supporting brand icons and graphic elements. Once a personality and tone or voice is determined, the agency will move to develop brand images. These icons and elements will reinforce the color palette, voice, tone and messaging that all go into creating a cohesive brand, and start to build that valuable asset, Brand Equity.
When developing a brand, remember that objectivity is both challenging and essential. Start from the core of the brand, and work out. It‘s only by understanding who and what your brand is, that you can begin to communicate to your consumers your brand messaging.
Is your company facing some brand challenges? Could my team help? If so, please contact me at The Brand Garage (831) 335-3231, or email me at patrick(at)patrickmountain.com. (Use the “at” symbol of course.)