“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does” – opined Stuart Henderson Britt in New York Herald Tribune in 2005. The same applies for branding.
Advertisement is the best way to get noticed. And it is impossible to advertise without a brand. To get noticed and carve a niche in the market companies and personalities create their brands.
Generic businesses and practitioners do not have an identity or recognition. Therefore they do not have any referrals or repeat business. Branding gives you or your business recognition. A brand conveys succinctly and yet vividly what a product or service stands for. A brand for product X states that it has certain qualities and characteristics that make it unique.
“Branded companies are beginning to understand that if they don’t spend enough time thinking about, ‘How is my brand going to differentiate me?’ they lose out big time,” says Wharton marketing professor Americus Reed.
A brand creates an image of your product or service in the minds of the consumers. Brands associate products with certain messages and images and the consumer immediately recalls the product when the brand is mentioned. The image gets etched strongly in the minds of the audience due to consistent exposure to the brand image. For instance, the name Harley Davidson instantly conjures up images of sturdy bikes with a lot of steel on them, free spiritedness, and wander lust. BMW stands for ‘driving’, Mercedes for ‘prestige’, Toyota — ‘reliable’, Nike for ‘doing it’, Red Bull stands for ‘energy’, and Fed Ex stands for ‘overnight’.
These days every successful business or personality has a brand. Branding is not the domain of big corporations alone. Even the small and medium sized businesses are getting branded. Some wise start-ups enter the market with an already created brand. They have clear cut goals about what they are going to deliver.
A Brief History of Brands
Branding started in earnest after the industrial revolution. Manufactured products needed to be marked as belonging to a particular company while shipped and transported to keep them separate from other product consignments. Soon manufacturers realized that branding their products in such a manner also helped in getting identified better in the market place. When pitched against generic local products in the market, the branded products sold better. Thus the use of brands was extended to sales from transportation and shipping.
But the history of branding dates back to almost 3000 B.C. Branding of livestock to mark ownership goes back to 2000 B.C. The owners of livestock burned a distinct symbol on the hide of a calf to ensure that in case it wandered off or was stolen by a competitor it could be easily identified and claimed.
Potters in China used marks on their pottery and porcelain as far back as 1300 B.C. The practice was also followed in Greece, Rome, and India. Though not relevant from a marketing point of view, criminals were branded literally as a method of identification and punishment in 1600 AD. Bread makers, gold smiths, and silver smiths marked their ware to ensure honesty during the medieval period.
Post the industrial revolution manufacturers started to brand their products as a method of distinguishing their product, an innocent way of simply publicizing the existence of one’s brand. Soon branding was extended to drum up the quality of products. Brands increasingly signified characters and gave personalities to companies and their products.
This was the mid 1800′ to early 1900s. The sole aim was to increase the consumer’s awareness for a product. Quaker Oats for example, just wanted to make sure that people somehow could trace their otherwise generic product.
The Quaker man showed up in 1877. This was the time when hiring a copy writer meant, hiring a newspaper journalist or a salesman to write a few lines attributing to the product that the consumer would remember. Branding was not serious and the Quaker man wasn’t designed to sit on the consciousness of the people edging away other such rival images.
The increasing competition in the mid 1900s led to the growth of advertisement on the basis of branding. The development of print, radio, and television revolutionized the world of advertisements. Brands beckoned people from packets and covers of products, newspapers, magazines, bill boards, and television screens. Companies shifted focus from describing their products to creating images for them. Lovable characters were created to represent products under the Chicago School of Advertising, which was an idea of a Midwestern adman Leo Burnett.
Tony the Tiger, Morris the Cat, and the Marlboro Man were some of the brand characters that Leo Burnett created. Brand images were also based on situations like the ‘Kodak moments – signifying childhood memories worth cherishing’.
Slowly the scene got so hot that businessmen and manufacturers realized that they needed to spend a considerable amount of money on developing brands and promoting them. The media always welcomed the idea. Moreover, the returns on building a brand were higher than improving the product.
Most whiskey drinkers cannot tell the taste difference between their ‘favorite’ brand with that of two closest rival brands of whiskey. They just buy their whiskey enticed by the brand image. This is true for many products and services. Realizing the timeless truths like these the manufacturers concentrated more on brand promotion even though the product had nothing great to offer over the competitors’ products. More and more money was pumped in to brand design and promotion. This resulted in a proliferation of brand creation and management agencies – or ad agencies as we know them.
Starting from the 1960s to the present day, the importance of branding has assumed newer proportions. The late 1990s and early 2000’s have taken brand building to greater heights with the use of the Internet. Brand equity is something most companies are concerned about. Brands are so overwhelmingly present in our lives that it’s annoying sometimes. It’s not uncommon to sit to watch a program on TV only to be disturbed by countless commercials promoting different ads shown hundreds of times during the telecast of the program. And brands pop up regularly while reading content on a web site.
But brands are here for good. Big companies as well as small ones know that investing in a brand makes sense. Small enterprises have joined the branding bandwagon without any reluctance. Even a small blogsite has its own brand.