Literature review: branding Essay
Literature review: branding
They say the best way to enter one’s heart is through stomach. And today, when the restaurant industry is booming and companies are vying for competitive advantage, the above saying can be reshaped for further use – the best way to enter customers’ hearts is through branding the company in their brains! Yes, branding is very much important in the restaurant sector, because eating business is a live package amid multiple competition, where each company has to do a lot to align their product with the interests of the customers – which range from immediate gratification to long-term implications like developing penchants for certain range of dishes, etc. Understandably, this package of customers’ demands does not necessarily limit itself within the quality of the food, but involves anything that is associated with it.
The more the product package of the company fulfils the package of demands of the customers, the more the company establishes its name in the minds of the customer, consequently which gets interpreted as a trusted friend or aid to ‘food solution’! Simply put, branding here works as an invisible tool, which would create a situation where the name of the cook (the company) would trigger all the eating stimuli in the connoisseurs (customers) instantly. Thus the journey of a product together with branding would look like below:
Figure – 1 (by author, 2008)
The figure above evokes a few basic clarifications about branding, before this system can be incorporated in a company, where are the issues are:
1. Definition of Branding
2. Importance of branding
3. Brand equity
4. Brand loyalty
5. Brand awareness
6. Brand value
7. Brand personality
8. How a strong brand is created
What is a Brand?
As Mary Brown, a creative director of Marketing Angel would prefer to define ‘brand’ as a “term that has evolved to mean the enduring emotional association one has with a particular company or product” (McCall, 2003), the famous copywriter and ad agency founder David Ogilvy would prefer to go into a detail – ‘brand’ is an “intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, price, its history, reputation, and the way it’s advertised” (Brand, 2008). In short, brand could be anything like “symbol, words, or mark that distinguishes a product or company from its competitors”(Brand Definition, 2008). And there is more, like “a brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors” (Kotler et.al., 1998). These definitions clear the fact that branding has to be the process that creates and disseminates the brand name, where it can even consider a whole corporate identity as a product (a service or a concept can always be considered as a product).
Definition of Branding
“Branding is the sum total of a company’s identity – from its name and logo to every piece of communication”(Brandguru). There is a plethora of definitions on branding, where some focus on one single point as the most important factor, while some others generalize the issue by including multiple points to define branding. Thus, one needs to have multiple views on the definition of branding to have a comprehensive view, besides choosing the right one applicable for restaurant industry. “Branding means starting with your values and beliefs, projecting these into everything you do, and going forward from there”, says Susan Dunn, the EQ Coach (Dunn, 2007), while some would prefer to say, “branding is generally used to describe the company’s visual identity” (Branding, 2006).
According to Mud Valley, a brand marketing company, branding is “the creation, development and maintenance of a mutually–valuable relationship with a strategically selected group of customers, through the medium of a fresh and compelling elaborated proposition that is delivered consistently over time” (Definition, 2004). This definition looks like a collage of several ideas, which needs to be defined separately. For example, “mutually valuable friendship” connotes to a situation where it might be a case of customer retention through monopoly, or certain contractual terms. This, however, leaves room for argument like whether customers would like to be bonded in this manner, or what if the ‘imposed’ friendship annoys the customers. However, the phrase, ‘strategically selected group of customers’ carries sense, as it points towards prior evaluation of the potential of the customers and identifying the prospective zone of business out of the whole lot and the approach turns out as ‘selected service to a selected group of people’, where privileged service stands as branding. The last part of this definition seems to be thrusting on consistency in marketing communication with customers.
The above definition looks unimpressive due to its complex nature. “Today’s modern concept of branding grew out of the consumer packaged goods industry and the process of branding has come to include much, much more than just creating a way to identify a product or company”, says Dave Dolak, a branding professional and an author. He observes that modern branding is about “creating emotional attachment to products and companies, where branding efforts create a feeling of involvement, a sense of higher quality, and an aura of intangible qualities that surround the brand name, mark, or symbol” (Dolak, 2001).
Thus, the successful branding should be able to
1. Deliver the message clearly.
2. Confirm the credibility of the company.
3. Connect the target prospects emotionally.
4. Motivate the buyers.
5. Concretize the user loyalty (Lake, 2008).
In any case, overall branding can “also stretch to a logo, symbol, or even design features” (Bizhelp, 2008). Taking cue from the above ideas, this can be said that branding is an attempt to create a wholesome bonding between the company and its customers:
Figure – 2 (by author, 2008)
The diagram above clearly shows that branding literally bonds the customer with a product in several ways – the end result of which brings in secured sales for the company. This amply proves the significance of branding in the life of a company – if it wants to grow more, it cannot do without branding.
Importance of branding
Even as globalization providing an unlimited horizon for companies, the competition among them has never been so intense. According to Allan Moss, Managing Director of Macquarie Bank, “globalisation is inevitable and pervasive” (Moss, 2002). It has made new technologies and cheap labour available everywhere. Accordingly “companies are turning to their brands as their only source for competitive advantage” (Blackcoffee, 2008). Branding today is that integral part of marketing, which gives it more competitive edge, where it involves everyone, associated with the trade like “clients, prospects, vendors or employees” (Baldwin, 2003). Branding creates an image of the company, gives it a dynamic character, thereby influencing the customers to associate themselves with that image or to be a proud carrier of it. Under the context it would not be inappropriate to use an old saying in the restaurant business – “you sell the sizzle – not the steak” (Siebert, 2006). Understandably, it speaks of highlighting the distinguished identity, which is invaluable for a company who wants to stay ahead in the race.
Talking of identity, the brand holds aloft the identity of a company, sends its theme message to all, thereby establishing its outlook in the chosen market, be it small or big (The Importance, 2008). It is that live instrument out in the open that can reach customers anytime and retain them. Besides, branding has more avenues to establish a company than the actual marketing. It’s easy for the customers to remember a logo or the cogent catch line of a company, which would keep their interest on the products behind the brand all time alive.
The importance of branding can be felt if someone observes the surge of many non-essential commodities, it plays on the emotional plane of the buyers and converts such products as ‘must-have’ items. Coca-Cola or Pepsi serve great examples of that.
Thus the experts consider branding as “the most important facet of any business – beyond product, distribution, pricing, or location”, where a “brand provides a concrete descriptor to customers and competitors alike” (King, 2005), besides creating a customer base and constantly attempting to retain the most part of it. Therefore, it can be assumed that branding plays the true catalyst between business and its growth, through its various contributions in the sphere of marketing. This is why it is an integral part of the advertising too. “To leave out branding from your marketing efforts is like committing suicide in your industry”, says business writer Lynne A. Saarte, who observes that no company, be it “small business entrepreneur or a Fortune 500 conglomerate” can do without branding (Saarte, 2008).
Figure – 3 (by author, 2008)
The diagram above attempts to cover the usual roles of branding, yet it is incomplete and would ever remain incomplete due to the fact that it impossible to describe how a brand can bridge so many people from so many diverse cultures or taste. The true potential of branding can only be imagined. Thus, this is a fact that in modern times, branding has become an invaluable organ of the company. “In today’s marketplace, where consumers have more options than ever before, anyone who thinks brands aren’t important is kidding himself”, observes Rick Van Warner, while describing the setback of KFC at Dallas in 1996, when it neglected proper branding of their ‘home-meal-replacement’ and eventually had to close the project. “Simply put, don’t underestimate the power of a strong brand”, says Rick (Warner, 1996). He points at brand miscalculation, which can drain millions of dollars from business, while highlighting the importance of branding in restaurant business. Business commentator and writer Steve Gray puts it in another way – “The brand and the resultant image it projects can be vital to ensuring you have a stable platform to launch the business from, and it also builds pride in knowing you have a rock solid image to project” (Gray, 2008).
When a brand stands as decisive factor between two identical products, then one has to admit that it adds some value to the product – that might be intangible, yet that would prove effective in the tangible turnout of higher sales! Therefore, how much a product can earn over its identical competitor by virtue of its brand, determines its brand equity. It can be a neat result of many factors like years of experience, proven track record of quality, legacy, emotional bondage and company outlook, where it adds more value to the product and thereby helps the product to score over its identical competitors. Without brand equity a product loses its competitive advantage, and for that matter some companies “measure brand equity relying on financial measures of brand performance” (Dobney, 2007). Other experts also hold a similar view that “a brand is nearly worthless unless it enjoys some equity in the marketplace” (Dolak, 2001), or “building brand equity is crucial for any retailer, big or small” (Hurlbut, 2008).
Figure – 4
The brand management chain (Based on Wood, 2000; Kapferer, 2004)
Integration of the theoretical constructs brand equity (Aaker, 1996) and brand orientation could be instrumental in the understanding of brand value, where brand equity commands more attention as it aims for generating long-term values for the company by “understanding the conceptual basis for the value of brand and its implications” (Keller, 1993).
“Brand equity is an intangible asset that depends on associations made by the consumer” (Brand Equity, 2007). The significance of brand equity has grown in leaps and bounds in modern times, and thus is now seen as the outcome of a series of activities among brand assets, brand strength and brand value. The above diagram of brand management chain thus subdivides the processes under brand assets, brand strength and brand value, where brand assets refer to the information linked to the brand in customers’ memory, while customer responses are referred to as brand strength and their out come in terms of profit is taken as brand value of the company.
Brand loyalty refers to the customers’ consistent preference to buy a selected brand in a particular product category, irrespective of other provocative options presented by the competitor of that brand. This situation occurs after the customers make a trial run of the brand and get convinced about the efficacy of that brand towards fulfilling certain needs of theirs and decide to buy that brand again and again. That practice “forms the habit and thus customers continue purchasing the same brand because the product is safe and familiar” (Giddens, 2002). It is thus a kind of faith of the customers on the brand metamorphoses into habit that rides over other considerations like price rise or additional features available in the brands belonging to same category.
According to a brand loyalty promotion company, “the top 20% of customers generate around 80% of the profit of a brand, and it is five times cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one” (Why, 2008). Loyalty promotional companies like these, therefore thrust on the outcomes like increasing the sales among loyal customers, besides increasing the frequency of visits and converting non-loyal customers turning into loyal customers.
The advent of such companies proves that brand loyalty is a very important factor in both increasing and retaining the sales. A brand can enjoy several competitive advantages over its competitors by having loyal customers. First, it ensures high sales, second, it erases any agony with the price-rise of the product, third, it generates positive campaigns from the buyers who spread their good experience with the product, and fourth, the loyal customers care little about promotional campaigns of that brand and thus save the company expenditure on advertising, marketing and distribution (Gibbens, 2002).
However, brand loyalty stems out of the quality of a product and its successful projection to the customers. Effective branding creates loyalty (Baldwin, 2003). It embeds the thought of a particular brand in its category. Loyalty to a particular brand generates mostly out of two situations – one, when applied rationality of humans opts to include the brand into its future strategies, and two, when applied emotion overtakes the rationality to respond to the call of the heart. This state of affairs clears the possible customer approaches to a product, where they would avail either the call of the brain or the call of the heart or both at a time.
This situation speaks of the dual responsibility of branding too, where on one hand it should influence the rationality of its prospective customers, while invoking the emotional response among them on the other. As for example, a particular meal in a restaurant might declare about a possible health benefit with the inclusion of tomato in it by saying, “lycopene in tomato lowers the risk of cancer”, thereby influencing the rationality of the customers, and at the same time it can evoke the nostalgia in customers by labelling the meal as “grandma’s special recipe”.
Brand loyalty is more or less associated with customer behaviour, which is ever dynamic and thus commands constant monitoring. Furthermore, the expansion of market in the era of globalization and digital information, the consumer behaviour is getting tougher to understand. A model that “examines the significance of content, context and infrastructure in determining customer loyalty”, comes out with the inference that “customer attitude is influenced by belief about brand equity (value), which is affected by the content, context and infrastructure” and “customer loyalty is determined by attitude and belief about the context in which the products or services are offered” (Lu & Lin, 2002). Thus the following diagram can brief this state of affairs:
Figure – 5 (by author, 2008)
It is understood then, to enjoy a situations like above, the companies need to create a quality product, project it properly, raise its brand equity and maintain the customer relationship through all possible ways
Brand awareness is “a gauge of marketing effectiveness measured by the ability of a customer to recognize and/or recall a name, image or other mark associated with a particular brand” (Waters, 2008). It’s when people recognize and recall the brand-owner through the brand under any circumstance. (Dolak, 2001). And there is more – “whether, and when, consumers know the brand” (Keller 2001). It is more of an established knowledge about the brand and its owner, which people may acquire through direct or indirect experience. Direct experience evolves out purchasing/using the product, while indirect experience may come from many sources of suggestive messages, like advertisement, someone’s suggestion, etc. Though brand awareness cannot measure the customers’ approach towards the brand, yet it is very helpful in forming a positive attitude among the target audience about the brand.
Figure – 6 (by author, 2008)
The above diagram shows that recollection or identification ability first created ‘aided awareness in the prospective customers, which might convert into a top-of mind awareness, if the brand convinces customers either with its logistics or direct service.
Thus, brand awareness can work on two folds, primarily making its way into the mind of the customer and then working on its way to achieve the recognition, where the brand first generates strategic awareness in customers, where the customers understands the distinctive qualities of the product and associates them with their need.
Distinctive qualities of a product are commonly known as its Unique Selling Proposition, which highlights the uniqueness of a product with appropriate explanation. And there is more. Customers might check the ‘points of parity’ too – by checking whether the product under observation contains all or most of the goodness offered by its competitors. This is no less a serious consideration.
As for example, if a customer weighs the declared USP of a particular meal at one restaurant, s/he would also weigh its points of parity with meals belonging to the same category that are served by other restaurants. Now if the customers get convinced about the promise of the product, then it is expected that their approach to it would culminate into brand preference, where the recognition of the product would finally succeed in achieving the top-of-mind awareness in the customer – a mental condition where the product occupies top-slot in the mind of the customers.
In other words, it’s a situation where the customer readily opts for that particular product above others in its category, whenever they are in need of that. According to Dave Dolak, “brand preference might be considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of branding because it is the result of consumers knowing your brand, understanding what is unique about your brand, connecting emotionally with your brand, making a decision that your brand is superior to others for some reason or combination of reasons, and choosing it over competing brands”. (Dolak, 2001).
While brand loyalty proves to be a cost-saving yet effective tool to garner higher sales, brand value “reflects how a product’s name, or company name is perceived by the marketplace” (Free, 2004), which involves both target audience and the general audience. Brand value can be tangible too, in the event of a brand being sold, where extracting the value of the brand from the value provided by other, tangible, resources becomes possible (Simon, C.J. & Sullivan, M.J., 1993, Conchar, et al, 2005). In the plain eye, brand value is considered as the “contribution of the brand towards the financial performance of the firm, measured as an impact on profitability, margins and working capital” (Kerin & Sethuraman, 1998, Barth, et al., 1998).
On other words, it denotes the power and strength of a brand. As for example, “if Coca-Cola’s facilities Atlanta were to burn overnight, the company would still be able to start up the next day due to its brand value” (What, 1998). Therefore it is the success story of a company that earns its brand value.
However, to gauge the impact of brand value, the company needs to take help of empirical research. The process might then look like below (Persson):
Figure – 7 (Based on Persson)
Brand value is the outcome of consistent and successful brand building, where the action of the company would speak louder than words, besides proving its ethical standings in the marketplace. A brand is usually what a company stands for in the public’s mind, creating certain expectations and promising to fulfil them. When a company successfully does that in reality, it starts building a good brand reputation. Thus a successful brand evolves out of “various values, culture and authenticity” (Ethics, 2005). Brand reputation of a company involves its every layer of activities, like operational, financial, legal and brand statement. This brings up another important aspect of brand value to the fore, as it involves ‘corporate social responsibility’, which commands “business that embodies transparency and ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder groups, and a commitment to add economic, social and environmental value” (Ethics, 2005). All boils down to the fact that a company’s value will eventually be determined by how many people have faith in it and are willing to stand by it. Faith in plain definition is an intangible item, but so are the “most important assets of any business – including its base of loyal customers, brands, symbols & slogans – and the brand’s underlying image, personality, identity, attitudes, familiarity, associations and name awareness” (Smart, 2007).
A report from the desk of reputed Public Relations firm Fleishman-Hillard cites a survey of the World Economic Forum, where 59 per cent of the 1500 top CEOs of the globe “estimated that corporate brand or reputation represents more than 40 per cent of a company’s market capitalization” (Corporate, 2004).
Such a recognition from the top managers points at the fact that a company has to aligns every employees mission to such vision if it wants to build top reputation, or in other words, attain a top brand value.
From the hardcore financial angle, brand value “looks at ways to generate future income”, says Thayne Forbes, joint managing director of Intangible Business. In all “Brands are valuable to companies because they are valuable to consumers” (Brown, 2007).
Much like a human being, a brand too serves as the ambassador of the company personality, depicting its outlook and aspirations, besides its services and promises. Thus much depends on the carriage of the brand, because it is the coveted message of the company to the outer world about its activities, aims, aspirations and promises – in short, a package of total company outlook. Thus it can be surmised that brand personality is much dependent with the target market segment and the people associated with it. As for example, if a restaurant’s target market involves children, it would go for the elements that belong to children’s world to build its brand, thereby projecting a personality, with which the children can associate themselves immediately. Needless to say, it takes a lot of research to create a right personality for a brand that would align with the taste of its target market segment. “The understanding of how the brain works helps us to craft a marketing message that works”, says Jerry Bader, Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, while commenting on how to develop a brand message (Bader, 2008).
According to David A. Aaker, It is the brand personality that can make a “brand more interesting and memorable, while without it, a brand might turn out much like a someone lacking friends due to unimpressive presence” (Aaker, 1996). Aaker suggests that brand strategists should look beyond creating a core identity, which is of course the timeless essence of a brand, but it is the extended part of the identity that “fills in the picture, adding details that help portray what the brand should stand for”. Aaker presents an interesting observation in his book “Building Strong Brands”, where it provides examples of various brand personalities that align with the psyche of their respective target market segment. The table below represents a glimpse of his observation.
Types of Personality
Sincerity: Down-to-earth, family oriented, genuine, old-fashioned.
Hallmark, Kodak, Coke. Relates as well-liked and respected member of the family.
Excitement: Spirited, young, up-to-date, outgoing.
Pepsi. Relates to these personality traits.
Competence: Accomplished, influential, competent.
Hewlett-Packard, Wall Street Journal. Relates with persons respected for accomplishments, like teacher, minister.
Sophistication: Pretentious, wealthy, condescending.
BMW, Mercedes. Relates with powerful boss or a rich relative.
Ruggedness: Athletic and outdoorsy.
Nike (versus LA Gear), Marlboro (versus Virginia Slims). Relates with outing, outdoorsy interests.
Table – 1
The above chart clears two facts. One, brand can pose as a person to form a relationship with the customer, and two, brand can exude its own personality just like a human. While the former might be instrumental in business relationship, the later would have long-lasting impression on the relationship. Thus, brand personality can work on two planes, where it serves as a friend to the customer one plane and serves as someone dependable in need. It is thus understood that brand strategy is the key to shape the personality of the brand – whether it would say to the customer “I’m there for you always”, or “You look gorgeous”, or “I’m a friend, philosopher and guide for you”. In all, brands can wear any attitude that suits their purpose, where the opulent products take a snobbish stance, Performance brands talk to the customers, Power brands flex their muscles or even Intimidated brands intentionally display inferiority! (Aaker, 1996).
Whatever it may be, any brand relationship is no less sensitive than relationships among humans, and thus must be handled with care.
How a strong brand is created
Some experts feel that a good brand name “gives a good first impression, is easy to remember, and evokes the positive associations with the brand” (Brand Solutions, 2004), while some others opine “public relations is the way a strong brand is truly established and advertising is how the brand is maintained” (Dolak, 2001). He stresses on the effectiveness of the involuntary word-of-mouth campaign for a product that gets wind with the press report and shaped by the advertisement, where a short, sharp and mind-boggling set of words or images or a combination of both would secure a place in the hearts of the customers, even if it doesn’t always seconded by their brain!
However, the preconditions of creating a strong brand remain more or less the same, where a product should primarily have the basic or other features of other products in the same category and then it would add some extra edge to the product by virtue of its USP, coupled with solid explanation.
Figure – 8 (by author, 2008)
A strong brand does more than it meets the eye, however, its activity should be powered towards achieving the targeted benefit out of it. For that matter, the first step towards creating a strong brand “is to identify the benefits” (Saarte, 2008). Target benefit would surely help to determine the nature of the branding, which would help the company to identify the necessary elements into branding, such as company image, the USP of its product, type of promises, and desired platforms of bonding and more.
Brand building is dependent on the core activity of the company too, where its quality of business outlook, better performance in production, man management, and product quality makes branding easier. It is much like a symbiosis – as a company builds its business, it builds its brand (Moore, 2008).
Moore lists a few questions that need to be answered before improving the branding of a company:
How does the company make its profit?
How does the company make its employees happy?
How does the company make customers happy?
According to Moore, if a company makes profit besides making employees and customers happy, then that state of affairs itself becomes a statement of strong brand. Moore points out that no company could make much headway without fulfilling those basic promises of business. Thus, it can be surmised that a strong brand usually stems from the inner strength of the company.
But the above is too generalized a statement, since there are specific steps prescribed by other professionals, which a company has to take before achieving a strong brand. In their book, “Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick in Your Customers’ Minds”, Karen Post, Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Michael Tchong present eleven such steps towards creating a strong brand. However, they also put up a certain preconditions before going for the prescribed steps like below:
The company knows who it is in the market: This speaks of clear understanding of the company’s position;
The company has decided on its brand difference: It points at its decided USP
The company already has a customer base: This asks about company’s experience in the market;
The company has decided to utilize that experience (Post, 2004).
Thus it is seen, before going to create a strong brand, the company needs to earn somewhat footing in its business segment. After setting the preconditions right, Karen Post and her team present the prescription that contains 11 tactics, placed in brief below:
1. Visual Identity: It should serve as the “footprint” of the brand – it might be anything ranging from corporate identity to overtly visible company system or a package of elements that would create a visual identity to the outer world.
2. Advertising: Thrust should be given to sell the product, besides advocating company belief, persuading the customer and along side developing the brand.
3. Brand Partnerships: Two brands at times well in the making of a strong brand, besides proving cost-effective.
4. Media Relations: Media brings most opportunities before a company to air its product, share its views with prospective customers. Media has tremendous influence over the market.
5. Community Relations: Developing strong relationship with the group of potential buyers not only helps to retain the customer, but also generates more customers. Right here comes in the importance of knowing and mixing with the culture of a community, because culture in fact is “an iceberg where the explicit part is above the surface and the implicit much bigger part is below the surface (Trompenaars & Turner, 2004). A researcher from Netherlands, Trompenaars has come out with a model of essential cultural theory that covers five areas (Universalism/Particularism, Communitarianism/ Individualism, Neutral/Emotional, Achivement/Ascription, Diffuse/Specific). It is considered as a handy tool for the multinational companies to do business in more than one cultures (Hodgetts & Luthans, 2004).
6. Sales Promotion/Events: This is an important tactics towards brand building, new launching, reestablishing rapport with customer base or adding new customers in the roll.
7. Customer Service: Customer service is that part of tactics, where it damages more if neglected than it earns favour by service – thus, it is always important to run the customer service in top gear.
8. Sales: Intense drive for sales adds verve to the brand, while new brands added to the existing lot too helps in selling.
9. The Environment and Merchandising: Visual display of products too adds to the brand building in a great way, which Karen names as ‘visual seduction’.
10. Using Online Advantages: It is that shortest avenue which can make even a small company walking global. It takes minimum time to reach maximum number of potential customers at minimum cost, and thus a very important brand-building tool.
11. Alternative and Buzz Activities: This refers to nontraditional campaigns, much in the mould of attention grabbing. This is a carefully planned gimmick to impress the potential customers (Post, 2004).
However, this list too seems inadequate to encompass the entire gamut of brand-building elements, as it doesn’t speak anything about strategies on the branding of the competitors of a brand. The activities of the other brands in the same category can provide much insight or new ideas on creating a strong brand, besides outwitting the competitors. This is more important at the start up phase of a company, when it engages in business research, issues like branding techniques of competitors, its merits and demerits, the strategies reflected through the operation of the leading brands in that segment and above all the strategy to protect its own brand are bound to arise for evaluation. This business research thus seems essential to create a competitive edge for a company.
Therefore it seems that a strong brand should reflect a host of things:
1. The image/personality statement of the company
2. Value statement of the company
3. Style statement of the company
4. Product statement of the company
5. Win-win attitude
6. Promise of the company towards customers
7. Knowledge about what its competitors are up to
8. Desire of bonding customers
9. Enticing the prospective customers
10. Effectively projecting the USP of the company.
11. Innovativeness in approach.
Now this is a bare fact that the overall quality of a company is bound to show at one or the other stage of operation, irrespective of any coveted presentation of its image or carefully crafted advertising. For example, if there is lack of motivation or commitment among the employees due to faulty company policy, that would surely hinder the process of creating an effective brand, as then the performance of the employees would tell upon the quality of the product and subsequently that would belie the promises presented by the company in the process of branding. On the other hand, if the core activities of a company reflect enthusiasm and hope, then that could push the branding even beyond the expectation of the company. These possible situations thus highlight the significance of choosing right moment to go for branding. The right moment here can be imagined as a state when the employees will be ready to deliver up to the level of expectation of the customers as influenced by branding. “They must be able to ‘live the brand’, with the power of intuitive feel for the brand and what it stands for, as well as deep pride in the brand”(Investments, 2003).
This important angle provides more foods for thought that a solid base of a company paves the way for creating strong branding. “The key step is to create a broad brand vision or identity that recognizes a brand as something greater than a set of attributes that can be imitated or surpassed”, says David Aaker in his book “Building Strong Brands”, who suggests that “a company consider its brand not just as a product or service, but as an organization, a person and a symbol”.
There is another important issue, which should be taken into account before deciding on revitalizing the existing brand, and that is avoiding the hidden traps of brand identity. Generally there are four types of such traps, viz.,
1. Brand image trap: It’s when the image gets overdone and brand image oversteps its zone to evolve into brand identity, thereby blurring brand identity’s perceived role of strategically reflecting business policies. Understandably, this hinders the growth policy of the company with other brands – it might produce an inflated brand image, totally mismatching customers’ previous experience on it and paves the way for customers to comment on it.
2. Brand position trap: While brand position actively illustrates the brand identity and value proposition to the target audience to gain the competitive advantage, the trap waits somewhere in the middle when the search of brand identity gets converted into a search for brand position, understandably, downgrading the goal into mere advertising. This might rob off the brand personality, where the latent brand identities (like cleanliness for a restaurant) might suffer from lack of attention.
3. External perspective trap: It’s about shortcoming of employee perception about the brand identity, where brand identity deserves to be a concerted statement of the company.
4. Product-attribute fixation trap: It occurs when the brand focuses solely on the product, thereby ignoring other potent factors that highly attribute to the end-goal of the company, such as brand image, brand personality, etc. (Aaker, 1996)
The above discussions boil down to a simple reality – while a brand does more for the company than it meets they eye, it takes more efforts too, than what is commonly perceived about building a brand. And how will the company know that it has branded successfully? “When people start listening to it”, says Dina Giolitto, business writer, “not just hearing what you say, but letting you call the shots”. (Giolitto, 2005).
Figure – 9 (by author, 2008)
Books & Journals
Aaker, D.A. 1996. “Measuring brand equity across products and markets”. California Management Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 102-120.
Aaker, D.A. 1996. “Building Strong Brands”. The Free Press, New York. ISBN 0-02-900151-X
Conchar, M.P., Crask, M.R. & Zinkhan, G.M. 2005. “Market Valuation Models of the Effect of Advertising and Promotional Spending: A Review and Meta-Analysis”. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 33, No. 4, 445-460.
Hankinson, G & Cowking, P. 1996. The reality of global brands. Berkshire England: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.
Helgesson, T. 1996. Culture in international business – An introduction. Bjarred: Academia Adacta AB.
Hodgetts, R. M., & Luthans, F. 2004. International management: Culture strategy and behavior. (5th edition) New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.
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