Business Brief December 2013

Posted in Business
02/12/2013 Level One

From Bland to Brand

Unfortunately, the term ‘brand’ is an abused and confused term. ‘A leading brand’ is distinctly different from ‘a well-known company’ and ‘creating a new brand feel’ is downright misleading when in fact the company logo and typeface is all that is being changed.

So just what is a brand? Why is it important to you and how do you go about creating your own brand?


Building a brand

There are many definitions of a brand: a brand is what people associate with you when they think about your company, service or product. Slightly less worthy but still not quite there is: a brand is what makes people run after it.

The definition I’d commend to you is: a brand is a promise consistently delivered.

In other words, in any dealings with your organisation, your public’s experience should be predictable and positive on an emotional and practical level. Whether you like it or not, your company is already a brand. It may not be exactly what you want, it possibly isn’t formed, but each and every day in all your commercial dealings you affirm what your brand stands for.

So why is a strong brand so important?

In essence, people buy brands, not products.

It’s a well told marketing truth that explains why even such uncomplicated and commodity products and services such as utility suppliers, bottled water manufacturers and telephone directory enquiry services have all spent a great deal of time ‘and not a little money’ in positioning themselves as distinct and appealing brands in a very cluttered market place.

It wasn’t that long ago that buying a bottle of drinking water let alone a specific brand was an anathema. It wouldn’t have made sense and any rational person would have baulked at the prospect. And there’s the rub, we aren’t exclusively rational in our behaviour.

And thank goodness for that. What a frightening and predictable world it would be if we applied Vulcan-like logic to the decisions we face in life. Luckily we all possess a healthy quotient of irrationality that affects our behaviour, which makes life more interesting and marketing more challenging.

Brands, or more accurately brand strategies, are geared to plug in to human frailties and idiosyncrasies. In truth, the most successful brands are specifically created to help consumers choose a product or service on other than rational criteria.

The logo that adorns your shirt’s breast pocket, the fridge door or that little leather handbag – it’s all about reaffirming your personality.


Never underestimate the power of a brand

There is a wealth of empirical evidence that demonstrates the value of a strong brand to a company. On the one hand, it will facilitate better distribution and help maintain price differentials. In pure accountancy terms, the brand value is classed as an intangible asset but one that in some cases is worth more than the bricks and mortar that constitute the company that built the brand in the first place. The Coca-Cola brand alone is worth in excess of $70 billion.


So how do we create a brand?

Your company will have created brand associations purely by existing. No doubt through experience or research or both, you’ll have covered a niche that’s right for you. Now the main, and sometimes painful task, is to be honest about your company and your aspirations for it.

Most brand strategies reflect inherent truths. Find out what your customers, suppliers and distributors all really think of you. Build on the positive and rectify the negative. It’s then time to define your brand positioning where, in the competitive marketplace, your company will sit. What are the marketing gaps and opportunities and will you feel comfortable occupying them?

Time for another maxim: never underestimate the consumer.

In essence, if you pretend to be something you’re not, then you will be found out. Working to your strengths, backed up by the acknowledged reality is the way to go.

As a guide, here is a five point checklist for ensuring the ultimate brand proposition is likely to thrive:

  1. Credible – Is what you say about yourselves believable?
  2. Sustainable – Can you then maintain the values you’re promoting?
  3. Relevant – Does what you’re claiming strike a chord with your audiences?
  4. Motivating – Will your brand proposition be sufficiently potent to generate action?
  5. Differentiating – Does what you say set you apart from your competitors?


A word of caution

It is always tempting to start building a brand on what is actually an operating strength. Unless these strengths can be translated into meaningful consumer benefits, they should be discarded. For example, characteristics and attributes like quality, tradition, service or, saints preserve us, craftsmanship, carry the faintest whiff of staleness. Agreed, they’re fine and necessary means to an end, but consumers are a canny and unforgiving lot, who want to know what’s in it for them.

Let’s take a hypothetical example where an independent kitchen manufacturer YXZ Ltd, produces a range of cutting-edge, contemporary and state of the art products. Its brand positioning might be around, say, ‘exclusivity’.

As a brand proposition, we need to be more engaging, so perhaps ‘be adventurous with design’ is where there’s scope.

Straight away there are connotations of a prestigious, premium and, of course, exclusive brand.


Brand power

Finally, the headline in the advertisement featuring an example of YXZ’s products could read “Just how daring are you in the kitchen?”

You will polarise views, but you will also win staunch advocates who share XYZ’s sense of edginess.

Your audience will at least know what you stand for.


Author Credits

Nick Fairburn, Client Services Director at Factor 3 (, Branding (,

advertising (, digital marketing (, Design

(, brand strategist (



“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”Confucius


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