August 19/26 2013; volume 27/number 9
By Jenna Lippin
Brands create a strong foundation in any nation’s economy as familiarity builds trust and reliability with consumers. Some of the United States’ top name brands, including Coca Cola, Apple, Sony and Disney, will maintain high standing in the American marketplace, regardless of the economic climate. The most powerful brands, like these, resonate with consumers and possess financial value.
“Any good brand should aim to fulfill basic needs in society,” said Maria Sebregondi, vice president of brand equity and communications at Moleskine, in a recent interview with The Economist Group. Moleskine is a manufacturer of high-end notebooks and other office and business supplies. “Brands matter because they are deeply tied with intangible values and personal identity… the more authentic and deep the relation you create around those values, the stronger the brand… any good brand should aim to fulfill basic needs in society.”
In order to successfully connect with consumers, and society overall, business leaders must create a brand identity, which Investopedia defines as “how a business wants a brand’s name, communication style, logo and other visual elements to be perceived by consumers. The components of the brand are created by the business itself, making brand identity the way in which a business wants consumers to perceive its brands, not necessarily how it is actually perceived.” The most successful companies have a powerful and direct brand identity, one that resonates with the public. Industry leaders must be mindful of the difference between brand identity and brand image, which is what consumers actually think and can potentially ruin a name, necessitating rebranding.
Once a business has established what its brand represents—and how it wants consumers to respond to the logo, product, name, etc.—creative minds within the company must keep up with what is essentially brand maintenance. One element is brand reinvention. Once success is achieved, a company must work to sustain the business’ success. The most renowned names in the American marketplace continually arouse consumer interest and work to fight competition. If one brand remains the same for 20 years and its competitor changes its look every five years, the average consumer will lose interest in the former and decide to try the latter. Offer something new and exciting; change things up to cause a stir in opinion and, eventually, shopping habits.
Another part of maintaining a successful brand is evaluating how consumers respond to the company and its products or services. The behaviors of a target audience toward a brand help gauge what consumers think about the product and their overall perception of the company. For example, if you say “Disney” to an everyday consumer, it is likely she will envision the signature Disney “D” in the company’s logo and probably Mickey Mouse, as well. These images are likely to create a sense of nostalgia and childhood fun, connections that create a positive emotional response, which will motivate consumers to buy. However, perceptions of and reactions to a brand may change over time, which is why a corporate entity must consistently evaluate consumer response.
As consumers grow comfortable with a brand and are satisfied with its products, they will build brand loyalty. If consumer demands are met, shoppers will develop an allegiance to the brand and consider it a default option. Consider the consumer response from the beginning of the buying process. A woman who regularly watches celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis on The Food Network will recognize her in Clairol’s advertising campaign. If this consumer notices a few gray hairs on her own head, she is going to go to the store and look for Clairol’s Natural Instincts because that is the brand she recognizes, thanks to De Laurentiis. Then, if she’s satisfied with the product’s results, she won’t look elsewhere when it’s time for a color touch-up.
Distility, a branding company that consists of self-proclaimed “brand technologists,” notes three ingredients that make a good brand: the right customer, a good brand promise, personality and position, and great commitment by your team.
Finding the right audience means focusing on a brand’s target customer. First, the company must determine this group, which will lead to defining the values important to those particular shoppers. “This will mean sacrificing things valued by others and not by your target,” notes the Distility website. “Good branding requires sacrifice.”
In terms of brand promise, personality and position, business leaders must remember that a good brand promise is a combination of meeting consumer needs and recognizing the company’s goals. A good brand personality, Distility explains, “is authentic to your organization, attractive to your target customer and consistently delivered.” The last step, a good position, is the absolute reason a target customer will meet her needs with a certain brand and not its competition’s.
The final ingredient in Distility’s branding recipe is “great commitment by your team.” According to the group, a company’s staff is just as important as its brand identity and consumer base. As noted on Distility’s website, “a good brand delivers a consistent experience from initial brand awareness right through the entire customer experience—sales, delivery, solution experience, billing and any after-care or support. To get all aspects of your operations (as opposed to only your marketing campaigns) on brand, you need to ensure you have a strong commitment from your team.” A brand is only as good as the people who build and maintain it. Business owners should be mindful of who is behind their products and services as those are the people who work to ultimately create and drive a brand.