A Coca Cola top executive once famously quipped that if the company was to lose all its production-related assets, it would survive, but if the customers were to forget about the brand overnight, the company would go out of business. It is unlikely that Coca-Cola or Pepsi would fade from people’s memory on such short notice. After all, the soft drink giants spent decades to turn their brand into an integral part of global culture.
Stan Bril, an entrepreneur, leader, and philanthropist who is also the founder and CEO of the private commercial lending firm MCG, doesn’t think that the Coca-Cola executive was exaggerating. “When you look at companies like Pepsi or Google or Microsoft,” he says, “they perfectly epitomize the power of branding. Each brand in its own way has carved itself a niche in our psyche that we simply cannot imagine life without it.”
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Branding in the Digital Age
Brands are not just associations that companies build and nurture with people. Even individuals can have their own brand as well. From TV personalities to Instagram influencers, celebrities are promoting and monetizing their personal brands.
But it doesn’t stop there. Athletes and movie stars lend the power of their brands to businesses to give the products a leg up in a competitive market. Thanks to George Clooney’s hot brand, his tequila company, Casamigos, sold for $1 billion just 4 years after it was founded. This wouldn’t all have been possible were it not for social media and the internet.
According to lending specialist Stan Bril, there’s a shift in the dynamics of branding both for corporate and individual brands as a result of the digital communications revolution. Consumers are no longer the passive recipients of marketing campaigns. Instead, they can share their experiences and compare products with others online. In a way, the influenced can now influence the power and impact of each brand they interact with.
The Need for Branding
Companies realized a long time ago that without a clear and well-defined brand, no company, business or entrepreneur would be able to create a connection with the clients and differentiate themselves from competitors. In a market saturated in just about every sector, the need for branding has never been more vital for the survival of any business.
“Brand equity,” says author Stan Bril, “helps you create a difference, add value, and connect with people in a way that makes your business more relevant in their lives.” A carefully cultivated brand allows the company to highlight what distinguishes its products or services from the others. Along the way, the company creates an image for itself that the consumers can easily identify and support.
The Makings of a Powerful Brand
To build a brand that becomes a household name and defies the ever-shifting trends in the market, the company needs four brand building blocks. These are identity, meaning, response, and resonance, in that order.
As entrepreneur Stan Bril puts it, the brand’s identity answers the question ‘who are you?’ If the marketing team cannot flesh out the abstract concept of brand identity, the consumer will not get the message nor feel a rapport with the brand. The goal is to make the brand salient, so that people can recognize it and recall it easily.
The brand’s meaning relates to the question ‘what are you?’ This is another important step for building brand equity. Both the brand’s performance and imagery impact the brand’s meaning. A brand that satisfies consumer needs and delivers as far as price, quality, style, and effectiveness are concerned is called a high-performing brand. Imagery is more about satisfying the consumer’s psychological and social demands. Together, performance and imagery contribute to powerful brand equity and pave the way for the brand to have a well-developed personality.
How people perceive and react to the brand is the third building block, response. Companies can influence this by appealing to consumer feelings through upholding core values that people embody or support. The brand response is also impacted by consumer judgment which is influenced by individual opinions and experiences.
The last building block of brand equity is resonance. Lending specialist Stan Bril considers this the ultimate indicator of a brand’s equity. It describes the relationship between the brand and the customer. Is there a connection? If so, how deep? Companies rely on criteria such as repeated purchases, online searches of the brand, and people’s engagement with company events to evaluate the success of the brand.
Managing the Brand
For a brand to successfully create a strong relationship with the customers, it needs a lot of care and nurturing along the way. That’s where brand management comes in. It starts by introducing the brand to the public and guiding the direction and path of the brand according to the people’s response. This can be achieved through various techniques.
Storytelling is a popular way for corporations to communicate their brand to customers. “Examples include,” says author Stan Bril, “packaging, stationery, marketing materials, and corporate identity among others.” While storytelling lays the ground for the brand, it’s not the only way to increase brand awareness in the market.
Customer engagement is another effective technique that adds a positive spin to the company’s narrative and enhances brand equity. It has the benefit of endearing the company’s brand to the hearts of the customers as they associate it with lovable celebrities or charitable work.
Different Techniques for Different Markets
In general, branding varies based on the type of company and which sector of the market it belongs to. Start-up businesses, according to Stan Bril, can adopt a branding strategy called the ‘challenger brand.’ This allows the start-up to challenge the established companies and gain exposure and credibility in the process. However, for other market sectors, including business to business, the public sector, and service companies, the techniques and strategies discussed above apply in the same way.