Branding: A Commitment Not (just) Marketing

When I speak to different marketers, I have realised that there are various definitions of branding depending on the point they are conveying. It is always good to refer back to the origins of branding to fully understand what it is, how it has evolved and how it can be improved or ‘manipulated’ to benefit companies, products, individuals, associations etc. My view is that branding goes beyond marketing, it is a commitment to excellence. Here is a bit of history. Branding was started by farmers, cattle farmers to be exact in the 1650’s. They branded their cows with a hot iron rod as a sign of ownership. They also were committed to the highest grade of meat that they were selling to their buyers. In fact this is still a common practice today. Visit your local butcher and observe how the meat has a purple stamp as a clear sign of its grade. Branding later became popular with the wine cellars, when they branded the wooden casks of wines they produced. They branded the wooden casks to communicate that the wines are from a ‘good source’ and that the wines themselves are of the best quality. The commitment that I am talking about when it comes to branding, is really a set of ideas that are uniquely put together to make a brand. Brands become so committed to these ideas that everything which governs the operation and marketing of the organisation is aligned to these ideas. These ideas become perceptions of the organisation and when ‘shared’, they become public perceptions. But, what are the elements that form these perceptions? Perceptions created by brands have elements that, when put together, form brands that people love and are loyal to. A brand must be ready to express things like Confidence, Passion, Belonging, Action, Security and a Set of Unique Values. Marketers have long discovered that it is not the best product that sells. But, what they have realised is that if you make people feel good about using your product, by using the power of branding, there are real business returns. Returns like brand loyalty, word-of-mouth marketing, increase in sales, brand association and brand equity. These are all concepts that are linked to branding. When an organisation is 100 percent committed to serving its customers with passion, confidence and security, customers begin to want to share in the passion and also share with others their unique experiences. Powerful brands become part of people’s everyday language, using the brands as an action word. For instance a friend could say, ‘“Like” my business page.’ And know exactly what they are talking about. An organisation’s commitment to branding is not the same as campaigning, but an ongoing process of customer buy-in. A brand that opens its brand values to its customers stands a chance to connect with them on more than a customer/brand relations basis, they share together on the excellence of the brand. Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said, ‘When people use your brand as a verb, it is remarkable.’ Branding takes your product to the people. Think of a brand like Google, which not only solved our researching problem, but revolutionised our online experience. Brands using branding have become a profitable business in fact big business, and this is why there are words like Brand Equity. And this is why I say it is not ‘just’ marketing, but a serious commitment, if you want serious results. According to strategic marketers, ‘Marketing is the opportunity to develop and communicate value to your prospects and customers.’ Marketing is what happens when igniting the sales funnel, it is simply the act of selling and buying in the market. The benefit of marketing is to grasp the opportunity to entice potentials to use their power to spend their money on your product, and not your competitor. If marketing does not entice people to buy, then it is not marketing, it is self-glorification. The difference is that marketing is dependent on branding, dependent on branding to create a sustainable association with the market. Marketing is relevant, but will not help you if your branding is irrelevant. Marketing simply re-iterates what branding can already do. Brands belonged to farmers, manufacturers, advertisers, but in today’s prosumer market, brands now belong to YOU, the customer.