The concept of branding goes back to ancient times when people in positions of power, ownership and commerce labeled their possessions, products and documents to identify them and let others know that they owned or created them.
For purposes of branding, a symbol, also known as a logo, was created. This was fashioned into a design on a stamp, seal, branding iron, or ring that was used to make an impression on cattle, goods, and documents to signify ownership, membership, or origination.
Fast-forward to the present day, organizations have discovered that the following 10 steps can provide a successful path to creating more effective brands.
Step 0: Understand how the human brain works.
- find their way through the busy clutter and noise;
- remember your products;
- give them good, uniquely beneficial (not harmful) reasons to buy yours over others.
Step 1: Define your marketplace
After doing a SWOT analysis that matches your strengths with opportunities, define the marketplace -- the one that incorporates the most promising opportunities that your strengths allow you to pursue.
Step 2: Identify company-wide "locks."
At the company level, identify the market segments, or locks, that have needs your organization can fill better than your competitors.
- Identify the most promising target market segments your strengths enable you to pursue.
- Make it clear to those segments what your company does in as few words as possible (so that others can remember and repeat.)
- Communicate clearly what is unique about your company and why your target audience should do business with you.
Step 4: Create corporate identity tools.
The tools typically used to implement corporate identity strategies include: name, logo, slogan, colors, type fonts, spokes people, mascots and jingles. These tools are then used on letterhead, business cards, websites and all other communications vehicles.
Step 5: Identify the product locks.
For each of your goods and services, identify the target market segments with unfilled needs that each product can fill better than competitors.
Step 6: Decide whether to include your company image in your product image.
A critical decision marketers need to make is whether or not to combine the image of the company with the image of each product.
Case for inclusion. If the company has a good reputation for the type of product being introduced, it should probably include a company reference in the product brand. Some examples include Diet Coke, Microsoft Office and Apple iPhone.
Case for exclusion or separation. You should separate the image of each product under the following conditions:
- One image might hurt the sales of the other. The product is risky, the company image is fragile, or either one has a bad image (Example: Disney uses its corporate brand only on content that is deemed wholesome for kids, and other corporate brands, such as Touchstone, Hollywood, or Miramax, on movies that have sexual, violent, or other potentially objectionable content).
- Very strong identification with one type of product. IBM is known as the computer company, and in the 1970s it made an excellent copy machine that many thought was better than competitors, but it did not sell because people associate IBM with computers and not copiers. Xerox developed a good computer in the 1980s, but it did not sell because Xerox is known as a copier company. Both might have been successful, if they launched these products under a separate brand identity. Clorox is closely identified with bleach. The company owns Hidden Valley salad dressings. Would anyone buy the salad dressing if it contained the Clorox name?
- Lock and key mismatch. If the company wants to get into new product areas that are in conflict with established market segments, they need to create new brand identities for these products. For example, in the 1970's, Japanese automakers -- Toyota, Honda and Nissan -- had images of being small, ugly, affordable and fuel efficient. That worked well for college students of that era, but as those students aged and became more affluent, many wanted luxury cars. The Japanese automakers knew they had to create new product images (keys) so they created Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti for these evolved segments (locks).
Step 6: Create product keys.
Once the decision is made whether or not to use the company image in the image of the product, unique "keys" should be established for each product. Why do they need to be unique? Uniqueness minimizes competition and enables the company to charge whatever is necessary to satisfy the expectations created by the image and make money to stay in business.
Step 7: Avoid cannibalization.
In establishing unique keys, care must be taken to avoid having the image of one product overlap with the others in the product line. Overlap causes confusion and takes business away from oneself rather than other competitors because confused buyers usually don't buy. Alka Seltzer confused its audience by introducing a new cold medicine they called Alka Seltzer Plus. Alka Seltzer was known as a stomach medicine, but most thought Alka Seltzer Plus was just a better-working version of the original. This caused sales of Alka Seltzer to drop at the same time the new product, Alka Seltzer Plus, was unable to achieve its sales potential because it was for colds -- not upset stomachs.
Step 8: Create positioning tools.
The tools typically used to implement positioning strategies include: names, logos, slogans, mascots, jingles, colors, and type fonts. Slogan examples formerly used by Coca-Cola include: It's the real thing, which reminded cola drinkers that Coca-Cola Classic is the original; and Just for the taste of it was created to counteract the notion that the artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke compromises the taste of the beverage (a problem that its predecessor Tab had). When introduced, these slogans were used on all product labels and in all other communications. Coca cola red is also a trademarked color that has been ubiquitous since the the 1890s.
Step 9: Promote the brand.
Once keys are created for the locks, it is time to execute the strategies in all marketing communications. The company has to have someone (inside or outside the company) that understands the branding process well enough to direct those who will be implementing communications strategies.
Step 10: Measure and analyze results and take corrective action.
Once implemented, results should be measured and analyzed to determine what is and is not working and why. Strategies should be modified and refined.
By following these steps and executing them properly, marketers can build better brands that have a greater chance for success in the marketplace. Best of luck.