Branding for Beginners

An integral part to any business, let alone Marketing, PR and Advertising, is to understand the importance of “THE BRAND”.

So firstly, what precisely is a Brand?

The word brand is defined as: a type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name’.

Thus, a brand is seemingly a threefold mash-up consisting of:

a) PRODUCT [s]

b) COMPANY

c) NAME

So if we are to take this as a broad definition, which aspect if any is the most important aspect of a brand?

According to the late Steve Jobs, the most important aspect of any company should be its high quality product. A quote taken from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs sums this view up nicely:

“[a] company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues.” Steve Jobs

According to Jobs therefore, a high quality product aimed at pleasing the consumer should always take precedence over company revenues and figures. And of course, when we think of Apple as a brand, we think of its products: I-Pods, I-Pads, I-Phones, Mac’s. It is these high quality products which have helped Apple as company both become and maintain its place as the brand leader of innovation.

In fact Apple has achieved this so monumentally well that products such as the I-Pod have in effect become ‘brands’ in themselves, promoted through their connotation with cool demeanor and conveyance of sleek, postmodern consumer identity.

Taking Microsoft then, one of Apple’s major brand competitors in the field of technological innovation, it is easily perceivable what a long shadow the Apple brand has cast for this once global market leader. This is because whilst Apple strive to keep their products sleek, simple, and in many ways almost sexy in both design, functionality and name, Microsoft have fallen behind by overexerting and overcomplicating the brand, resulting in a messy concoction of products lacking any real direction.

For example, in opposition to Apple’s I-Phone, Microsoft helped deliver the Taiwanese produced Smartphone HTC.

So thats HTC which stand for “High-Tech Computer”

HIGH-TECH COMPUTER!??!

Are Microsoft actually stuck in a 1980’s Sci-Fi movie!?

This is a prime example of where the NAME of a brand comes into play. The HTC product could be awesome for all consumers know in comparison to the I-Phone or any other market competitors, yet both Microsoft as a brand and its branded products hold connotations with geeks and nerds. Simply put, this equals a very stark contrast to the cool simplicity of the Apple brand.

This however is not to say that Microsoft is not awesome in many other ways, but in terms of brand identity, they have fallen behind…….

Another prime example of the impact of a brand name is the famous Coca-Cola Vs. Pepsi war. We all know which tastes better (Pepsi); but we also know which one appeals the most when presented before us on a supermarket shelf (Coca-Cola, obviously)!

This is the bizarre but brilliant power of The Brand.  

But what impact does a COMPANY itself have on the power of the brand? Let’s look at BP for instance – does anything aside from the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 spring to mind when you think of this company? And from this incident, the BP brand has become a symbol of greed, poor ethics, disastrous PR / CSR and arrogance. But has this halted their profits? No, because BP are in a niche market.

Unfortunately however, not all companies sit within the safety of a niche. If we look at high street fashion outlets for example, we can see how the COMPANY brand can have a direct impact over consumer spending.

Take Marks and Spencer for example – a great brand with good high quality products suitable for all ages. However since the brand over the years has gain such connotations with the elder population, it directly influences consumer decisions to shop there over, let’s say, Topshop!

Now Topshop is interesting – a naff brand name (top-shop!?), selling over-priced and often low quality products.

So why as a brand is it so successful!?

Because, Topshop as a clothing company has connotations with youth, high fashion and the Kate Moss glam lifestyle – something Marks and Spencer will always find hard to compete with no matter how many Twiggy’s, Lizzy Jagger’s, Take That’s and Antonio’s they throw into the mix!

And I for one will hold my hands up and say yes, I’d choose Topshop clothing over M&S any day of the week. And why? Because of the cool brand and cool clothes, obviously…..!?

But what about Primark? A bad name, a bad company and bad products….so why, as a brand, is it so successful? Well, in truth, it is not a successful brand, it is terrible! The company in itself has been successful, especially thanks to the economic downturn and consumer reluctance to spend higher prices for higher quality at stores such as Marks and Spencer.

Popularly known as “Primarni” – the ironic opposite of Armani, I believe the key to Primark’s success is that the company, the name and the products are almost so bad that they are good. Who cares about good branding, good quality and good CSR when the clothes are so cheap, moderately fashionable, and if you are lucky, may last longer than two cycles in the washing machine?  

But Primark as a brand for me at least conjures up images of cheap clothing, child labor and poor CSR . 

The bottom line for any brand it would seem then is this:

If you can’t do it bigger (Coca-Cola), better (Apple), then do it cheaper (Primark)

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