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Branding and Brand Monitoring

by Mark Levit

Do you think branding is something marketers accomplish when they place advertisements—or develop corporate identification? It’s not.

It also isn’t “name recognition,” any marketer with a sizeable budget can buy that.

Name recognition is a small component of a brand. To differentiate your product or service from the clutter of competition it’s important to understand what a brand is.

What is a “Brand”?
That’s an important question often debated in marketing circles. From a professional perspective, a real brand is:

A commercial entity, the symbol or messaging for which triggers a deep emotional response when communicated to a customer or other stakeholder.

a brand, it’s not just a product. Intel invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create its "brand." Intel’s concept line, "Intel Inside”, elicits an emotional response that resonates performance, stability and reliability. Those are important attributes when it comes to computers. They make people feel unless they’ve got Intel Inside, they probably bought a substandard computer. They speak to their customers’ emotions.

Some insight into the components of a brand:

1. Commercial Entity
A commercial entity may be a manufacturer like Nike. It could be an airline such as Jet Blue. Or a service like FedEx. Are those real brands? Yes! What emotions or feelings do they evoke? “Just do it”, a feeling of accomplishment; Jet Blue, “upscale”, affordable air travel; FedEx? Confidence your package will arrive on time. Great marketers don’t sell products. They evoke emotion through advertisements, packaging, web sites, distribution channels, customer service and the performance of their products.

2. Communication of a Symbol or Message
A branding message is communicated in any of five ways—or combinations of some or all of the following:

    • Visual (Graphic and Copy)
      A symbol or message can be visual and delivered at many touchpoints— on television, in print, online on packaging, even, the environment in which it’s sold. Think Apple Computer of Tiffany.
    • Auditory
      The message may be heard on television, on the radio or through the evolving new media. "I’d love to be an Oscar Meyer Weiner, Always Coca Cola."
    • Kinesthetic
      The message can be delivered via the sense of touch. A kinesthetic product experience can be reinforced with the feel of the product itself or a branding message such as "Squeezably soft." "How do you spell relief?" “Available exclusively in fine department stores.”
    • Olfactory
      The message can be communicated by a smell, such as a fragrance or household product. Recognize the smell of Lysol? Does it evoke a sense of cleansing or freshness? Good. That’s the brand manager’s goal!
    • Gustatory
      The taste of food can trigger an emotional response. Take the Pepsi Challenge. Pepsi convinces us that their taste is different, plus, if we drink Pepsi we’ll be as cool as a pop star. Pepsi makes us feel good!

3. Emotional Response
The primary objective of branding is to evoke a deep emotional response. That response must rely on different “triggers” than competitors to differentiate and provide customers with a shortcut for decision making.

Many times the emotional response isn’t even related to the product. What’s important is the associated emotion.

For example, consider the old commercial, "You’ve come a long way, baby," Does it create imagery for you? Probably a tall beautiful woman holding a cigarette. The campaign appeared in print and on television years ago. What does that image have to do with cigarettes? Nothing! The woman in the commercial wasn’t suggesting the cigarette is better than others. She’s suggesting you aspire to be like her—by smoking her brand.

The branding message is, if you (women in their twenties and thirties) buy these cigarettes you’ll be like this self actualized, self reliant, gorgeous babe. Wow, what’s in those cigarettes?

The Trigger
Great brand builders use “triggers” all the time. “Triggers” are devices used in advertising, packaging, promotions and other channels to elicit emotional responses. For example: Pepsi and Britney Spears. If you drink Pepsi, you’ll “be like” Britney Spears (appealing to young women)—or you’ll “attract” someone like Britney (appealing to young men). Pepsi even sponsored the pop icon’s concert tours to associate still more closely with her.

Does Britney drink Pepsi? It doesn’t matter. Pepsi associated their product with an established trigger (Britney) who evokes a consistent emotion within the target demographic. After customers experience the association enough times, Britney becomes less and Pepsi, by association, triggers the emotion that was originally developed by watching Britney.

The equation:

          Pepsi = Britney = Strong Positive Emotion

Over time, the equation will convert to:

          Pepsi = Strong Positive Emotion

After a while a pop icon’s effect may diminish. That’s when Pepsi will hire the next pop singer who speaks to their markets.

4. Intense Customer Loyalty
Harley Davidson went about trademarking the sound of its motorcycles. The unique sound of a Harley evokes the feeling of freedom and independence in customers. As a result of its trademarked auditory trigger, buyers now have to wait months to get a new Harley due to strong demand. Harley’s a real brand.

Branding and Your Business
Let’s say you’re in the cosmetics business. Your skin cream’s key benefit might be it reduces wrinkles—a great benefit. The emotional response you probably want to evoke revolves around the desire to look and feel younger. That’s powerful! Do we really care how the cream works? Probably not. But almost everyone will want to look like or be seen with the beautiful woman associated with your brand.

Look around and you’ll see marketing professionals delivering emotional triggers all the time. Like when you use a certain long distance service to make your mother happy. Phone service tied to your mother’s happiness! That’s a real stretch, and she probably doesn’t really have a long distance carrier preference just as long as you call. Still, you’ve seen that strategy in action.

Genuine brands create strong loyalty because once customers become emotionally attached, they feel a relationship—and they’ll pay to keep it intact.

Your Branding Understanding

Once you understand the principles behind effective branding, you can map the attributes that will elicit appropriate emotions and associate those attributes with your brand. No matter the size of your audience, whatever your budget, if you change your approach and communicate through strong emotional messaging, your customer base will grow—and will become much more loyal.

Learn more about the real meaning of branding and how the discipline can catapult your company to the top of it’s market. Contact our Managing Partner, Mark Levit at 212.696.1200.  

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