What, exactly, is branding? Ask someone to pin down a definition in a single sentence and it can slip away, because branding can mean many things to many different people. Fundamentally, though, branding is about accomplishing twin goals: introducing a product or service to customers while communicating the value of that product or service to a specific target market.
But what is it about brand building that attracts customers? Why do consumers respond to brand-building efforts? When and how do these messages cut through the distractions and the competing messages, connect with the audience and motivated them to lean in, to listen, and to connect? This article will answer those questions by exploring several key questions in each step of the brand building process and how each of these steps communicates value to the consumer.
What Does the Brand Mean?
Above all else, brands should communicate something the target market understands, they should meet felt needs and give the consumer something specific they are looking for beyond the function of the product or service. For example, people don’t buy Nikes because they need basketball shoes or cross trainers. That swoosh means something specific to each customer. The perceived meaning creates a connection between the brand and the consumer.
Where and How is the Brand Positioned?
There’s a concept most marketers are familiar with known as Unique Value Proposition. This is the benefit offered to the customer communicated in a clearly understood way. The UVP, a.k.a. unique selling proposition, differentiates the brand from other similar products or services. Take Patagonia, for example. Many different companies manufacture and market outdoor gear but part of Patagonia’s brand position is one of perceived corporate responsibility. Look at their website and find the following, in big bold letters: “Promoting fair labor practices and safe working conditions throughout Patagonia’s supply chain…” While this isn’t about product quality or price, in today’s marketplace, corporate responsibility is a key brand position for many successful companies. The basic idea is to put the company or brand in a place that delivers visible value that is different and better than the competition.
Who is the Brand in the Market?
Every successful brand has a personality to talk to its customers about the brand using adjectives they might apply to people they like: cool, hip, fun, fresh, vibrant, versatile, and dependable. These personality traits are communicated and developed through specific messaging in the branding process as well as the aesthetic of the brand. Stand across a room, look at a row of mobile devices. Which is the Apple product? That’s an easy one. Here’s another: What color is T-Mobile? What about UPS? Brand personality puts certain traits and experiences out in front of the actual product so consumers learn to connect those feelings with the brand. More examples? Finish these phrases: “Have a Coke and a …” or “Hungry? Why wait? Grab a …” Most people will easily come up with “smile” and “Snickers.” Think about that. Seriously, take a moment to consider that a soda brand connected itself with joy and a candy bar became a synonym for fulfillment. That’s effective branding.
Meaning. Connection. Personality. That’s how building a unique brand attracts customers. They begin to see the experience and the vibe, not just the product.