Is a Brand Really THAT Important?

As a marketing professional, I hear this kind of talk all the time.

“Is a brand really THAT important?” “I know I need to figure out my brand, but I must design my logo and get my website up and running first”.  “My funds are limited so I will have to put branding on the back burner for now”.

I first decided to talk about brand as my next topic a few weeks ago, before the Tiger Woods situation happened. I am a firm believe in the importance of a company’s brand and defining that brand as a first step for a new business.

A brand…YOUR brand…defines everything that your company does. Every single marketing activity is defined by your brand. It defines what your logo should look like. It also defines the purpose of your website and what it needs to accomplish. Your message, what you want people to remember and think about your company and products, is also defined by your brand.

What is the definition of a brand? Often people will define their logo and tagline as their brand. As much as the logo and tagline are important elements of a brand, it is not the definition of a brand.

BRAND ≠ LOGO

 

 BRAND ≠ TAGLINE

The definition of a brand:

Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind. In a crowded marketplace, a brand represents certain benefits and value, thereby helping consumers in their purchase-making decisions.

I found that David Ogilvy, the ad agency founder, has a great way of defining brand:

The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.

Your brand needs to be honest and real.

It needs to be a true representation of your product and your company. You will surely run into problems if the brand that you present to the public doesn’t match the reality of the product or your company.

 

**A brand is the essence or promise of

what will be delivered or experienced.**

 

We are living through a real-life, live case-study of this very concept. The Tiger Woods situation is a perfect example of the representation of a brand and that brand not living up to the expectation that was promised. Because Tiger Woods’ brand is a combination of his phenomenal golf ability and his perfect husband/father/family man persona, the ongoing scandal is hurting his brand tremendously. He already has one sponsor that has dropped him and two others that are reducing their marketing efforts around him. And this may not be the end.

Consumers have expectations when brands promise a particular product or experience. They have these expectations because that is what has been presented to them by the brand and they make their purchase decisions based on this presentation. When they feel “duped” and lied to, they are often unforgiving. This type of situation is a company’s worst nightmare and it’s very hard to recover from it. Gaining the trust back, which you had at one time and then lost, is an unnecessary hurdle.  If you are honest about your brand, product and company, expectations will be met and consumers will feel like they received value for their hard-earned money. This is exactly what Tiger Woods, the brand, is facing at this very moment. His sponsors are also facing this reality. Four of his past and current sponsors are on the 100 Best Global Brands list and these types of companies are serious about their brands. This crisis is forcing all of them to re-evaluate the value of having Tiger Woods on their team.

Take a look at the list of the 100 Best Global Brands.

http://bwnt.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/best_global_brands_2009/index.asp?sortCol=rankid&sortOrder=1&pageNum=1&ttRecords=100&resultNum=50

When you look at the list, you will realize the positive feelings or view you have of these companies. Here are a few that come to mind. What do you think about when you think of these companies?

  • Sony—great quality electronic products
  • Samsung—great quality electronic products
  • Coca Cola—the number one soda
  • Mercedes Benz—great quality luxury car
  • BMW—great quality luxury car
  • Gucci—great quality luxury products
  • Tiffany and Co. —great quality luxury products
  • Louis Vuitton—great quality luxury products

Stay True to Your Brand

Building your brand is an everyday activity, done through marketing. It is also an ongoing, long-term commitment. You build your brand equity (a consumer’s trust, awareness and association to your product) with a cohesive marketing strategy that all starts with you defining your brand.

  • Understand your brand.
  • Live your brand through your products and your company.
  • Develop your messages based on the beliefs that encompass your brand.
  • Stay true to your brand.

So when asked if I think brand is really THAT important, I answer with an emphatic YES!

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