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A Little Advice

Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol.5, No.1.
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"Branding" -- the kind practiced by marketing departments rather than cowboys -- has long been a staple of consumer advertising efforts. Any among in the folds of our brains: Tide, Coke, Ford, Disney, Alka-Seltzer and Kleenex among scores of others.

Branding, however, has been largely misunderstood or misapplied by all but a handful of business-to-business, high-tech and industrial advertisers. For one thing, it's hard to define.

Advertising legend Leo Burnett, creator of brand images like the Marlboro man and the Jolly Green Giant, defined brand as "the mystery of what a product or service does that excites people and compels them to choose it over any other." Rival luminary David Ogilvy said it a little more succinctly: brand is "the unique quality of some product or service that makes a compelling difference for the buyer."

Now, a compelling difference for the buyer sounds like something worth having whether you're selling bagels or building materials, but here are the four primary functions of a branding program as supplied by Chuck Pettis, author of TechnoBrands.
  • Differentiate both the company and its products.
  • Generate the unqualified assumption by buyers that the products are of the
  • highest quality.
  • Increase the perceived value of the products so that premium pricing can be set.
  • Provide a springboard for new products and acquisitions.

Having a strong brand name engenders a great deal of loyalty and repeat business, lets you charge top dollar for your products and makes it dramatically easier for you to bring new products to market. But achieving a strong brand name is not quick, easy or cheap.

One of the most remarkable high-profile branding efforts ever undertaken by a technology company was the "Intel Inside" campaign of the early 90s. Most marketers now agree that it certainly achieved the goals of branding as Chuck Pettis describes them, but it was a huge multimedia effort involving millions of dollars and using media like television and outdoor not commonly associated with component manufacturers.

If you have the money, the tenacity and the chutzpah to commit to a branding effort, here are a few points on the topic to keep in mind.
  • A brand must be built on a unique advantage offered by the product that is both relevant and intriguing to the buyer.
  • Although the brand advantage may involve multiple aspects, the brand advantage must be clear, simple and understandable to the buyer. It must make a positive and demonstrable difference to the buyer.
  • The brand message must be unique from other brands and strongly tied to the company that owns it.
  • The brand message must create loyalty by demonstrating a commitment to the continued quality the brand represents.

If you're marketing plan calls for you to manufacture cheap, sell cheap and get out after a few years, you don't need branding -- it would just get in the way.

But if you're in the game for the long haul, building brand equity is the smart road to building financial security for your company.

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