Part 1: Why Is Branding Important?
What Is Branding?
According to The Branding Journal, branding is the process of giving meaning to a specific organisation, company, and its products or services, by creating and shaping the brand in the minds of consumers. This strategy helps people identify and experience the brand, which in turn convinces them to choose the brand over its competitors.
Before we start, let’s clarify the difference between branding and marketing. Branding is about establishing your voice, personality, message – it is who you are. Whereas, marketing and advertising is how you build awareness and get that message out. Branding is your message, and marketing is the tools and strategies you use to deliver that message.
What’s The Point?
Point 1: Instantly recognisable.
People tend to do business with companies they are familiar with, and branding gives your company, product or service that “face” to recognise and familiarise with. If your brand is easy to recognise, people will feel more comfortable purchasing from you. This helps build brand loyalty which is a powerful force to reckon with as many people tend to be brand loyal and stick with certain brands that they already have a pre-existing relationship with and trust.
Point 2: Stand out from other brands.
There are so many competitors out there, so what makes you different from the rest? Branding is effectively communicating that unique selling point and positioning to your customers. Being able to do that and emphasize how you are different, gives people reasons to talk about your brand, which helps with brand awareness. You might just be the talk of the town.
Point 3: Knowing who you are.
Branding is also about showing who you are, and what you can do for your audience. Furthermore, knowing who you are can also help to attract the right kind of audience that resonates with your brand. This is why it is important that the brand’s values and personality shines through everything that the brand puts out there. Also, good branding has the potential not only to attract the right kind of like-minded audience, but brand advocates too – those who would willingly share your brand with others, increase visibility, and generate referrals.
Point 4: Direction and motivation.
Harvard’s Service-Profit Chain theory establishes the important relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction that ultimately results in profits. So before thinking about your customers (as most businesses would jump ahead to), it is important to take a step back and focus on your staff to ensure that they are clear of their roles as part of the brand’s touchpoints. A clear branding provides clarity in communicating the brand message, mission, and expectations. Only then can you expect the brand to live out in the customer service experiences provided by the staff.
Point 5: Associations and experiences.
When consumers already have impressions of a product or company formed from previous experiences, this can change the way their brains evaluate straightforward decisions (Source: Lucidpress.com). An experimental campaign was conducted by PepsiCo in which participants were asked to drink two sips of cola from unmarked cups and evaluate which one was better. The response showed that consumers clearly loved Pepsi most (although they didn’t know it was Pepsi). This was repeated again, however with the participants now knowing which brand of cola they were tasting. This time, the higher-level decision-making part of the brain – the cerebral cortex – lit up, and Coca Cola was the new favourite. This shows the effect of branding. People were not evaluating the flavour, they were evaluating the memories and experiences they associated with the brands. This is consistent with why Coca-Cola controls 17% of the carbonated beverage market share, while Pepsi only holds 8%. Branding has the power to create favourable associations and experiences for people that would in turn, affect their purchase decisions.
5 Things That Make Up Good Branding
To find out what elements make up a good branding, let’s study one of the most popular brands that is known for its excellent branding strategy.
Disney is called “the Happiest Place on Earth” for a reason. It has become a staple place where all generations from diverse backgrounds are able to experience the magic and fun together. The promise of an unbelievable, one-of-a-kind experience. They also emphasise on meeting customer’s needs and always putting them first.
1. BRAND PERSONALITY: The human characteristics associated with the brand
To allow for effective branding, most brands would establish a brand personality as well as a brand image. Brand personality refers to a set of human characteristics attributed to the brand. For instance, human-like adjectives like creative, funny and caring can be used to describe a brand. Brand identity, on the other hand, is the promise brands make to their customers – what the brand says, how the brand carries itself, what values they have, and what they want people to feel when interacting with them.
One area in which Disney has always been consistent with is its brand personality. Imaginative, creative and playful, Disney is child-like in its unlimited imagination, belief in magic, and quest for happiness. We see this depicted in Disney movies where magic is real and there’s always a “happily ever after”, or in Disneyland where anything is possible in the “happiest place on earth”. Its tone of voice is always friendly, fun and nurturing for all ages and this can be seen in the way it communicates across its different mediums, as well as the good moral values that are taught in its movies. Establishing a clear brand personality allows for a consistent brand image across all the brand’s touchpoints, giving consumers a more holistic and fulfilling understanding and experience of the brand.
2. BRAND POSITIONING: The message and the target audience
Disney may seem like they are trying to attract only kids, but their main focus is actually on the whole family – anyone who is young at heart. That is the way their theme parks are designed and advertised, and their movies written – to appeal to people of all ages. Take Mary Poppins for example. The young and old loves her for her magic and the movie’s storyline. However, adults will also appreciate the deeper issues Mary Poppins brings, like Mr Banks’ work obsession that can affect loved ones or how happiness cannot be measured by social classes.
Over the years, Disney movies have also been adapting to societal changes, helping it to stay relevant with the times and for people to continue appreciating and resonating with its storylines. For instance, the first generation of Disney princesses (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella) shared common characteristics like being mild-mannered, compassionate and graceful. However, as women in the society became more bold, recognised and outspoken, the second generation of princesses (Ariel, Jasmine and Belle) started to reflect that and became more courageous, free-spirited, and exhibited their intelligence in how they responded to the different curve balls that life threw at them. Today, modern princesses like Rapunzel, Tiana and Anna, are more adventurous, independent and driven than ever before. Movies especially like Moana and Brave, differ from the typical storyline of finding a man at the end of every movie, and this shows the audience that there are different ways to finding your “happily ever after”. The overarching message of delivering/finding happiness is the same, but the method is not.
According to an article from Forbes, this is because Disney’s content marketing strategy is the exact opposite of what most other brands would do. Most brands start by identifying a need or a market gap and creating a physical product to fill that gap. They then build a brand story around their products in order to “sell” it. Disney on the other hand, creates a brand story first, then builds their products around that particular story.
That, is effective branding – only when you are clear about your brand’s message and positioning, then will you be able to effectively translate it into products and services that are relevant with the times.This is how long standing brands successfully navigate and adapt to the ebb and flow of life over the years.
3. BRAND EXPERIENCE: Interaction between the brand and its customers
The consumer experience is one of the most profound things that Disney has perfected. Remember how you had that one favourite character you loved from a Disney animated movie you watched when you were a child? For many of us, that was the first Disney experience we had — but that was just the beginning.
Why is Walt Disney so successful as a brand? According to Medium, storytelling is one critical component Disney uses. While many brands interact with their customers on merely a transactional level either through advertising, selling or after-sales, Disney uses storytelling which taps on an emotional level that appeals to all consumers, and connects in a way that other brands cannot.
First, its stories are written to touch the heart and more recently, to always communicate some underlying message of emotional empowerment. People feel good after watching a Disney movie. Then, Disney follows up with related merchandise, content and experiences that helps you to relive those happy moments (that’s why many of us would willingly re-watch a Disney movie). Disney uses people’s nostalgia and happiness to create opportunities to keep them emotionally attached, and this increases brand loyalty.
Disney also understands the key to service excellence and customer satisfaction. People do not go to Disneyland just for the rides or the merchandise alone, but for the entire experience. The exceptional treatment customers get from the staff, is the first thing many notes after being there. This is Disney’s branding in action – where its mission to bring happiness to their customers is embodied in every single employee, even down to the cleaners (the cleaners in Disneyland hold small performances by using wet mops to draw Disney mascots on the floor, or even creating live music with trash cans).
Adding to that experience, Disney also takes personalisation to the next level. Photo-taking and Meet-and-Greet sessions with the mascots, gives visitors a chance for a more up-close and personal interaction. Furthermore, you would hardly find a mascot who is not in character. Every staff interacts with visitors on a personal level, kick-starting conversations, asking for names, soothing crying children, and really just making dreams come true. When your mission and brand message is clearly articulated, every role is a touchpoint – an opportunity for customers to experience your brand delivering on that message, mission, and promise.
4. BRAND COMMUNICATION: The different avenues to reach out to your audience
Disney then uses different avenues to deliver its message to everyone. In the earlier days, many Disney commercials and advertisements were watched and remembered. With technology taking over today, this has resulted in Disney’s growing presence on social media as well, where they have different accounts to reach out to different groups of people.
For foodies specifically, @Disneyeats features the different food offered in its theme parks, and even shares their recipes for people to try and make it on their own. This is how Disney brings their magic to people in the comforts of their own home.
Other social media accounts that cater to other groups of audiences would be @Disneyfamily where they share fun DIYs, crafts and activities for the whole family to do. @Disneystyle for sharing fashion and new beauty trends to Disney fashionistas, as well as @Disneymusic that houses Walt Disney Records for the music lovers.
5. BRAND EXTENSION: Going beyond one’s origins and taking on new fields
Disney Plus, Disneyland, Disney Channel, Disney Infinity, these are just some extensions that Disney invested in, with the intention of pushing their products and services to a wider range of consumers. Other extensions include books, movies and theatrical productions, travel resorts, as well as entertainment channels and merchandises. According to observer.com, Disney Plus for instance, has actually risen tremendously to 28.6 million since its November launch, which is nearly half of Netflix’s 60 million subscribers in total. What makes these extensions successful is the clarity and consistency in branding. Based on its mission to deliver happiness to its consumers, these extensions are merely a variety of ways to do just that, especially in a way that Disney does best – creating content and experiences that deliver on that mission. The problem with some brands that venture into other lines as part of their extension strategy, is that they tend to lose sight of their brand message and mission. For Disney, these extensions are its branding cascaded down into more products and services that are aligned with the brand. A clear and consistent brand extension strategy can not only help brands to increase their profitable revenue streams, but also enhance their brand equity.
Results Of A Strong Branding
Apart from building brand familiarity, strong associations, trust, and customer loyalty, which can result in what every C-suite executive is looking for – improving the bottom line, what other good can come out of a strong branding?
For one, a strong branding can increase credibility for your brand, both with your customers as well as in the market, so that yours will be one that competitors need to look out for. With great branding comes great opportunities. When a brand has great branding, everyone would want to be a part of it – partners, customers, influencers, social media marketers, you name it. Who wouldn’t? This means that not only will this increase your customer base, but future collaborations will fall into place with ease.
According to justcreative.com, a strong branding can also help with new product launches. With the already familiar brand promoting a new product, people will be more likely to sit up and be interested because of their existing relationship with the brand.
In the end, branding is one of the most important things that needs to be thoroughly thought through. People may take rational considerations when deciding on a product, but ultimately, it is their personal experiences with the brand that solidifies their purchase. Which is why branding comes into place. It is crucial that every product, interaction and experience encapsulates the brand’s message, and be one that will support your entire branding strategy.