Branding - why bother?

By Matt Brown,

One of the great benefits of building a marketing business over the last 25 years or so is that everything we create generates so much feedback. This allows us to learn and modify our approach over time, creating constant improvement. We have been involved in every aspect of marketing over the years and one of the most popular topics for conversation is ‘branding’. I guess this makes a lot of sense. After all, branding is central to your marketing strategy; it is the visible and emotional badge representing your standards and values.

A strong brand identity adds tremendous value to a business. Indeed it can be your strongest asset, or your worst liability.

An effective brand should:

  • Create your desired perception and positioning within your market
  • Create clear differentiation from your competition
  • Deliver an emotional `feel-good’ factor
  • Provide strong recognition and memory recall value
  • Impart your values and persona

We can all think of the strong brands we buy as consumers. Personally I have a passion for cars and motorbikes, and these products are also great to use as examples of how each brand has created its own position within the market and is differentiated from its competitors.

Motorcycle manufacturers such as Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Ducati, Aprilia and Triumph to name a few, have very different perceptions in the market. The Japanese bikes are generally thought of as being superbly engineered, mass produced motorcycles, with tremendous performance but perhaps lacking a little character when ridden. The Italian bikes, Aprilia and Ducati, portray styling, passion and soul, but maybe do not have the same build quality, and the Triumph appeals to the owner who desires to ride a solid British machine.

So there is broad national differentiation between the brands but each company has created its own position over time. Of the four Japanese brands, the Hondas are particularly recognised for their build quality and finish; Suzuki and Kawasaki are similar in that they have traditionally gone for raw power and speed and Yamaha were known in the past for building budget machines, although this has been changing. 

Car brands such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, Ford and Skoda each conjure up different images in your mind. Each brand represents a car but when you think of each in turn, you don’t just imagine a car. You can picture a different sense of lifestyle that you would have through owning that car. It is this aspiration that brand managers wish to create. There are technical differences between the products offered by each company, but ultimately it is how that brand makes you `feel’ that drives your decision to buy. How else would you explain that people will pay more than the average house price for a car when they can buy a perfectly good reliable vehicle with excellent support for maybe a tenth of the price?

This is where brand value is such an asset. A brand will occupy a certain position within a market place (whether desired or not) and will create business through differentiation or association with another brand. Some brands have been developed in such a way that the customer is prepared to pay a premium to own that brand, even though the tangible benefits are few or even non-existent.

Brands that we have created and developedWe have been involved in the brand creation and development for many businesses and products. The food and drink brands are always interesting, due to the very competitive nature of the business but for all brands, our role is to learn and communicate the values of a business to their customers.

Norfolk Peer new potatoes and Norfolk Keepers potatoes - the challenge was to create and market a brand for a new potato, the most basic of commodities. A product that has very few brands in the market place and with those already in existence very well established. Learning about the crop grown by Heygate Farms opened our eyes to just how tasty a high quality, freshly dug new potato was! Freshly picked and steamed or boiled, they are just superb and so we knew that the brand had to focus on provenance, freshness and quality. So, the Norfolk Peer new potato was born and it is now sold in black and gold branded packaging through supermarkets and into the main food service markets. Customers love the product, sales far exceeded all expectations and the brand has created more value for the farm business than could be achieved unbranded.

St Johns Farm Asparagus - a high value seasonal crop grown by an experienced grower who is obsessive about quality. Having sold their asparagus in plain boxes for many years, the development of the St Johns Farm brand created a visual identity for the product to such an extent, that when deliveries were made to wholesale markets, traders had to ration supplies to customers to ensure that they didn't run out of stock too early each day. 

Sensient Industrial - the SensiRinse brand was developed to create an identity for a new technically innovative water-rinsable and non-staining colourant. This was one of a suite of brands created as part of our support of the Sensient Industrial marketing in the EMEA region.

Correct branding can drive the success of a business. Branding will not replace delivery of the right quality product to your customers, but implemented correctly, branding will create demand for your product or service, reinforce your position in your market and may enable you to charge a premium: perhaps a significant one.

Good luck with growing your business through marketing and let me know your branding experience.

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