It is a bit ironic that we are living in the age of AI, advanced analytics, and big data and yet the word brand – one of the main pillars the entire business world is built upon – remains just as elusive as ever. And if we take a look at the definition, it is pretty easy to see why.
A brand is broadly defined as a business or marketing concept that helps people identify some particular product, company, or individual. In short, it is the way the general public perceives some person or legal entity.
And yet, these loose definitions have a tremendous impact on the fate of one company, and factors affecting the brand image play a very large part in this story. So, even though we can’t exactly put the word brand into some measurable context, we are more than able to identify important components contributing to its success.
Let us take a look at some of the most important mentions.
Definition of products and services
The goal of every company, regardless of industry, is to deliver some sort of product or service to end-users. Even if you have the best concept in the industry if those products and services are not clearly defined and don’t bring some unique value proposition. That is why some of the strongest brands are defined by the portfolio designed to solve specific problems and bring tangible benefits to their clients. These perks should also be unambiguous and easy to explain or their appeal will remain very limited.
Granted, some people may consider this factor too superficial, but people absorb as much as 90% of information visually – the way something looks has a huge impact on our perception of that thing. The person interacting with the brand needs to fully understand what the company is all about without ever reading the product description. Take for instance the Apple logo – it’s clean, streamlined, entirely free of clutter, and has a very cool indy vibe to it. It sums up the values the company is trying to achieve to a point.
To put it simply, if one organization wants to build a strong brand it needs to practice what it preaches. Keep in mind, though, that brand consistency manifests at all aspects of one company –ranging from its premises and website to its employees and executives. Tech startup CEO wearing a metal minimalist wallet reinforces the image of the brand. A family-oriented realtor driving an MPV reinforces the image of a brand. Excessive vehicle fleets owned by companies supposedly involved in sustainability issues does not.
We could as well call this topic market positioning. But, every brand builds up the association it needs to live up to. Four Seasons is associated with luxury, Tesla with sustainability, and Microsoft with simplicity. Every time either of these brands doesn’t live up to the associations it was reinforcing, the brand image suffers as a result. A great deal of this balance lies in the choice of qualities the companies are trying to project from the get-go. Poor understanding of market position or target audience can considerably hurt these efforts.
People are emotional beings – there is no other way to explain the surge of 80s nostalgia, resurgence of vinyl stores, and everlasting endurance of companies like Coca-Cola. In a recent Inc. interview, Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman cited that as much as 95% of purchases we make are driven by emotion no matter whether we are trying to reduce anxiety, get validation or simply stand out from the crowd. Strong brands are able to recognize these emotional cravings and feed them to the benefit of both parties.
Speaking of Coca-Cola, what is the reason why consumers consistently put this specific beverage over the competitors like Pepsi or Dr. Pepper is that Coca-Cola managed to foster the strongest brand loyalty. People wouldn’t be able to describe the differences between the brands, but one of these three companies managed to build the strongest perceived value, offer the greatest level of satisfaction and through consistent performance inspire the strongest trust in the brand. These factors are the strongest loyalty contributors to date.
“Sega does what Nintendon’t”
The perception of direct competitors has an incredibly strong influence on how we perceive some brands. For instance, when we talk about Chinese cellphone brands like Huawei or even Xiaomi, we like to point out how they put on a much stronger price-value ratio than their direct South Korean competitor Samsung. And then there is the famous marketing slogan from the 90s we referenced in the title. Using direct competitors to reference your unique benefits is one of the simplest and most effective ways to establish some desired public perception.
We hope these few examples gave you a general idea about the strongest factors contributing to the strength of one brand. Even though we don’t have a reliable way to measure how successful is an image one company sends out into the world, we have a pretty good idea about the practices that bear strong results and what don’t. No matter how good we are at what we work, the success of all companies is built on positive public perception. Keep in mind then everything we talked about above and don’t allow your company to get the short end of this stick.