Today, companies face many problems and difficulties. Every year a considerable number of new products appear on the market; most product categories are represented by many brands, numbering in the tens or even hundreds. Companies have begun to pay considerable attention to the successful formation of their branding. It provides them with access to new segments and markets, additional consumers, the ability to create new products, or modify the old ones. Successful formation of a brand serves as a sustainable competitive advantage, as well as results in significant profit margins and notable performance, transforming the company into a recognizable actor. This paper aims to investigate the core aspects of branding, as well as provide several specific examples of it.
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Branding is part of strategic management, and the primary responsibility of the brand is not merely communicating with customers, luring their attention, but representing the company (Shaw, 2018). Nevertheless, for most firms, marketing and corporate communications are the most powerful, but not the only, branding tools (Dibb, Simkin, Pride and Ferrell, 2019). That is why, in order to achieve the greatest benefit for the company, the communicator must have a global vision of the brand, its essence, role, features.
Then, branding may be perceived as an action aimed at creating a long-standing choice in favor of a product founded on the joint influence on a customer of trademarks, packaging, and advertisement, unified by a particular notion, which distinguishes the product from rivals. (Shaw, 2018). It should also be mentioned that the concepts of brand and trademark should not be confused; the former is a broader concept (Dibb, Simkin, Pride and Ferrell, 2019).. In addition to the name, images, and certain symbols, the brand also includes the product itself and its inherent characteristics, associations, and expectations of consumers. It also contains data on the target consumers of the product and the manufacturer’s promise of some benefits that consumers will receive by purchasing this product.
Brands are a complex of impressions that remain with a customer as a result of using a product. The brand contributes to the following; first, it is identifying or recognizing the product when it is mentioned. Second, it is detaching from competitors – selecting the product from the general mass, as well as creating an attractive and trustworthy image for consumers. Third, it is focusing on various emotions that a client associates with the product. Fourth, it is making a purchase decision and confirming the correctness of choice – getting satisfaction from the decision made. Finally, it is forming a group of regular customers who associate their lifestyle with the brand.
The presence of brands means that the goods will value more, the idea will have more adherents, and more voters will vote for the politician. Over time, any product becomes obsolete; when outwardly a product has not changed for several years in a row, it has almost no chance of remaining at the peak of consumer attention. The updated product attracts more of this attention. Today, even the smallest firms perceive the process of brand formation as a crucial one. Such a state of affairs takes place because of the fact that a significant brand may become the foundation of an enterprise’s profitability. Given the fact that offers from different firms tend to be more and more similar, the capability to stand out among rivals starts being critical and vital. Hence, brand identity and uniqueness are essential as they imply the distinguishable peculiarities of brands, as well as its core characteristics.
Branding strategy and tactics
A strategy is a long-standing goal and long-term approach to brand creation and development, which allows one to strengthen the brand position and displace competitors from the lead in a particular market segment. Tactics are short-term tools that help one succeed against competitors in the marketplace. The branding policy defines the next steps for the firm. This sophisticated and time-taking process may be broken down into the following. (Bilekov, 2020; Tubik Studio, 2017).
Before moving on to brand development, a firm needs to conduct an exact extent of marketing research. The latter is the initial and defining step in developing a branding strategy. It is necessary to collect and analyze a vast amount of information – to study the consumer, company, product, or service, as well as the competitive environment in which the struggle for recognition is to be fought.
Data for research can be obtained through questionnaires, focus groups, hall tests, and other appropriate methods. The reliable information makes it possible to determine the correct direction of brand positioning, the essence of which will be clear to the consumer (Bilekov, 2020). The best way to develop an effective branding strategy is to involve a social science and marketing research company. Marketing research data helps to develop the basic idea of the brand – product positioning in the market. The name, logo, packaging design, and corporate identity of the brand are being thought over. All these elements must be successfully combined with each other; they must create a holistic image of a brand that consumers will trust.
The role of the concept, which is formed in the process of brand development, is very significant from the prospects for future marketing dividends. A successful conceptual solution is a factor that increases the level of consumer loyalty, brand awareness, sales growth, and the ability to set a higher price (Tubik Studio, 2017). Conventionally, the general idea of a trademark can be divided into such terms as positioning, identification, the definition of values, and branding strategies.
Positioning and Identification
The intended place of a product in the market is determined by the target group, price category, competitive advantages (if any), as well as direct benefits to the consumer. By answering these questions, you can determine the general idea of positioning. At the next stage, it is necessary to highlight the distinctive features of the future or undergoing a brand restyling procedure. In the process of identification, the qualitative characteristics of the product are determined, which are revealed using the senses – for example, taste, aroma, color. It is also necessary to decide on the associations that the product should evoke from the consumer. This is the process of forming the brand image, which is supported by means of marketing and advertising.
The system of values of any trademark should be close and understandable to the target audience; otherwise, it will not be possible to reach out to a potential buyer. At the same time, the driving idea itself and the main value carry a grain of uniqueness, giving the brand a unique, individual style that allows it to stand out from the competition.
In practice, branding means numerous advantages for the seller: from customer loyalty and high competitive potential to an increase in the value of assets due to a rise in the market value of shares. The conceptual construction of the brand development scheme greatly facilitates the search for an interested investor to bring the project to life. Therefore, before any startup, it is necessary to identify a brand, develop principles for its positioning, and formulate core values. Such clarity subsequently facilitates the selection of marketing communications tools and other brand attributes – logo, slogan, etc.
In contemporary markets, the promotion process of brands – accompanied by the creation of a significant attitude towards it – is an essential aspect of the firm’s success (additionally to marketing researches). When consumers are confident that the products and services they get are of high quality, then they start being regular clients of the enterprise in the long run (Martinez, 2017). It should be noted that the advertisement does not always contribute to the appropriate brand promotion. Plenty of recognizable firms lure and retain their client base because of a particular approach to them, establishing beneficial relationships. During this process, these firms understand more regarding the interests and requirements of actual and potential clients, as well as make sure that these clients are provided with all the data they need to know about the corporation.
Affairs within the scope of brand promotion are to be conducted during the launching steps of its creation. If the latter is not done in a timely manner, all struggles of marketing services might not make any sense. Moreover, the unmonitored processes of the introduction of new brands may result in undesired outcomes. Simultaneously with the idea of the creation of a new brand, brand promoting strategies are to appear as well. Only these strategies may lead to the success of the company.
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Brand management may be defined as the process of the creation of specific brand characteristics, modifying them to significant effectiveness, verifying that these specific characteristics are not being adjusted for tactical gain, and planning crisis management of the brand, if necessary, in order to strategically increase brand value. When managing their brand, companies often find themselves faced with a situation that their brand does not fully meet the needs of the market (Fulmer, 2020). There might be a number prerequisites for this: the market is oversaturated with various brands, and customers are not able to distinguish substantial differences among them; products are sold through a retailer who does not aim to purchase expensive brands, giving preference to cheaper offers; a technological change is occurring, which allows the brand-holding company to create and sell a new, more affordable product at high margins.
As a rule, the main pressure comes from the bottom of the market, and companies have to either cut prices or come to terms with the falling market share. To counter this trend (or get the most out of it) firms tend to offer lightweight variants of their traditional product with solid brands. The most challenging thing, in this case, is not to damage the trademark, especially in that part of it, which is associated with the quality of the goods it represents (DeVries, 2019). The problem is that price cuts affect user experience more than any other brand-related promotion. Psychologists have long established that people are much more impressed by negative information than positive information.
However, going down is not always too risky – skillful brand management in the lower market segments can bring a lot of profit to the company. There are a number of means to separate the main brand and its cheaper modification in the minds of consumers. The key to reducing the risk of brand damage when creating reasonable variations is to rebuild the new product from the previous category. The bottom line is that consumers can divide brand identities by product class, but they need help with that. If the products are very different from each other (for example, food and clothing), there will be less risk of negative quality carryover. On the other hand, of course, there is a risk that such distant products under the same trademark will not add anything to each other but will only create a sense of discomfort for the buyer.
The peculiarity of building a strong brand is the exact choice of means of marketing communications at the right time to overcome specific barriers in the decision-making process. Companies with strong marketing are constantly experimenting with new means of communication and collecting a database of how effective these tools are for certain categories of brands. For example, in recent years, such forms of marketing communications as direct mailing, promotions, and the creation of innovative Internet sites have been increasingly developed. The cost of contact with the buyer can be the primary weapon to overcome barriers in the purchase decision.
Brand building structure and its milestone policy
It seems reasonable to state that there are two primary policies being adhered to in the framework of brand management – Western and Asian. The latter implies the emphasis of marketing affairs on corporate brands (Somok, H, no date). A product provided by a firm has the same name, essence, strengths, and values. International Japanese brands are, as a rule, the names of groups: Mitsubishi, Sony, Toshiba, Matsushita, and others. In Japan, a company’s reputation plays a much bigger role than a product’s reputation (Roll, 2006). Until recently, this has not been observed in leading Western firms, with the exception of business-to-business.
In accordance with the core ideas of the Asian approach to brand management, Toyota, for instance, arranges its advertisement’s financial flows in favor of maintaining its corporate brand within the scope of the international market, putting no emphasis on cars’ models. Similarly, the corporate brand Sony, Honda, and many other brands are promoted. Nowadays, the Asian approach to branding has become quite acceptable for a plethora of manufacturers. The strength of a corporate brand is visibly demonstrated by the cases of a great number of Japanese and other firms that promptly developed an international business system. The latter resulted from the focus on corporate solidarity and shared merits. The Asian model of brand management has many advantages over other approaches to brand policy (Roll, 2006). A strong corporate brand builds the company’s reputation while providing a significant competitive advantage, investment attractiveness. From an economic point of view, the Asian approach pays substantial attention to the point that the processes of the development and implementation of a new product that will have the same name as others imply fewer expenses and are quicker in comparison with promoting separate brands. The advantages of such a model are obvious, but non-compliance with the principles of corporate brand management undoubtedly leads to a decline.
The use of the Asian model of brand management is associated with certain points. First of all, the availability of differentiated management systems contributes to the fact that it is not possible to promote single brands in a number of product segments. The development of diversified production complicates the spread of corporate individuality to all subbrands of the company. The Asian approach is efficient for a single-market and non-diversified firm.
The Western approach, in turn, is founded on the idea of product differentiation, in accordance with which these products have visible distinctive traits. Examples of the Western approach to brand management are the practice of such firms as Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Unilever, Wimm-Bill-Dann, which are actively developing certain product categories under independent brands. WBD promotes individual brands in different markets: the dairy market, baby food market, juice and mineral water market, representing brands in different price segments. The obstacles in the framework of managing brands – within the scope of the Western approach – generally refer to an over-diversified system of brands’ policies. Usually, it is not easy for customers to realize the core idea of all the subbrands, which does not contribute to the individuality of the latter (Whitfield, 2019). Companies that use this model of brand management traditionally lead the rankings of the largest advertisers in the global market.
The Western approach pays special attention to the psychological characteristics of the brand, differentiation, while the Asian involves investment in the corporate brand and, to a much lesser extent, at the product level. The practical difficulties associated with the use of both Western and Asian approaches to brand management force companies to adapt traditional mechanisms of brand management to the specifics of their brands. As a result, mixed forms of brand management, combining individual elements of both models, have recently become increasingly popular.
Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Thanks to a strong brand, it will be easier for a company to attract new clients, to interest regular customers, for example, when launching a new product or service. The most significant model, in this case, would be Apple. Apple manages to sell products at a reasonably high price while selling in huge quantities. This happens solely because the company understands the real rationale behind buying premium products.
A brand as an instrument of sustainable competitive advantage is designed to capture niches in the minds of consumers. However, the company does not get customer loyalty for free. This loyalty may be perceived as a measure of the consumer’s brand loyalty (DeVries, 2019). Through such a perspective, loyalty depicts the extent to which consumers tend to switch to other brands, especially in conditions in which the brand changes any of its indicators. If this loyalty is solid, a consumer’ willingness to shift to another company declines. This is the basis for the balance of advertising costs and returns from it. Thus, branding is an integral component of an organization’s competitiveness.
In conclusion, it seems reasonable to state that branding policy is a crucial foundation for a successful business. The above research investigated the essence of branding, its process, peculiarities of Western and Asian approach, as well as discussed brands as a competitive advantage. It should be stated that branding is an integral part of marketing, and studies on this vital aspect are to be conducted through various perspectives.
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DeVries, H. (2019) ‘How branding provides a competitive advantage’, Forbes, Web.
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Fulmer, C. (2020) What is branding and why is it important? Web.
Martinez, A. (2017) Building a brand strategy: Essentials for long-term success. Web.
Roll, M. (2006) Asian brand strategy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Shaw, A. (2018) What is a brand – Meaning & important brand concepts. Web.
Somok, H. (no date) How to build a strong brand culture in the Asian market. Web.
Tubik Studio (2017) 6 creative stages of branding design: Step-by-step guide. Web.
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