What is Branding? Does it Really Matter? Firms today often underestimate the value of branding. This happens because they’re vague on what “branding” actually is, and because they simply don’t grasp the fact that good branding equals higher profits. In fact, branding is sometimes dismissed as trivial – all to do with just making things look pretty, coming up with fancy logos or making everything sound nice. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Branding is absolutely critical! It is at the core of everything a company does – from targeting your market to devising a pricing strategy and providing customer support. In this blog, we look at branding from our perspective as an international agency operating from York and Leeds in the UK and Zurich in Switzerland to explain exactly what branding is and why it really does matter. Perfume – look beyond the scent! Let’s look at the perfume industry to really understand the difference that well-implemented branding makes. Why do we buy perfume or aftershave? The straightforward answer is – because it makes us smell nice. Yes, this is true. However, it is only part of the story. Nearly every perfume on the market has a pleasant fragrance – none of them smell of sewage, do they? And while some are certainly more to our taste than others, most of us are not guided by our noses but by the branding of the product. This might sound surprising, but it’s absolutely true. We select an eau de cologne or a perfume, usually sub-consciously, based on our response to the packaging, the TV ads, the price point and the typeface on the label – in other words, based on the branding. Perfume manufacturers are generally very good at branding because they understand just how psychological their products are. More than anything, they sell an image – not a fragrance. For instance, consider the eau de toilette by Diesel called “Only the Brave”. The scent may have a base of leather and top notes of lemon, but that’s secondary to the image. The very name is exclusive – it’s only for those who are brave, courageous, bold and tough. Totally in keeping with Diesel itself which is, after all, the name of a type of fuel and connotes heavy industry, hard graft and strength. Compare this to Chanel’s “Coco Mademoiselle”. The product is also a pleasant fragrance that comes in a bottle. However, this time the bottle is elegant and extremely chic. The branding here plays heavily on the stereotype of French women as sophisticated and confident. This is all driven home by the advertising campaign featuring the world-famous actress Keira Knightley, playing the role of an independent, beautiful and highly refined woman in Paris. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that as consumers, we buy into an image. And how exactly is this image both created and communicated? It’s all done through the subtle art of branding. How do you use branding successfully? As we’ve touched on already, branding is at the core of a business. However, you shouldn’t think of branding as an isolated discipline. Branding overlaps with almost every aspect of what a company does. As such, when thinking about branding you must also think about advertising, product and packaging design, brand position, pricing strategy, brand identity, customer service and even the in-store experience, if applicable. It’s no good, for example, trying to create branding that presents a product as aspirational and high-end, and then pricing it too low. Rightly or wrongly, we tend to see price point as a guide to quality. Branding must work in harmony with pricing strategy, just as it must tie in perfectly with the quality and style of your customer service, the tone of voice of your content marketing and the user experience of your website. The importance of detail in your branding So the big picture is that branding must cohere with all elements of your business. But at the micro level, it’s also crucial to get the details just right too. Let’s consider typeface as an illustration of this point. In our introduction, we mentioned that some firms can be dismissive of branding because it’s just about “making things look pretty”. Indeed, underestimating the power of effective design is a mistake that’s made all too often. Picture the Chanel “Coco Mademoiselle” perfume again, but this time with a different typeface. Instead of the elegant design that conjures up Parisian chic, imagine a typical 1980s typeface – the big, blocky, dynamic kind used in hit sci-fi films such as Terminator or Blade Runner. Now wouldn’t that look utterly ridiculous plastered all over the front of the perfume bottle, the perfume box, on the billboards and on the TV ads? More than just clashing horrendously with the product’s image, though, it would stop the product selling in its tracks! No sophisticated consumer would aspire to the image it would project. As an agency, the problem we see all the time, particularly in the UK and US, is that aesthetic sensibilities and a cultural education are not seen as being terribly relevant to business and commerce. As a result, branding is often under-valued. We understand why – it’s because it’s harder to quantify than, say, sales. The effect that a typeface has on a target consumer, for instance, can’t easily be expressed in figures. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t of the utmost importance. Conclusion We have seen how branding must always be at the core of everything a business does, and how the details truly make a difference. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of strong design and a well-implemented branding strategy, but the fact is that it’s nearly always underestimated by firms across nearly all industries. For help with your branding strategy and implementation, get in touch with our expert team at Agency PK today: on +44 (0) 7958 494713 (York, UK) or +41 79 927 66 73 (Zurich). Or, drop us an email at [email protected].