Branding 101

Kjetil Jensen
A brand is, by definition, a name, a sign, a symbol, a design or a combination of these used to identify the product or service offered by one or more companies that separates it from others. The definition suggests that the consumer should be able to recognize a brand and what it symbolizes. Knowledge about the product is the primary key for identification. This again assumes that the customer has found some unique specifications in his brain that enables him to separate one brand from another.

The customer needs to be able to remember and spot a brand. This is the first face of strategic marketing. The consumer needs to be exposed in some way to this brand and at least spot it before we can push this even further. It then becomes a part of his selection. If a brand makes it into his possible list of selection, we have succeeded in the first step. If you ask a surfer for his knowledge of the TGP world, he might mention a few names like the Hun, World Sex or Shemp. These can be characterized as "top-of-mind." These are the strongest brands and are most likely to be his choice when he is surfing.

The consumer also must be able to separate between different brands within similar product categories. When a brand becomes known and the consumer knows the type of product and what it represents, we can start to build a more complex set of associations. This is a part of the brand's image. This is done by promoting some selected core and extra values. We establish those as strong, positive and unique features. XBiz, for instance, is for me a serious, warm and informative website.

The whole point of building a brand is to establish a group of consumers that are loyal to that or those products. We are trying to make the consumer identify with our brand or service over and over again. This might not seem like a big deal, but it is actually very complex. Read on and I'll get back to this later. Loyalty can be seen as a substitute routine where repurchases are made only because they have done it over and over again.

Scientist have different explanations for this behavior, but common ideas suggest that it costs people too much time and effort to try something else or that trust one product more than others. Lately some scientists have suggested that consumers actually have feelings for brands. Consumers are establishing emotional relations and act upon them like real human interaction. I might not be in love with XBiz, but the portal had certainly become something that I need to visit daily. Build an adult brand like that and you'll be sure to have a winner.

The most important criterion for success in all types of branding is to reach the customer with one powerful message. Strong brands are established by selecting one or more values that you build in the customer's consciousness. This happens by pushing these values of the brand over time. To make this happen successfully you need to define a brand concept and some strategies that together will form the framework within communication and profiling for the entire life span of the brand. I bet that most sponsor programs haven't given this much thought.

The purpose of advertising is to gain a match between the selected identity and the actual image that the consumer forms in his head. You can measure this with realistic GAP analysis (ISO standard) that will reveal the important distance between the make and break of your brand.

There are three basic concepts it might be wise to follow as you are launching an adult brand. A functional, an experience-based and a symbolic-based concept. The functional means that you enhance the product or brand's advantages ($35 per signup). If you choose the experience-based concept, you are giving the consumer ideas based on actual and ideal uses of the product (bonuses). With a symbolic concept you are playing with their possible status and social status (picture of a guy with girls).

Selecting brand elements means to select a few symbols to dress the brand. This can be anything, including a name, logo, slogan, jingle, color, design, character or people. These are very important to enhance the attention of the brand and to build positive, strong and unique associations. This will also contribute to form the brand's character and personality. I should emphasize that the job of building a strong brand is hard and that it is not done by just updating your logo or building a new website. An optimal decision of elements demands that you have a clear view of what your brand symbolizes today and what it is supposed to symbolize in the future. You need to define what primary and secondary associations you wish to build.

The choice of building a powerful message means that you create one voice for each brand. The goal for this voice is that it at all times should communicate through all channels. You should adapt this voice to fit with different groups and change it within the frame over time. By doing this you will be sure to reach your customers and make them remember your voice and brand.

In part two we'll continue our look at branding and introduce some advanced concepts.