Advertisement doesn’t create brands, entrepreneurs do
Corporate Branding Strategy 101
The concept of branding is often not clear to so many entrepreneurs despite the popularity of the concept. I have written about this before; a brand is so much more than a logo, color or the brand name itself.
A brand is a brand because it portrays a particular set of values that resonate or connect emotionally and logically with a specific target audience or market. Your logo, color and brand name must remind your target audience of something special, different, and exciting about your company, product/service.
This something special, different and exciting doesn’t just happen, they are deliberately created by entrepreneurs based on certain core values that they’ve built the brand around. Without these set of values, there is no brand.
In other words, brands are built on values!
What is a brand?
The answer is simply this;
“A brand is a product/service, company or individual that is SIGNIFICANT –different [unique] + making a difference [useful].”
Meaning, a brand portrays two key elements that qualify it as a brand;
1] Uniqueness –here’s what makes us different from all the others [product/service differentiation]
2] Usefulness –here’s what you benefit because of our uniqueness [customer/market satisfaction]
You can’t be different [uniqueness] for being different sake, your being different must make a difference [usefulness]. The market/customers don’t care about your uniqueness unless it offers them some usefulness in return. Your core values must be qualities the market also values.
Why Create A Brand?
Simple; to give a company, product/service an edge over the competition.
The days of monopoly are long gone. Hardly will you find a company, product/service being the only player in the market; there will always be one or more close substitutes also contending for the customer’s purse.
Creating a brand around a company, product/service is what gives it a fighting chance in the marketplace. If companies, products/services are left un-branded, the market has no other choice than to reduce everything to a commodity and base their selection criteria on price alone.
And you know what they; “if price alone is the only key differentiator between you and the competition, then you are both racing down to the bottom!”
There’s got to be more to a product/service than the price of the product/service. Branding is what helps you create that something ‘more’ for your company, product/service. That something ‘more’ is what the market searches for while making their purchase decision.
Brand Positioning Strategy
I met with Jeremy Hodara, the Managing Director for Rocket Internet Africa and France, and he asked me what 3 things will I be doing for the company that they currently weren’t doing?
My answer could be summed up pretty simply as;
“help transform Jumia from an eCommerce start-up into a SIGNIFICANT company –a brand that is different [unique] and making a difference [useful].”
And below were the 3 specific things I would do;
- Help Jumia clearly define their “big picture” [purpose, cause, mission] for existence other than the obvious — naira and kobo, dollars and cents [money]. This means the specific change or difference they wanted to make in Nigeria and in the lives of Nigerians through their eCommerce site www.Jumia.com.ng
- Help Jumia communicate this “big picture” by crafting a powerful tagline to replace their current one and telling compelling stories via social media that will resonate with their target audience. This means using contents rather than just advertisement to sell by educating the market and creating a know, like and trust relationship with their target audience.
- Help Jumia differentiate itself from her closest competition –www.konga.com This means identifying a Unique Selling Proposition [USP] or benefit relevant to their target audience that will clearly justify and communicate her #1 position in the market. Claiming the #1 position is cool, but not clearly communicating what makes you #1 is just not cool. To be #1 means you are better than the competition at something specific; so leaving that piece of info out is so funny. When you make a claim, justify the claim; the market wants to know, what makes you #1? This could either be price, quality, inventory, delivery time, service, or any combination of other benefits that will resonate with the target audience and achievable by the company.
By doing all these, Jumia would have transcended her current status of being another product/service in a category [the #1 eCommerce site in Nigeria] to becoming a powerful brand of a sub-category [the #1 USP, eCommerce site in Nigeria known for something SIGNIFICANT!]
The Anatomy Of Branding: Brand Development Strategy
All products/services belong to a category. A category is the generic description or title given to a particular kind of product/service. It’s like the compound/group name given to products/services that serve the same purpose.
For example; a drink is a category for any liquid that can be swallowed, a soft drink is a category for any drink that is non-alcoholic, a juice is a category for any drink that is made out of fruits, a syrup is a category for any drink that is medicinal, a malt is a category for any non-alcoholic drink made out of barley, a beer is a category for any alcoholic drink that is fermented, etc.
An automobile is a category for anything that can be mechanically driven and used for transportation, a car is a category for any automobile that contains not more than five persons, a bus is a category for any automobile that contains more than five persons, a tractor is a category for any automobile that is used for farming, a lorry is a category for any automobile that is used for carrying heavy goods, etc.
A building is a category for any physical structure for accommodating people and things, a house is a category for any residential building, an office is a category for any commercial building, a school is a category for any academic building, a church is a category for any building where Christians worship, a prison is a category for any building where criminals resides, etc.
A computer is a category for any electronic device for processing information, a mainframe is a category for any high-performance computer that is used for processing large scale information, a desktop is a category for any personal computer that is not mobile, a laptop is a category for any portable personal computer that is mobile, a tablet is a category for any portable personal computer that is handheld, etc.
So what Makes A Brand Different From A Product/Service?
All products/services must have and belongs to a category. Categories help the human mind to arrange products/services into related groups for easy comprehension and recollection. Without categories products/services will just be floating around aimlessly inside our minds making it difficult for us to remember what each product/service is used for. Categories are to products/services what industries are to companies.
A Brand on the other hand, is a sub-category within a category. Brands originates from categories no doubt, but they are called brands because they have certain peculiar traits, attributes, characteristics, qualities, benefits or values that differentiates –set them apart– from other products/services in the same category.
In other words, a brand is a differentiated product/service within a new or existing category. The key word here is differentiated.
For example; in the building category, a duplex is a brand, so is a bungalow, a skyscraper, a castle and other differentiated kind of buildings.
In the drink category, coca cola became a brand by differentiating the soft drink category to create a sub-category of non-alcoholic drink known as cola. Red Bull did the same to create a sub-category known as energy drinks.
In the computer category, Dell differentiated the personal computer category to create a customized personal computer sub-category; Apple did the same with their Macintosh to create an all-in-one personal computer sub-category and did it again with iPad to create the tablet computer sub-category.
Without differentiation, there is no brand. Differentiating a product/service category is how brands are born. Differentiation is the key factor that converts an ordinary product/service [commodity] into an extraordinary product/service [brand]. Differentiation is what creates a sub-category for a particular product/service within an existing category of other similar products/services.
The origin of branding is differentiation. This is what is popularly known as USP –Unique Selling Point/Proposition. Any product/service that lacks this is merely a commodity and never a brand regardless of how much they spend on advertisement!
Branding Your Advertisement
Perhaps the most common mistake or misconception of branding is confusing it with advertisement.
Many marketers feel they have a brand so long as they can advertise their products/services. So the common practice is to create a product/service, give it a brand name and spend a lot of money advertising it to the target market.
The underlying assumption behind this thinking is this; advertisement helps our product/service known. In other words, advertisement creates market awareness for products/services.
No doubt about this!
That’s exactly the role of advertisement; to create market awareness about the existence of a particular product/service. In other words, advertisement makes you known. But the big question very few marketers stop to ask is this; known for what?
Yes advertisement creates product/service awareness but does it create product/service uniqueness and usefulness where there’s none? Absolutely not. No matter how far and wide advertisement makes a company, product/service known, if there is no brand, then you are being known for nothing!
Advertisement doesn’t create a brand where there’s none no matter how popular the company, product/service is. Advertisement is like a mirror; it will only project what exists. If a brand exists in a particular product/service because of its key differentiating features/benefits, advertisement will amplify that brand’s uniqueness and usefulness.
Likewise, if a brand doesn’t exist in a particular product/service because it lacks key differentiating features/benefits, advertisement will amplify that product’s/service’s weakness.
Branding is what creates the content [uniqueness + usefulness] for your advertisement. So when the content is missing from your advertisement, then your advertisement is meaningless. It won’t have any significant impact on the target audience. Content is how you brand your advertisement.
If your advertisement is all about asking people to buy, then it lacks content. It is not branded. Your content is your big picture, your story, your core values, your cause; the change you created that company, product/service to make happen.
Great brands don’t sell through their advertisement, they tell compelling stories that creates and emotional and logical connection with the target audience. Coca cola will never ask you to buy coke in their ads; they tell compelling stories about happiness. Apple will never sell you an iPod, iPhone, iPad or even a Mackintosh in their ads; they tell compelling stories about being different and making a difference.
Advertisement will not create for a product/service what the entrepreneur never intended or embedded into the product/service. Again, advertisement doesn’t create brands, entrepreneurs do!
The Branding Test
A brand is only a brand because it is representing or associated with something SIGNIFICANT –unique and useful in the mind of the target audience. In other words, it is the specific tangible features and benefits of a company, product/service that confers on it the title of a brand.
A company, product/service that simply describes a category or proclaiming anything generic is not a brand. Brands are specific, tangible, meaningful, unique and useful.
Here is a simple test for you to know if a company, product/service is a brand or not. Simply write this question down and try to answer it for the brand;
“What is _____________? [Insert product/service or company name]“
The answer you get will be one of two things; either a category name/generic description or a USP –unique selling point/specific description. If your answer is a category name or describing something generic, then there is no brand. But if your answer is a USP or describing something specific, then there is a brand.
For example; “what is naijapreneur?”
a] A website/blog
b] A Business and Entrepreneurship website/blog
c] A website/blog for unusual entrepreneurs
d] A website/blog about changing the world and profiting from purpose
The second way of conducting the branding test is to write out the product/service or company name first with an ‘equal to’ sign in front of it and a question mark sign at the end.
For example; “naijapreneur = ?”
a] A website/blog
b] A business and entrepreneurship website/blog
c] A website/blog for unusual entrepreneurs
d] A website/blog about changing the world and profiting from purpose
Over To You!
Since this is a test, I will be looking forward to your answers in the comment section below. Also, in the comment section, write down the branding test question for your company, product/service as I have just explained above and provide an answer yourself.