The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.
Branding, like packaging, is the overt and tangible aspects of a product, and it distinguishes one manufacturer’s product from those of their competitors. In the crowded retail environment, it is branding that helps the product to stand out from the crowd. At the basic level of product, many consumers are unable to distinguish between competing products within the same category. It is branding that is used to offer the customer the necessary differential perception.
For example, in a blind taste test of the two leading carbonated diet beverages, when the two products’ brand names were stripped off, 51% of those surveyed preferred Diet Pepsi, 44% preferred Diet Coke, and 5% said they were the same. When the products were sampled in an open test, with the brand identities revealed, only 23% preferred Diet Pepsi, with 65% preferring Diet Coke, and 12% saying that they were the same. It is evident that the key differentiating factor was the brand identity, which provided additional values to the consumers, overriding the physical characteristics of the products.
Developing and nurturing a brand name requires a great deal of long-term investment, especially on advertising, promotion, and packaging. Some of the leading brands in Nigeria are: Coca Cola, First Bank, Sony, MTN, GLO, Maggie and so on.
We can distinguish between brand name, brand mark, trademark and other related terms in branding.
- A Brand Name consists of words, letters, and/or numbers that can be vocalized. For example, Mercedes Benz, Zenith Bank, Motorola, MTN, Pepsi and Microsoft.
- A Brand Mark is the part of the brand that appears in the form of a symbol, design, or distinctive colouring or lettering. For example, Mercedes Benz brand mark is the three-pointed star, which is one of the most recognizable symbols on earth.
- Trademark is a brand that is given legal protection because, under the law, one seller has appropriated it. Thus trademark is essentially a legal term.
- Brand Image is the total impression created in the consumer’s mind by a brand and all its associations, functional and non-functional.
- Brand Look-alikes are products, which take on the visual appearance of the brand leader. If the similarity is confusing and misleading, it could lead to legal disputes as it could rob firms of vital customers. Good examples of brand lookalikes are Chelsea Dry Gin and Megasea Dry Gin; and Izal disinfectant and Z disinfectant.
IMPORTANCE OF BRANDING
Branding is important in that:
- It identifies the company and its products.
- Since branding is a promise of benefit, it assures the customers of product quality.
- It enables the producer to charge a premium price.
- It makes segmentation of market possible.
- Brand name can be used to sell an entire product line.
- It makes consumer loyal.
- Brands can be used globally i.e. brands are universal
- It enables manufacturers to secure extensive distribution by the dealers.
- It enables products to be fully supported by marketing communication.
- Brands are a ready source of information.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD BRAND NAME
A good brand should exhibit as many of the following characteristics as possible.
- It should suggest something about the product’s use, benefit or action. For examples Guaranty Trust Bank, Maltonic, Robb and, Sleepwell.
- It should be easy to pronounce, spell and remember. For example, Sony, Omo, Biggs, Vim, and Gulder.
- It should be distinctive. Examples of brands that are distinctive include Mercedes Benz, Bournvita, Peak Milk and Michelin.
- It should be versatile i.e. applicable or adoptable to a whole line of products. Examples are Sony Television, Sony Cassette Player, Sony VCD and Sony Walkman.
- It should be capable of protecting the brand legally.
- It should be pleasant or have neutral connotation in foreign countries. Nova, for instance fails on this point.
CLASSIFICATION OF BRANDS
The major basis for classifying brands is who owns the brands – producers or middlemen.
- Manufacturers’ Brands Otherwise called national brands are more popular. Manufacturers develop and nurture the brand. Many of the brands in the Nigerian and other markets worldwide are national brands. They include MTN, PepsiCola, Toyota, Knorr, Gillette, Honda, Colgate, Samsung and Heineken.
- Distributors’ Brands Also called dealers’ brands, they refer to brands developed by large retailers and wholesalers. This is achieved through contracting production to willing manufacturers. In Great Britain, Sainsbury Cola (from Sainsbury) and Classic Cola (from Tesco) are two good private brands competing with Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. In Nigeria, Dangote Cement and Burham Cement are two dealer brands competing with WAPCO’s Elephant Cement.
- Mixed Brand Several manufacturers adopt a mixed branding approach to distinguish between products which they manufacture under their own brand names and identities, and those, which are supplied to retailers and packaged with the retailers’ identities.
- Generic Brand In some instances, manufacturers or retailers have been content to sell their products under generic or ‘no brand’ identities. For instance, it now common in Nigeria to sell unbranded sugar, salt, butter and detergent.
The firm which has decided to brand its product must choose which brand names to use. The strategic brand choices are: corporate umbrella names, family umbrella names, range brand names, and individual brand names.
- Corporate Umbrella Name The company’s name is used to cover the complete spectrum of products and services offered. Sony, Sharp and Samsung adopt their corporate names to cover all the products which they produce and market worldwide.
- Family Umbrella Names are used to cover a range of products in a variety of markets. For instance, UAC uses family umbrella names such as UAC Foods to cover its Gala , Satis and Nourish Bread brands.
- Range Brand Names link products within a specific market sector. This strategy is used by NASCO (e.g. NASCO biscuits NASCO carpet).
- Individual Brand Names are used for one type of product in one or more markets. Examples include Gulder, Maltina, Star and Legend Stout by Nigerian Breweries Plc.