A brand is an identification term, name, concept, symbol or anything else that identifies one product or service as distinctly different from those of others. It can be compared, in some ways, to a trademark, which is the registered name used by another company for the sale of its products and services. Trademarks provide protection and visibility for a business; a brand provides a unique selling proposition (USP) that distinguishes it from its competitors and enables it to differentiate itself from the competition.
A brand’s USP lies in the knowledge that it is unique, different from its competitors, so that the target group of consumers who will benefit from it can be identified and sold. In the business context, brands are very important for the long-term survival of a company. In fact, if consumers do not have an idea of who they are buying from or why they should purchase it, then a brand can provide a critical mass of information about the product or services on which it is based. But without a brand, consumers cannot recognize a sales pitch, and the process of selling goes unrewarded.
Just as important, the branding process should ensure that consumers are made aware of the benefits they stand to gain from buying a particular brand. Most often, this is communicated in the brand’s packaging design. Packaging design is just as much part of the USP of a brand as the benefits it will provide to consumers. One of the primary reasons why Fiji Water has become so successful is because it provides a superior quality of life-from clean, fresh water that is filtered through ultra technology, to the unique packaging design that emphasizes its distinctive blue color, Fiji’s logo and the “Fiji” trademark of the brand. Moreover, the unique production process, which ensures that each bottle features the best-quality raw materials and the most advanced machinery, ensures that Fiji Water is always packed and distributed in an efficient and effective manner.
In terms of brand equity, the strength of the brand name does not end with the benefits that consumers derive from consuming it. A strong brand name implies a good reputation and good brand image, which are perhaps even more important than the tangible benefits derived from consuming it. Consumers should look for brands that they can trust implicitly, even beyond the benefits that the products provide. Brands can become synonymous with social expectations or behaviors. If a brand consistently displays disregard for other people’s perceptions, then consumers may be less likely to use the brand, which makes the company vulnerable to claims of unfair practices.
Brand equity also has to do with a company’s ability to protect its reputation. Companies should be able to inhibit frivolous lawsuits, so long as those lawsuits do not damage their brands. Additionally, a company should have the resources necessary to deal with complaints, to avoid the need to create internally-administered mechanisms for responding to consumer complaints, and to resolve conflicts over how to resolve disputes between different parties. Companies should also have the right set of skills, knowledge, and systems in place to make sure that they do not violate consumer expectations in terms of product quality, service, and even value. For example, consumers may be wary of a particular car brand because of problems related to an internal component, but a company may not have had time to master the problem before launching the brand.
The benefits of owning a brand are plentiful. A good brand, whether on a tangible level or on a reputation management level, is likely to have a large number of loyal consumers who will pass on good experiences to friends and colleagues, and will likely be responsible for contributing to the economic strength of the company. On a related note, a good brand is likely to provide a significant competitive advantage, making it easier and cheaper for a business to stay ahead of its competitors. Finally, branding tends to increase the perceived value of a brand, helping to justify the high costs of purchasing and maintaining it.