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Branding Part 1: What is a Brand?

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

“Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception.” - Ashley Friedlein

What is a “Brand”, what does “Branding” mean and is it really all that important? Do you really know what those two terms actually mean? There are a lot of misconceptions about the meaning of those words and how they relate to you, the stamp maker. In this three part series, we will do a deep dive into the concept of Brand and Branding. We will explore what the terms Brand and Branding mean and why you should be cognizant of it, how you can create your own brand and then how Trodat can help you with your Brand.

When the word Brand is used, most people think of a product and all that goes along with it… the logo, the tagline, the celebrity endorser and so on. But that is only a small part of it. Merriam-Webster defines Brand as “a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted”. The definition mentions nothing about an item although a quality product is extremely important in branding. Furthermore, Webster defines Branding as “the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand”. I could just stop there, but all that leaves you with is academic word salad that doesn’t really tell you anything.

I prefer the simpler way that Ashley Friedlein, a marketing expert and entrepreneur, presents the concept of Brand and Branding. It’s not physical, but instead it’s emotional. Brand is how a product or service is perceived by the general public. It’s about reputation and standing among competitors. Branding on the other hand, is the shaping of the public’s opinion of the brand. It’s how the company controls the narrative and how the public perceives the product or service. No matter what is done or not done, the public will have an impression of the product. It’s better they have the impression you want them to have, and not one created by your competitors. In other words, Brand is the end result of Branding.

One of the greatest success stories and greatest failures when it comes to Brand and Branding is Coca-Cola. They have been so successful in defining their Brand that the name “Coke” is now synonymous with cola/pop/soda. So much so that all other cola Brands: Pepsi, RC, etc… are compared to “King” Coke. How many times have you been in a restaurant and asked for a Coke, only to have the waitress say, “Sorry, we only have Pepsi”. Many times you don’t care and accept the Pepsi, but your initial request was to ask for a Coke. That’s how successful the Branding process has been for them.

However, it almost all came crashing down in 1985 when Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke”, a replacement for traditional Coca-Cola with a new look and reformulated recipe. It was such a disaster with consumers that Coca-Cola was forced to bring back its original formula a scant three months later. The damage that New Coke had done to the Brand was extreme, so much so that the debacle is still talked about to this day. What the Coke executives failed to recognize was that taste was not the only thing that made Coke the great cola Brand. Consumers viewed it as the cornerstone of all soft drinks. They didn’t care that all the blind taste tests said the new flavor was better, Coke was changed and that’s all there was too it. While Coke executives were focused on the physical aspects of the product, they neglected to think about the public’s emotional attachment to it, which often can be far stronger.

Your Brand is what separates you from the competition and the Branding process creates that emotional connection between you and your customer. Exactly what Ashley was talking about. A successful brand creates a loyal following for the company, which can then translate into success for other endeavors the company may embark on.

Branding must be all encompassing to the company. It’s not just a good logo, a cool tagline or a popular celebrity endorser. It’s how your sales people present themselves, how customer service interacts with the customers and how the marketing team advertises the company. The image is what you are going for. Also, it is important to remember you can’t be everything to everyone. For example, you can’t say you are the “old faithful and reliable” while at the same time saying you are the “new rebel outsider”. Consistency is the key to successful branding. You will never succeed if you are constantly changing “who you are”. It takes a long time to create a successful brand. Pick who you are and stick with it!

Creating a successful Brand requires not only external buy-in from consumers, but internal buy-in from employees as well. No better example of buy-in was at NASA during the space race. No matter who you asked, the Launch Director or the Janitor, you got the same answer... Our mission is to put a man on the moon! Without that internal belief in a company’s message, the enthusiasm to promote it will be lacking and your Brand will suffer because of it.

Also, it is important that the image you are creating be real. Consumers have a knack for sniffing out deception, and if there is any inkling that you are being dishonest, people will eventually catch on and the results will not be kind. People crave authenticity and will spend their hard earned money on Brands that they believe are authentic. This is why it is so vital that your messaging is honest and consistent and that you protect your Brand’s “honor”. Stay vigilant and correct any misconceptions as soon as they appear.

It is vital to remember that a Brand is not an item, it is an idea. An idea that must constantly be cultivated and cared for by everyone in the organization. Develop a consistent, honest message about your company’s values and intentions. Give that message time to breath and develop organically into a positive image perceived by the public, and over time your business will benefit from it.

In the next installment we will discuss how you can develop your own Brand or expand on your existing one.


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