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What Is Branding?

Mar 13, 2023

In this blog we will explore the definition of branding, its history, its importance and some well known examples of successful branding.

Branding In Marketing

Branding, in terms of Marketing (yes, the two are separate) can be something of an umbrella term, referring to several elements and cogs that work in unison to produce the same desired outcomes which typically are – identification, differentiation and desired perception.

Branding is the deliberate and strategic efforts of a company to make their products and services identifiable within the market space and to create a positive customer perception of the experience they will have when interacting with that business.

This is achieved through elements such as design, logos and tone of voice as well as projecting the values and mission statement of a company.

When Did The Concept Of Branding Originate?

The act of branding actually has its roots all the way back in 2000 BC.

What we know as branding today is simply its latest version, in fact the evolution of branding is moving faster now than ever before.

Originally, branding was used as a means to represent ownership or creation, this included everything from farmers branding cattle or a craftsmen imprinting their name or symbol onto goods to depict its origin.

Some of the earliest forms of branding include:

  • Ancient Babylonian merchants used verbal sales pitches to attract customers.
  • The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians created signs with simple images to detail products or services to a population that were largely illiterate.
  • Within the Ancient city of Pompeii, markings appear on walls that appear to be a means of advertising.

As civilisations developed and time went on, we can see the evolution of branding for ourselves. For example, the industrial revolution in England during the 1700s, where brand logos became a way of establishing identity and conveying quality at a time where customers had more choice than they had previously.

What Are The Biggest Examples Of Successful Branding?

Overtime, there have become more than a few juggernauts in terms of successful branding.

Tech and online companies, although relatively young, have fast become some of the most familiar household brands which now dominate the top five spots on Forbes The World’s Most Valuable Brands List.

For example, Google, who weren’t even fully established until 1998 are now so widely known that the term to ‘Google’ something has become a verb recognised by the Oxford dictionary. Now that is good branding.

More examples of brands that have become truly synonymous with their industry –

  • Amazon
  • Coca Cola
  • McDonalds
  • Disney
  • Facebook
  • Apple

There are an abundance of factors that have contributed to these success stories, but the most significant in relation to their branding efforts, in my opinion, is the fact that these brands don’t just sell products, they sell an experience. 

Coca Cola for instance, yes they sell soft drinks, but they also sell an emotional experience, offering consumers fun and joy. In fact Coca Cola in Mandarin actually translates to ‘Tasty Fun’ or ‘Delicious Happiness’.

The red colouring that Coca Cola uses for its branding depicts excitement, energy and passion, the shape of its classic glass bottles has become almost as recognisable as the logo itself. 

Arguably their biggest marketing masterstroke was attaching themselves to Christmas, literally becoming associated with ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. They achieved the Christmas connection so well in fact that many people believe that Santa Clause wears red clothing because of Coca Cola, which although false, still serves to get people talking and thinking about the brand being hand in hand with the Christmas season. Genius.

How Do Brands Stay Relevant?

A brand can go stagnant if they miss a single beat. And staying relevant has never been harder. Especially in the internet age.

Social media alone has essentially changed the landscape of marketing and branding in its entirity, a single individual can now become an established brand in their own right.

Brands also now have the ability to interact with customers on a more personal level than ever before. In fact, as a brand, receiving positive reviews and comments or posting viral content on social media can do wonders for visibility. Whilst bad reviews, interactions or ill received content can do serious damage to a brand’s image.

Another huge factor in staying relevant is that brands now have to be more socially conscious than ever before. Let’s look at McDonalds for example, a large portion of their television advertising now focuses heavily on sustainability and vegan friendly products as these have become highlighted issues in recent years.

Understanding that your audience is constantly changing in terms of its values and beliefs is imperative to retaining them.

A word of warning though, a brand being socially responsible although essential, must not be confused with aligning to any particular political agenda as this perception can be seriously detrimental to brand identity and trust.

Nostalgia is also a tactic that has become more popular in recent years, especially through the pandemic, to evoke feelings of happy memories and comfort.

As ironic as it sounds, sometimes the best way to stay with the times, is to do a throwback.

So Why Is Branding So Important?

Branding, or at least successful branding, allows a company to reserve a spot in a customer’s mind when they think of a certain product.

Traditional branding has shifted from simply selling products, to providing an emotional response or value.

For branding to really work it absolutely must be consistent in every aspect, this includes:

  • Colour palette
  • Logo
  • Fonts
  • Images
  • People
  • Tone of voice
  • Guidelines

These factors allow a business to essentially take on the form of a real entity, with personality and character, one that genuinely cares about its customers.

 In Summary

As we have established by now, solid branding can be the foundation of any successful company. It allows a business to be an individual in an increasingly saturated environment and can be the difference between success and failure.

Living rent free in the minds of potential customers is absolutely invaluable, and every one of us is guilty of associating a word or phrase with our favourite brand.

And to prove it let’s do a quick test:

If I say “music streaming app” the chances are at least half of you instantly thought ‘Spotify’.

This is exactly what businesses want to achieve with their branding efforts, at least in the long run.

And whilst we may have the occasional overnight success story brands, many of the companies that have remained steadfast staples within an industry have managed to do so due to successful branding that has taken years to establish and evolve.