A brand is the idea or image of a specific product or service that consumers connect with, by identifying the name, logo, slogan, or design of the company who owns the idea or image. Branding is when that idea or image is marketed so that it is recognizable by more and more people, and identified with a certain service or product when there are many other companies offering the same service or product. Advertising professionals work on branding not only to build brand recognition, but also to build good reputations and a set of standards to which the company should strive to maintain or surpass. Branding is an important part of Internet commerce, as branding allows companies to build their reputations as well as expand beyond the original product and service, and add to the revenue generated by the original brand.
When working on branding, or building a brand, companies that are using web pages and search engine optimization have a few details to work out before being able to build a successful brand. Coordinating domain names and brand names are an important part of finding and keeping visitors and clients, as well as branding a new company. Coordination of a domain name and brand names lends identification to the idea or image of a specific product or service, which in turn lets visitors easily discovery the new brand.
Branding is also a way to build an important company asset, which is a good reputation. Whether a company has no reputation, or a less than stellar reputation, branding can help change that. Branding can build an expectation about the company services or products, and can encourage the company to maintain that expectation, or exceed them, bringing better products and services to the market place.
Manufacturer vs. Private Brands
When a brand identity is clearly linked with the manufacturer of the product, it is called a manufacturer brand. Also known as a national brand, marketers usually choose this option when the firm has a strong, positive image. But some products, especially if they are not well-differentiated in the marketplace, benefit by being associated with the store where they are sold. For example, major drugstore chains routinely offer their own private-label brands of staple products like pain relievers and skin cream.
Individual vs. Family Brands
Individual branding is a strategic approach used by firms with sufficient resources to create a separate identity for each product they offer. It makes the most sense when a company sells items in very different categories, like candy and detergent, or to highly distinct target audiences. Conversely, firms with multiple offerings in the same category, like soup or cereal, often market a variety of products under the same name. This use of a unified platform is called family branding.
Co-branding is a strategy that links two existing brand names to create an identity for a new product. There are three variations of this approach. Ingredient branding is when one product is integral to the other, like an ice cream brand blended with a well-known liquor. Cooperative branding involves two or more brands sharing a promotion. For example, Hilton Hotels and Hertz might advertise jointly for holiday vacationers. In complementary branding, brands are marketed together to suggest the benefits of using both, like a restaurant offering discounts at a local movie theater.
Regardless of which branding strategy they select, marketers often seek trademark protection. This gives them exclusive rights to the brand name, symbol and design, enforced by law and involving penalties for unauthorized use. To obtain a trademark, the company must file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and follow specific guidelines. But the alternative is to risk a competitor copying some aspect of the brand identity and benefiting unfairly from the original firm’s investment.
Two key components of any brand strategies
- Brand extension
Brand extension is a common method used by companies to launch a new product by using an existing brand name on a new product in a different category. A company using brand extension hopes to leverage its existing customer base and brand loyalty to increase its profits with a new product offering.
For brand extension to be successful, there usually must be some logical association between the original product and the new one. A weak or nonexistent association can result in brand dilution. Even worse, if a brand extension is unsuccessful, it can harm the parent brand.
- Brand Portfolios
When large businesses operate under multiple different brands, services and companies, a brand portfolio is used to encompass all these entities under one umbrella. Often, each of these brands has its own separate trademarks and operates as an individual business entity. However, for marketing purposes, a brand portfolio is used to group them all together. Brand portfolios are also used to lessen consumer confusion in regard to who owns particular brands.
Examples of Brand Portfolios
To better explain what a brand portfolio looks like, consider the Hilton brand. In addition to the Hilton Hotels and Resorts brand, the company also owns numerous other business entities, which are all grouped under the brand portfolio name Hilton Worldwide. A few of the other brands under Hilton Worldwide include the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts, Embassy Suites Hotels and Homewood Suites. As another example, consider PepsiCo. PepsiCo is the brand portfolio name of several food and beverage companies that include not only Pepsi, but also brands such as Frito Lay, Quaker and Tropicana.
Advantages of Using a Brand Portfolio
When businesses try to run each of their brands completely separate from one another, confusion and inefficiency can prevail. In contrast, by utilizing a brand portfolio, the business is able to focus on the big picture, causing resources to be better allocated to where they can do the most good, thus creating the most value, and reducing unnecessary overlap. For example, if a new brand with potential is left solely to its own resources, it could be starved out of resources before ever having a chance to get off the ground.
Brand Relationships Within Portfolios
Three different relationship structures are used for brand portfolios. One type uses a single brand name across the entire organization, without differentiating any sub-brands. Examples of this include IBM, Goldman Sachs and Greenpeace. Another type uses a primary brand to endorse sub-brands. Examples of this includes Ralph Lauren endorsing Polo, Microsoft endorsing Windows and McDonald’s endorsing the Big Mac. The final type uses a house of brands to encompass individual brands. Examples of this includes how Pampers operates under Proctor and Gamble and how Viagra operates under Pfizer.
Elements of an Ideal Brand Portfolio
Since how a brand portfolio is managed has a direct impact on the growth and future success of the business, properly organizing the brand portfolio is vital. The ideal portfolio should always fit with the businesses vision of its future in the marketplace. The brand portfolio should also prioritize key elements and markets vital to its success. When brands no longer fit in with the portfolio, they should be either altered to better conform or altogether eliminated. Above all else, the brand portfolio should continue to make acquisitions to fill any gaps.