What is Branding?
In this modern era, there is too much noise around and every company is seeking their prospect’s attention. And our attention span has decreased below the level of a goldfish. So all these companies around the world spend billions of dollars on advertisements annually just to get by. Spending big bucks on brochures, billboards, telemarketing, Social media, Paid Online Advertising are just to stay in the game in this cutthroat competition. Yet we see some companies thriving in this fierce opposition. Have you ever wondered why? One Word – Branding.
So, what is Branding?
A lot of people confuse branding with the company names, logos and their slogans but that’s not it. All of these factors do play a role in branding but linking it to one of these factors isn’t enough. Simply put, your brand is the first thought that comes to your client’s mind when they hear your name or see your logo. So branding doesn’t only comprise of choosing a great name, logo and crafting great marketing messages. It’s basically translating your “WHY” into all aspects of your company. If you want to make a big brand, you need to answer these questions:
- Why you do, what you do?
- What does your company stand for?
- What are you passionate about?
Most of the companies know what they do but only those companies can make a big brand with a clear understanding of why they do what they do. Everything else like Company name, logo, marketing messages, customer services, and your public relation will be a reflection of your “Why”.
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Don’t Try to Sell Your Products to Everyone
I know it’s very tempting to market your products to everyone or tailor your products to the need of every single customer. Every single person on earth can never be your customer and you need to grasp this reality. Or your company will be competing for its survival with low-profit margins and increasing advertising costs.
All you need to do is define a set of principles your company stands for and target only those people who have similar beliefs. I know it’s a bit tricky to understand this concept but let me show it to you with the help of an example.
How Apple made one of the biggest brands on earth?
Apple Inc. is one of the biggest companies in the whole world and they have the most loyal customers in the whole world. Neither did they market their products to all the people in the world nor did they make products to fit the budget of every person out there. They are probably the most expensive brand in the world and any person can purchase the mobile or computer with the same features in less than half the price they are offering.
Isn’t it weird that when all other companies are competing with each other based on specification and prices and Apple doesn’t seem to care about any of them?
They are doing the opposite and still managed to stay at the top. How did that happen? Do all these rules not apply to Apple? And how did they manage to build such a cult-like following that people will buy whatever they make?
All these answers lie in their brand strategy. Steve Jobs knew his way from the day one that got ingrained in the DNA of Apple.
So what is their WHY?
“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently” – Apple.
Then they translated their “why” in almost every part and aspect of their company. Let’s show you how:
Apple made its famous slogan “THINK DIFFERENT” back in 1997 that is consistent with their values and the belief system of the company.
Name of the Company
While a lot of people would think of a techie name for a computer company but not Jobs. Steve Wozniak was driving Jobs back from the airport as he just got back from an apple farm in Oregon when Jobs pitched the idea of “Apple Computers”. As Steve Jobs said in his biography that the name seemed fun, spirited and not intimidating.
Initially, Apple’s co-founder Ronald Wayne made the logo of the company. It depicted Issac Newton sitting under an apple tree. Steve Jobs didn’t like this logo so in 1977, jobs gave the task to Robb Janoff who came up with the logo we know today. However, it wasn’t the same logo as today as it had rainbow colors in it.
Not only this logo was an instant hit but it also sparked many speculations among people. Some people said that the rainbow colors in the logo were used to indicate the color capabilities of Apple II computers at that time.
Some also believed that the “bitten apple logo” was a tribute to Alan Turing – The father of modern computing. Who committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple as he was facing intense persecution due to his homosexuality.
Apple challenged the status quo in pricing their products as well. The general perception and practice by electronics companies is to give more features in less price if you want to win. But, Apple proved that you can make the rules of the game yourself and still win. Apple is charging more than double than other companies for the product of the same specifications are and people still buy apple like crazy.
No matter if it’s a TV commercial or a product launch, Apple has always defied the rules. What other companies do is to market their products on the basis of superior technology, more features, and fewer prices but Apple has its own way of doing things.
Apple never said that we have the fastest and latest processors, more device memory and better cameras in our devices. Instead, their marketing messages always appeal to the emotions of their customers.
In the late ’90s, Apple’s iconic “Think Different Commercial” gave tribute to Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Einstein, and Gandhi. Those people were misfits in the society, rebels, and misfits; and they changed the course of history for good. A lot of people saw them as the crazy ones but “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are usually the ones who do”.
What Apple claims is that they make their products for the people who are different from everyone else and they have the potential to change the world. Now tell me, who wouldn’t want to belong to this special group of people?
It’s a sense of belongingness to this special group that drives people to buy Apple products. Because no matter how much their prices are, most of us would still buy their products to be a part of this cult.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple back in 1997, the company was in very terrible shape and they were close to shutting down the company. Jobs knew that company needs a total rebranding and they need to change a lot of things. Apple was focused more on a store within a store concept where they will have a section for Apple products in a big store like Best Buy. But that wasn’t working very well for Apple.
There were so many reasons behind this failure in their approach. The profit margins were only 9% for the resellers so there was no motivation for them to recommend Apple products. Another big reason was that the sales associates of these stores weren’t well trained about how Apple products work. That’s why they were more inclined to refer to computers having windows in them. And the customer experience wasn’t great either.
In May 2001, the company inaugurated it’s first two apple store. The first Apple store was located in Fairfax County, Virginia and the second store was established in Glendale, California.
Even the industry experts and media was convinced that this initiative was destined to fail. Because at that time, every company was trying to reduce its costs so everyone was making online stores. But apple stayed true to its core value by challenging the status quo once again.
In only 3 short years, they achieved $1 Billion of annual sales (fastest in retail history). According to retail sales research, apple stores are ranked #1 in the retail stores in sales per square feet i.e. $5446 per square feet.
A Quick Review
If you look closely at what apple with each and every aspect of their brand is to stay true to their “WHY”. Whether it’s their name, logo, Slogans, Pricing models, Marketing strategies or creating a marvelous experience for their customers in form of an apple store, Apple have done things in their own unique ways.
Even Apple products are a testament to their focus on doing things differently. When every mobile company is using Android as an operating system, Apple has their own iOS, which is seamless and easy to use.
This excellent branding strategy has enabled Apple to gain customers loyalty that most of the companies only wish for. In fact, their users base is more like a cult who are their best advocates. Apple users not only feel pride in using their products but they actively tell their friends and families to switch to apple products.
Even Samsung is also a big company but if people had to buy new Samsung mobile every year after waiting for hours in line, would people still buy Samsung products?
Well, it’s highly unlikely. People buy from them because they offer products with more features in less money, not because they are loyal. They would happily switch from Samsung to any other company if they had to face so much inconvenience.
Why is Branding So Much Important?
Some of you might have some questions about this whole approach towards branding. According to some, I may have tweaked some facts to prove my point about the huge impact of branding on the success of a company. That is how I felt when I first read about what branding is.
I believed that humans are very rational and there is no way that someone is going to buy an expensive product just because he is loyal to a company. To prove this theory wrong I did a lot of research on this topic, which indeed proved me and left me in awe.
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Coca Cola Vs PepsiCo War
Let’s prove it here with a real-life example that has been confirmed with research as well. In 1975, the marketers at PepsiCo started a promotion named “Pepsi Challenge” which became so popular. PepsiCo would set up booths in public places like supermarkets, malls, and sports arenas and ask people to take a sip each from two unmarked cups and tell which one they like better. One of these cups contained Pepsi and the other one had Coca Cola in it.
Once the person had told his preference, the representative will reveal their names to show them the drink they preferred. Shockingly, Pepsi was beating Coca Cola in every location in spite of the fact that Coca Cola’s market share was huge as compared to Pepsi.
Malcolm Gladwell published his book “Blink: The Power of thinking without thinking” in 2005 in which he presented some evidence to point out some faults in the sip test of the Pepsi Challenge. He conducted similar research, which concluded that in a single sip test people would prefer the sweeter of two drinks even when they prefer the less sweet drink.
The Hidden Power of Branding
A Double-blind research study by Samuel M. McClure and his colleagues explain this whole phenomenon very well. They were keen to find out why people make these choices. This study had two phases.
In the first phase, the subjects were given these cola drinks without telling them about the name of the cola. The subjects were put in an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Machine through which changes in blood supply to the different areas of the brain were recorded. And Pepsi was the winner here as well. The ventral putamen of the brain lit up in this phase which controls the reward system of the brain. So subjects’ brain kinda told the researchers (through fMRI) that they are happy when they tasted Pepsi.
But In the second phase, something strange and incredible happened. This time, subjects were told about the name of the cola they were going to have. This time the part of the brain which showed functioning wasn’t ventral putamen, instead, it was cerebral cortex which controls our decision making. So, the brain wasn’t actually perceiving taste, it was evaluating their past experiences memories. In this phase, Coca Cola easily beat Pepsi.
What the researchers concluded that in the first phase, the subjects’ mind was just trying to perceive which one tastes better. However, in the second phase when people were told about the name of the cola, the brain started recalling the past experience they had with a certain brand. And Coke has a great history of making standout marketing campaigns so that might affect the decision-making process. This study has explained the power of branding in a perfect manner.
If you are still reading, you will have a better understanding of what is branding, why it is important and how to make a brand that inspires loyalty. But in the end, knowledge is only potential power, it’s useless for you if you don’t implement it. That’s why I urge you to apply this information to your own business so you can also make a big brand like Coca Cola and Apple.