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What is a brand, really? Companies spend so much time coming up with the right colours and logos, but to what end? Why should a company waste their time with branding?

Branding is not about the company, it’s about the consumer. Some of you get this, and that’s great! But some of you don’t. So what am I trying to get to? Think about branding this way: A brand is a perception. It is a perception of a company, product, service, etc., in the consumer’s mind. Companies can work on how they want their offer to be positioned in the consumer’s mind, but in the end, it is the consumer that forms the perception, and creates the brand. So what is branding to a consumer then?

A familiar brand is a brand you can trust

How many people use VISA or MasterCard as their credit card provider? Why? It’s because they see this brand over and over again, everywhere they go. And since this brand is everywhere, it becomes very familiar to consumers. When something is familiar, it seems more credible, and consumers trust it more.

So what can you do to increase familiarity? Develop a brand awareness strategy. Use communication methods that will increase the chance of consumers seeing your brand. Develop a website. Develop a blog. Develop a social media strategy so you can share your blog. Use offline sources as well. The more your brand is out there, the more chances consumers will see it, the more they will start trusting your brand.

A brand is comfort

I use Tide, and nothing else to wash my clothes. Why? My mom used it when I grew up. I got used to the smell. Now I use it because it reminds me of growing up, and it’s comforting. It’s a brand that was there my whole life. Same thing with Kraft peanut butter. I like it because it is comforting to me. Consumers develop this bond with brands, or brand loyalty. Once a consumer is loyal to a brand, s/he returns to that brand because it is comforting.

So what can you do for this? Try to create an emotional connection between your brand and the consumer. Using nostalgia is a way to communicate comfort. If you can get consumers to be emotionally attached to the brand, consumers will feel comfort from the offer, and will develop brand loyalty.

I feel soooooooo comfortable right now!

A brand is an extension of the self

Are you familiar with the consumer behaviour concept of the extended self? A consumer has a self concept, and an ideal self. And there’s a theory out there saying that consumers surround themselves with products or services that represent who they are (personality, character traits, emotions, etc.) or who they want to be. I buy Calvin Klein clothing because it makes me feel accomplished. My girlfriend bought Toms because she is trendy. My dad bought an iPhone because he WANTS to be cool and trendy. See where I’m going with this?

So what can you do? Spend a little more time understanding your target market. So you know how old they are, where they’re from, and how much money they make. But what type of activities do they do? What are their interests? Do they have common personality traits? What do they like? If you can answer these questions, you can tailor your positioning statement to what they like in order to influence their perception of your brand.

So to put this very simple, a brand is not what the company wants to be, it is what the consumers perceive it to be. You can throw all of the colors, logos, catch-phrases, slogans, jargon you want to try to shape the consumers perception, but in the end, the consumer decides what the brand is. A brand is what the consumer perceives it to be. Without customers, you do not have a brand. What do you think? Am I right, or am I way off on this one?