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Know the 'Brand Characteristics' before launching a 'Brand'
by Sanjay Kulkarni
sanjay@inspiregroup.in
blog1
Brand Environment

IT revolution has changed the business dynamics and market geographies. The world markets have emerged to new opportunities for growth. In this scenario, it is universally acknowledged that only those companies with a powerful brand succeed in the market place.

A product or service is the starting point for the branding process. Product or a type of service is a broad term; it includes goods, services, experiences, events, persons, places, properties, organizations or ideas. All these are needs and brands fulfills these needs. So, these brands have certain attributes, features, and functionality. Each brand commands a certain level of quality and reputation based on its generic tangible features, experiential features, and non-tangible perceptions. Customer develops perceptions like Quality Perception, Value Perception, etc. around the brand and relates with respective brands depending on its overall market performance.

Brand Features
Generic Tangible Features

Function, Packaging, Design, Functional Attributes, Price

Experiential Features

Availability, During Sales, Credit & Financing, Delivery, Guarantees, Warranties, After Sales Service

Non-tangible Perceptions

Quality Perception, Value Perception, Personality, Word of Mouth, Culture, Reputation Corporate Image (Company behind the brand)

What is Brand?

The word 'Brand' is quite comprehensive and covers several other narrower terms. A brand is defined as "a name, term, sign, symbol or special design or some combination of these elements that is intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers. A brand differentiates these products from those of competitors" (As defined by American Marketing Association of Chicago, USA)

A brand mark is the visual representation of the brand, like symbol, design, distinctive coloring or lettering. For example, ‘Ashok Leyland’ is a brand name and ‘L’ in a wheel graphic is a brand mark. A ‘Tread Mark’ is a brand that is legally protected. All trademarks are brands and include both the brand name and the brand marks in its pictorial presentation. Exclusive rights to use of the brand in permanency are granted by the trademark law, unlike the Patents and Copyright Laws which have an expiry date.

Essentially, a brand is a promise of the seller to deliver a specific set of benefits or attributes or service to the buyer. Each brand represents a level of quality. Irrespective of the fact from whom the brand is purchased, this level of quality can be expected of the brand. A brand is much more complex. Apart from attributes and benefits, it also reflects other aspects;

Values: The values which govern a producer are reflected by the brand. Thus Tata stands for Quality, Fair Price, etc.

Culture: A brand also represents a certain culture, e.g., Maruti Car or Bajaj Scooter is an Indian culture which represents the affordability and value for money, while Ford Luxury car or Harley Davidson Motorbike is typically an icon of high priced and luxury brands of American Culture.

Personality: A brand projects a personality, e.g., MRF suggests a muscle man relating to their product attributes, i.e., strong, rugged, reliable, etc. or Rin Detergent suggests a Lighting flash relating the product attributes like super clean, quick, fresh, etc.

User: The brand suggests its target audience. We know that Bajaj Sunny is for teenagers. We expect a Mercedes to be driven by a top-class businessman.

In short, a brand is a complex symbol. It is not just a name. Branding, therefore, involves deeper meanings for the brand. The lesser the dimensions a brand possesses, the shallower it is. The more the dimensions, the deeper it is. Thus, it cannot be just a bundle of physical attributes. Attributes are very easy to copy. Brands become enduring by its values, culture, and personality.

Building Successful Brands

Brands and Business Success are correlated. Brands facilitate better demand management and thus improved profitability than commodities. Brands can be successful or unsuccessful. Only successful brands contribute to profit by adding values which attract consumers to buy. The improved scenario of business provides a sound framework to do business expansion. Brands also give some aspirational identity like a face to identify with it.

Characteristics of Brands

Four levels of Brand Characteristics;

Generic: It is the commodity level which satisfies the basic need of the consumer, e.g., traveling from one place to another place by using a car.

Expected: A generic level is modified to satisfying some minimum buying conditions such as functional performance, pricing, availability, etc.

Augmented: Brand is further elevated by adding non-functional values along with the functional ones by positioning the brand as a social prestige, luxury or an upmarket icon.

Potential: As the brand evolves, we become more critical. Creativity plays an important role to grow up the brand to its full potential. Creativity in product features like entertainment coupled with luxury, temperature control, etc. along with brand positioning as 'A Personal Car with Personalised Luxury' can achieve the full potential of the brand.

5 Pillars of Brand Identity (Visual InfoGraphic)
Brand Values

Brand values create a perception of uniqueness. These values also increase the perceived value to the customer. In short, brand values are utilities that create the desired brand identity, brand image and brand get recognized or perceived around these values.

For example;
Tata – Indian, Reliable, Trustworthy, Quality, Fair Price
Apple – Quality, Technologically Superior, Status, Fast, Reliable
Narendra Modi – Visionary, Trustworthy, Hard Work, Sincerity, Ethical

Brand Promise

The brand promise is that core quality which brand fulfills as functional, experiential or self-expressive benefits. e.g., Lux promises ‘Beauty of Complexion’ which gets reciprocated by the consumer as their delight. Also, it is a promise that differentiates itself from its competitors’ brands.

Brand Personality

Every brand qualifies with a unique personality – a friendly brand, a serious brand, a youth brand, a macho brand, a stylish brand and so on. It reciprocates the brand's core values and characteristics which reflects in the consumer perceptions about the brand.

Brand Positioning

It is a unique brand promise which differentiates itself from the competitive brand. The brand promise is formed through well-strategized communication and promotion campaign. It is the desired perception of the brand-consumer forms in their minds concerning competitive brands.

Brand Equity

Brand equity is a commercial value of a brand coming from expectations, experiences and perceptions. The Brand value can be premium which consumer is willing to pay depending on his brand perception or his fulfillment of the brand promise. The brand equity is a store-house of its goodwill.

Brand Names

A brand name is a summary of all that brand stand for, i.e., its features, its ideology, its core promise or its characteristics. A brand name is there to stay for a very long period, and as it resides in the memory of the customers, it must be kept alive by all the means of communication and promotion. Naming a brand name is not easy. It reciprocates the entire gamut of brand objectives. An appropriate brand name reinforces the brand’s desired positioning, by associating it with the relevant attributes which influence the buying decision.

So, in short, the brand name should be simple but meaningful, short but long-lasting and unique but universally applicable which enables brand owners to weave stories around its promise and positioning.

Characteristics of a Good Brand Name
Distinctive

A unique and distinctive name is easy to remember, and the same gets associated quickly with its core promise. Today in the market there are many over-worked and over-used names. One has to come up with a unique name which differentiates easily with its competitors in the market clutter. For example, brand names like ‘Radio Mirchi’, ‘Maruti’ or ‘Snap Deal’ is unique and distinctive.

Simple

It is always better to have a brand name that is very simple and easy to read. Also, it should able to pronounce easily and spell universally. Nowadays people prefer names that derive from the real-world associations.

Meaningful

As explained above a brand name is a summary of all that brand stands for, i.e., its features, its ideology, its core promise or its characteristics so, ideally, a brand name should be such that it is suggestive of its desired personality. For example, the name ‘Promise’ is suggestive of assurance of tooth health. ‘VIP Classic’ for travelers is suggestive of superior quality for a distinct class of people.

Registrable

Brand name must be protectable under the laws of Trade Marks and Copyright. So, you need to check the availability of the chosen brand name for Tread Mark registration before finalizing and releasing the same.

Flexible

A brand name should not be very specific of the product or service concept, but it should be little flexible to adapt it to different market situations with new ideas or new product lines. In today's ever-changing market you need to have the flexibility to change or correct your business course to adjust with changing environments and evolving expectations from the brand.

Universal

While deciding on the brand name, you must consider its geographical market. It should sound right across the cultures and nations. One has to check the meaning of the name in different languages or across cultures. It may sound the same, but the meaning could be different. So, ideally, the brand name should be universally adaptable in different markets and should not clash with cultural beliefs or sentiments.

Tag Lines

A tagline is a summary of your brand promise. The tagline is that single message which consumer associate with the brand. A tagline for business allows creating a positive connection with its customers that leads to trust and a relationship. A tagline facilitates the branded message to resonate in consumers mind and leaving a long-lasting impression. A tagline is meant to provide consumers with an indication of your brand and its market position in just a few memorable words.

While writing your tagline, you should focus on the following points;

  • It should be short
  • Convey a brand’s point of difference
  • Evokes positive feelings
  • Reflects the brand’s identity, character, promise & personality
  • Adds to the meaning of the brand name without repeating any of the same words or concepts

Few Examples of some leading Brand Names & its Taglines;
Cadbury - Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye
Boost - Boost is the secret of our energy
LIC -   Zindagi ke sath bhe Zindagi ke baad bhi
Bajaj Pulsar - Definitely Male
Tata Indica - More car per car 
Bajaj - Hamara Bajaj 
Nokia - Connecting People
BSNL - Connecting India
Idea - an Idea can change your life
Nike - Just do it 
Raymond's - The Complete Man
Peter England - The Honest Shirt