Business today face shortage of customers, not shortage of goods. This is not a new problem; we faced a similar snag in the 1930s. When businesses project sales growth more than what the total market is growing, it results in excess capacity. Branding is the only answer at such times of overcapacity and hyper competition. Despite the recognition that brand equity is the single most valuable asset that translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins, I observe that branding is still a vastly misunderstood subject. It’s about time to dispel the myths about brands and branding, and know what it really means:
1. Branding is not marketing.
Ted Levitt once said, “the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” The aim of branding is to make marketing superfluous. Branding starts even before a product exists or a customer is won. Branding is the very beginning; selling is the ending. Branding is a promise, a solemn pledge derived from the heart of a robust, workable business strategy.
2. Branding is not advertising.
Advertising is a paid form of communicating value delivered through media outlets by an identified sponsor. Unlike advertising, branding is not a mere interruption of culture; it is the very cultural infrastructure upon which a business is built. Branding the face of a business strategy that dictates how value of a product or service should be communicated in the consumer ecosystem.
Advertising does not build brands. Advertising only calls attention to a brand. But, brands are built holistically. Brand building is an orchestration of a variety of tools from myriad disciplines used to systematically plan, implement, and control the alignment of identity, image, and culture.
3. Branding does not help production and operations.
Instead, manufacturing should help in branding. Production is granted. Business can outsource manufacturing very easily, but it can never outsource branding or marketing. We live in a consumption economy, and everyone in the firm should be concerned about the decisions made which will impact the customer.
4. Branding is difficult to learn.
It barely takes a day to learn – ask my MBA students. Perhaps, it takes a lifetime to master. Branding has been around for centuries as a means to mark cattle and distinguish them by the owners of livestock. Branding will be around forever as long as man has mind, emotion, and memory. It just may not be the same way you learned it.