Branding is one of the key principles of modern marketing and is something our Pearson BTEC Level 5 HND in Business students will learn is vital for success in business. It’s the area that brings together strategists, creatives and product developers. Today we’re going to recap some of the main steps necessary for a brand to be successful.

Think about your favourite product – there’s something much more than functionality that connects you to this thing. It could be how it makes you feel when you put it on, or that sense of satisfaction you experience when you start it up, or it could even make you feel better for using it. That emotional connection is all down to branding and it’s what keeps you coming back for more.

The Four Key Principles of Branding

Brand Identity

The first step in creating that all-important connection between customer and brand is being recognised. Some brands opt for a simple brand identity, others use a more elaborate construction built from the experience one receives when using the product. Creating a strong brand identity is a necessary first step for building a brand and it should guide all the brand manager’s decisions regarding packaging, shop design and ad campaigns. Simply, everything connected with the brand comes back its identity. Good brands are synonymous with their product, so every creative and strategic decision should be tied back into the wider brand identity message.

We’ll use the example of Clipper Tea: a company with an extremely strong brand identity. The package design, the material used for the products, the language: all reflect a feeling of natural, unprocessed tea. The branding team have worked hard to cultivate an identity that appears extremely organic. Unbleached tea bags hint at environmental consideration, while the textured card packaging, along with the hand-drawn style design, hint at nature’s perfect imperfections. Their points of difference – ‘to improve the welfare of our workers,’ ‘pure ingredients and a clear conscience’ – place their product as an antithesis of the corporate, mass-produced tea brands.

Brand Meaning

So the brand manager knows and understands the brand identity, but what message does she want consumers to take away? When a brand becomes synonymous with a particular meaning, quality or emotion – think of Apple’s iMac and its connection to graphic design – consumers start to make decisions based on perceived value. “If I get an iMac, therefore, I will become a more creative person”. The decision suddenly becomes easier:

“If I’m serious about doing what I love [creating graphics, for example], then I simply must buy an iMac. The large, high-resolution screen, the streamlined software integration with Adobe… it’s really a no-brainer. It just… works!” 

Brand Response

Companies can tout their message all they want, however, it’s the customer’s response that is king. If a brand becomes recognisable and its meaning is understandable then it’s up to the customers to decide if they believe in the brand’s message. Market research should be carried out before a brand launches to understand how customers perceive the brand and its product. Depending on the results, steps might be taken to align the brand with the particular response being aimed for. This could mean venturing back into the brand’s identity and meaning if the desired result is not achieved.

Brand Relationship

Once identity, meaning and response have been established, the brand should be on its way towards creating long-term relationships with customers. For success, all the aforementioned principles of branding must come together (and combine with the product) to give customers a reason to keep going back.

Loyal customers are more likely to repeat buy, pay more for a product and may even become promoters of the brand themselves. Simply, they’re invaluable. How is this level attained? Allowing product standards to slip is a sure-fire way to alienate those most loyal. Sure, they may stick with a brand that is dropping its standard for a while, but winning these customers back is often more challenging than gaining their loyalty in the first place.

So continued improvement and innovation of a product is a good way to encourage customers to stay loyal; maintaining and developing the strong and consistent brand message to coincide with product innovations is a must. Marketing material should find the appropriate way of creating a narrative around product innovation, no matter how small it may be.

That’s our recap of the four principles of branding. If you’re interested in branding, why not study an HND in Business and learn both practical and academic skills? Get in contact with a course advisor today and find out if an HND is right for you.           

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