How much do you understand the concepts of a brand?
A brand needs more than just a campaign, which involves many aspects starting from the structuring identity process to brand development and maintenance activities. The concepts of a brand also include many different categories, both horizontally and vertically. However, a large number of ideas or terms have scores of similar meanings that often confuse in a bunch of writing contexts. So, distinguishing almost identical words, spotting the essential elements in a branding model, and pointing out the most critical factors will be the first primary for a new brand.
1. Brand identity and brand awareness – what is the difference?
When it comes to brands, the first two common misconceptions are the confusion between brand awareness and brand identity. The biggest problem here is, most people use them, assuming that they have the same meaning and have complementary relationships. However, the simple truth is scopes of these two concepts are entirely different, including how they create awareness and identification values.
Brand identity is a way to identify a brand in the public’s mind, using materials such as logo, slogan, company profile, design style, name card, brochure, and even colors across their designs. Brand identity usually starts from the values of the brand face to create the first impressions and memories in the customers’ mindset. Color, symbol, language are three of the important memories that brands attract attention from customers. Somewhat, brand identity can do more than as a brand face, it not only makes the brand memorable, but also creates a position for the brand in the market, and creates a particular attraction when the brand publishes an advertisement.
In Vietnam, it is often that Coca Cola appears on holidays, important occasions with two primary red-white colors and unique handwritten fonts. This brand always communicates to the public the values of reunion, family affection, inspiring people not to forget where they belong. Another example, the story of the Apple logo performing the image of “an apple with a bite” has a strong desire to reach perfect, rebellious, and unique values. All the elements that appear, more or less, convey a specific aspect of brand value, vision, and mission. They also contribute to creating the unique memories that customers experience with the brand and stimulating closer connections.
Brand awareness is the result of creating a set of values to make a brand different and essential. Awareness implies the mindset, perspectives of the brand’s role to customers compared to other competitors in the market.
To build a brand awareness process is to focus on connections and interactions mostly. However, first, it is necessary to create an information platform that helps the audience to get the whole picture of a brand. In particular, the crucial factors that can make this process done are content platform, product/service platform, as well as human factors.
Content has a great ability to create a brand’s tone and voice while also shaping its style. This ability allows brands to set perspective and the appropriate direction usefully themselves, similar to the way Redbull conveys the messages from the “Give you wings” campaign with the desire to become the dream-maker.
On the other hand, product quality also dramatically affects the brand. Product quality is the launchpad for the next PR or marketing campaigns, but an inferior-quality product will make the brand fail no matter how good those campaigns are. Starbucks has gone beyond the limits of a coffee shop with increasingly appreciated values. However, when it comes to Starbucks, everyone is pleased with almost all the drinks here. The excellent taste of the beverage menu has attracted and kept more customers.
Coca Cola gets a very high level of brand awareness when almost 90% of the world population knows what Coca Cola is. Like many other long-standing brands, Coca Cola has created a cohesive consumer habit that can retain generation-to-generation, as well as refreshed itself by creative advertising campaigns that add more imprints to customers’ mindsets. Did you remember the Coke bottle had your name printed? Have you ever taken a selfie with it? Yes, these name-bottles are part of the “Share A Coke” campaign – a campaign to help Coca Cola to surpass Samsung, to win the Gold Award – Brand Awareness category at The Smarties Vietnam 2015 (organized by Mobile Marketing Association in Vietnam to honor the best brands and agencies).
In another context, to maintain the identity values of perfection, rebellious, and unique, Apple built its own extremely discriminating cognitive system. The brand does not narrow itself to any target market, but towards a design that is everyone-friendly. It forms a unified brand culture from inside out, including creativity and simplicity. Apple ignores the trends and competitions; it contrarily produces themed devices, which generates new patterns for other brands in the technology market.
In general, brand identity emphasizes feelings of “love at first sight”, this concept tailors the face of the brand, helping customers identify the brand’s identity, functions, roles, and products as well. On the other hand, brand awareness conveys long-term values, internal values, and different values remaining in customers after using a brand’s products or services. Those two concepts are not synonymous and equivalent, and brand identity is a part of a brand awareness strategy.
2. Essential elements of a comprehensive brand positioning model
Brand positioning models have been diverse, from the Minimal Viable Brand model provided by Eric Ries to much more complex models, namely the Brand Key (by Unilever) or Brand Pyramid (provided by Keller) as well. There is a common-sense between these positioning models, which is the forming and maintaining process of values, from the root strength to the brand essence, which can eventually be long-lasting in the community’s mindset from generation to generation.
Usually, we are aware of the elements of visible benefits and measurable values. However, brands that leave an in-depth impression in the customer’s mindset create subjective and sensory values. Therefore, the positioning process worth considering includes discrimination and customer experience as well. Also, emotional and personal factors often require a high level of two-way interaction between both brands and customers, in general.
Discriminations refer to values making a brand different from its competitors. You can use product strengths, brand stories, or media messages to emphasize how you are different from dozens, hundreds of brands in the same field. A coffee shop with a mountain-view will be more attractive than another one with small tables in 4 tight walls. Of course, the very first goal of people coming to a coffee shop is to drink coffee; however, gradually, people need more than a coffee cup when coming to the shop, such as to talk and discuss together, to work, to have group meetings, to take photos, or even dating. People tend to be more interested in which coffee shop is suitable for taking pictures, which are tranquil enough for working. A tasty coffee-cup is one of the different values making customers frequent more; besides, people also care about the space, décor, view, and so on.
Another fundamentally important factor for a branding campaign is customer experience. Experience is truly the accompanying actions or services, making customers feel they have received the attention and devotion when using certain products or services. Customer experience is one of the sources developing brand touchpoints and including various concepts of expertise, such as interface experience, shopping experience, or product experience of a brand. Apple has successfully satisfied their customer experiences by designing an intelligent technology product-ecosystem to meet the seamless connection and interactions between devices and people, creating convenience and ease. Therefore, besides the discriminations that the brand itself establishes, excellent customer experience will be an active element for branding.
The digital age has witnessed a transformation of the brand-value system when almost all the customers are much more interested in sensory factors like emotional experience when using products. That experience requires brands to keep up with customers’ insight, creating compelling content to obtain customers’ trust.
3. Brand voice – the strength out of all the concepts of a brand
Why is brand voice important? Because it can speak up almost all the values of a brand and directly affect its audience. Voice can help personalize the brand, let itself create personality, and speak up as a human. That is the most basic visualization of brand voice. However, at a higher level, brand voice is the element synchronizing and positioning brands, shaping the brand identity and awareness. As a result, brands know what and how to do to reach the right audience target or market, developing both content styles and operation models, consistently.
We remember Pepsi as a symbol of dynamism, youthfulness, and positive energy. On the other side, Coca Cola is reminiscent of family reunion, cozy and fun spaces. While Apple emphasizes the simplicity and quality of the product system, Samsung focuses much more on diversity and stunning design. These differences show that every single brand shapes the growing direction with unique concepts, then they will record in the user’s mindset of distinct characteristics and styles.
Whether branding is minimalist or sophisticated, businesses need to fully meet the most fundamental concepts of a brand to increase communication and interaction with its customers. At the same time, it is necessary to follow appropriate values integrating with development orientation to avoid overuse, and confusion, which then losing the discriminations brands want to convey.