Beyond The Image

Why a brand represents much more than its logo or service

Brands achieve their role when they penetrate our sub-conscious. In perspective, the length of civilisation compared to the upright man’s existence barely places us out of trees. These basic instincts are curbed due to societal censure. Brands use semiotics, subliminal messages and Jungian archetypes to penetrate the armour of our conscious mind and plant their own space to gain heart share. Remember that heart share trumps and gets you wallet share all the time.

Most start-ups believe that a small or medium sized enterprise need not create a brand. However, in today’s world no business, big or small, can survive long without branding. That poses an interesting but challenging question. What exactly is a brand? And more importantly when capital is scarce how do you go about creating a strong brand? In this article I will tackle the first question.

There seems to be divided opinion amongst experts on what a brand represents. But, there are a few things that most agree on — what does not or what does constitute a brand. Accordingly, a brand is:

Not merely a product or service
The brand serves a larger need than its product or service category. For example, both Pizza Hut and Domino’s sell pizzas and are in the food business. However, Domino’s as a brand serves convenience. It delivers pizzas at home. Pizza Hut on the hand offers an in-dining experience, although it also delivers at home.

Not merely a name or a logo
Experts will tell you that a brand represents more than a name or a logo. No doubt the name and logo needs to be registered through trademarks and copyrights to protect the intrinsic worth of the brand. But, remember the brand is much larger than that. Imagine the name and logo as a sort of postal address and the brand represents the person who lives at the address. The person is more important than the address.

Not merely a tag line
Brands have tag lines. Nike says “Just do it” and Johnnie Walker says “Keep Walking”. Most would believe they can swap tag lines. The tag line defines a part of the brand and adds to the name and logo. However a brand is larger than the tag line. It simply emphasises on the larger emotive need addressed by the core positioning of the brand.

There is no substitute for the brand & the underlying emotion
Everything about the brand happens in the mind. A brand is intangible and engages the customer emotionally. It may represent trust, style and self-esteem. The main purpose of the brand is to move the attention of the consumer from the product category to itself. Thus it convinces the customer there is no substitute for it. As examples, consider two soap brands, Liril and Dettol. The brand Liril represents freshness and the brand Dettol represents a strong anti-bacterial quality. These cease to be soaps. Thus, a customer seeking freshness would not use another soap. The brand Liril has replaced the function of soaps (used for bathing) to freshness. For this there is no other substitute.

The brand's emotional connect creates pricing power
A brand builds loyalty and creates moats for business owners. It gains heart share over wallet share. In many ways it allows the customer need to ascend Maslow’s Pyramid representing the Hierarchy of Needs thus giving pricing power. For example, a cheap pen may cost Rs.5 and satisfy the basic need (lowest on Maslow’s Pyramid) of writing. Whereas a Uniball pen may cost Rs.50 and represent the next level, Maslow of Security, in terms of running smoothly. However, a Mont Blanc pen may sell at Rs.10,000 because it satisfies Maslow’s Need of Self Esteem. Thus, the function of the pen may be to write, but the brand shifts replaces that purpose with a need satisfy self-esteem, when it comes to a Mont Blanc, allowing pricing power.

Great brands create communities and not just customers
A significant brand creates loyal communities around it and builds its own social anthropology. A case in point is the cult following that Harley Davidson has created. Although one rider may not know the other, a Harley Davidson biker acknowledges and relates to another co-brand biker more than any other bike brand in the world. Similarly, IKEA and Apple have become synonymous with certain traits and emotive appeals that create a strong ecosystem.

Neeraj Batra is the co-founder and chairman of OnCourse Vantage and tweets at @batra_neeraj