As a broad concept, branding has been with us since forever. But the term itself only came into wide use within the last decade or two. And it’s plagued by misuse and confusion. Here’s a primer, starting with its component parts.

The brand experience is the sum-total of what a customer experiences when interacting with the brand. What it feels like to enter the store, buy and use the product, even interact with its sales and service people. An effective brand experience rises above all the noise. It grabs attention and interest and drives purchase decisions, sometimes in just seconds. And it’s self-reinforcing through repeated interactions.

A brand promise and its underlying claims are extensions of a brand’s positioning: how a company chooses to differentiate itself from the competition. Some companies position their products and services to contrast against market leaders, while others position against contextual attributes or traditions. Consider a few historical examples from the soft drink industry: For Coca-Cola®, the “Real Thing;” for Pepsi®, the “New Generation;” for 7UP®, the “UnCola.”

Note how these positions communicate their brands’ aspirations—and how they differ from competing brand perceptions. The underlying point is to identify the contrast or point of differentiation and ensure memorability through brand alignment. Brand-aligned companies understand what they’re good at; their core competencies align with an identified target audience.

To bring your company or product to life, consumers need to know your story. Given that the average consumer is bombarded with more information than can be processed, breakthrough communication is required. Consider the example of out-of-home advertising, with its short and sweet communication strategy. Successful brands convey more than what’s said in words, and they do it instantly.

This is where brand itself comes in. It’s more than a logo. It’s a story, encapsulated in a way the consumer remembers instantly through repetitive exposure.

A well-crafted brand, represented in a name, symbol and tag line, communicates the product benefits, customer experience, satisfaction levels and other attributes for the consumer. A carefully constructed brand personality uses wording, logos, packaging, color and other design elements to reinforce these attributes consistently.

To illustrate branding’s power as a metaphor, consider this example from a marketing professional who visited Vietnam after the U.S. trade embargo was dropped in 1994: “It was a journey to the unfamiliar. I didn’t understand the language or recognize any of the local brands. So I was very cautious, learning to trust by trial and error what to eat and what to buy–not an ideal situation. I didn’t truly realize the power of an established brand until I stumbled into a store full of unknown products. However, squeezed between all these unknown products, I saw cans of Coca Cola and bottles of Heinz® Ketchup. I recognized both brands instantly and knew their backstories. It was an example of the power of branding and what we take for granted every day.”

Building trust with consumers is about converting the unknown to the known with as much efficiency and effectiveness as possible. Feel free to contact us to learn how we can help your brand. Call us at 302.543.8533 or email us to schedule a free consultation.