Branding is an essential concept for anyone thinking about a career in marketing or business administration. In fact, no matter what your current role in an organization, you’ve likely been called upon to play a role in brand execution.
The term, of course, derives from the tradition of identifying livestock with a permanent, indelible mark or symbol. However, for modern businesses, branding goes far beyond a corporate logo or icon. Think Coca-Cola, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, Google or any of the other top world-class brands. Their names and images instantly evoke not only a company, good or service, but a particular identity, message, lifestyle and consumer experience.
This is the whole point of successful branding. Proper positioning and marketing results in brand awareness and brand experience. Brand awareness refers to consumer ability to recognize a brand and all its associated marketing, including the company’s name, product or service, as well as logo, slogans and advertising images. Brand experience refers to psychological intangibles, such as feelings, thoughts and expectations about the brand. This experience can be positive or negative based on what consumers have seen, heard or personally encountered about an organization or its brand. Companies strive for an ideal combination of strong brand awareness and positive brand experience.
Experts say that to achieve this, organizations must instill a number of related concepts in a brand, including customer involvement, confidence, and a sense of value and promise. Increasingly, brand is also tied to lifestyle. For example, an athletic shoe brand may seek to invoke consumer feelings not only of athleticism, but competition, youthfulness and “coolness.” While ultimately branding helps sell product, direct sales are not its immediate goal. As The Economist points out, branding primarily “reassures consumers about the quality of a product […and…] provides an enduring platform on which to develop other businesses.”
Due in part to globalization, recent decades have also seen the emergence of such global brands as those mentioned above. Establishing a brand that gains universal recognition and appeal across societies and cultures is a complex undertaking. However, more and more it’s a recognized marketing strategy, especially aided by contemporary social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably already play an important role in your organization’s branding. Modern businesses embrace the notion of integrated marketing, the idea that every person at every level of an organization must reinforce branding at every point of public contact. Each time you encounter a customer, vendor or outside contact, you become an ambassador for your brand, especially if you communicate a predetermined corporate concept or message.
How can you become well-versed in branding, integrated marketing and their connected concepts? A business degree online, especially an online marketing degree, is a flexible way to build your skills – and foster your own “personal brand” – in an increasingly challenging corporate world.