Long live the brand

In today's average supermarket there are now 40,000 stock keeping units (SKUs)
Carol Magill

RESEARCH conducted by IBM last year showed that 80 per cent of consumers feel the average brand doesn't understand them as individuals. Meanwhile, controversies across sectors are destroying public trust.

This is leading consumers – to form negative impressions about the offending brands, and brand in general. This is a problem: it damages the ability of honest players in the market to reach potential customers.

As custodians of brand, it is important for marketers to understand why it came into existence, and why it is still relevant today.

1. Brand is a differentiator. Historically, brand arose as a way for companies to distinguish themselves – like the signature of an artist, it helped people to tell the work of a master from the inferior product of a plagiarist in an instant. This is still a vital task today; marketers may want to go after the copycats that cheapen the concept by aping superior brands.

2. Brand defines business vision. There is no consistent strategy without brand. An organisation's actions should flow naturally from its principles and goals – and it's impossible to formulate and cultivate these properly without a brand identity. Brand identity is also important internally – having a vision about who you are, where you are going and what positive impact you would like to make is vital to motivating everyone, from the managing director to the most junior employee.

3. Brand simplifies choice. According to the economic theory of Adam Smith, people are rational actors; they will actively seek out the best quality product at the best price. The problem is, that's not a feasible approach in a modern consumer society. In the average supermarket, for example, there are now 40,000 SKUs (that stands for stock keeping units and is a unique identifying number for each product the store carries). People just don't have the time to make a carefully researched decision about every purchase. Brands help people to narrow down the range of possibilities to just those products that are appropriate to them at the moment of decision.

4. Brand still drives loyalty and advocacy. It isn't just about helping people to identify your products, it's about helping them to identify themselves. The products that people buy allow them to make statements about who they are. That's what the brand crisis is all about, after all – people make brand a part of their own identity, and feel hurt if the organisation behind the brand lets them down.

If you're doing the right things, brand is the medium through which they can share their love. So it's important both to ensure your organisation is acting ethically, and to provide people with ways to be loyal or advocate for you through social media.

CIM Ireland will be exploring brand concepts tomorrow at a free morning event at Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast. Alongside looking at the brand winners and losers in 2016, the session will also look at positioning and differentiation. Especially relevant for marketers or entrepreneurs working in the food and drink sector, the event also includes local success story Heavenly Tasty Organics. To register go here

:: Carol Magill is CIM network manager for Ireland.


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