Level Zero | Branding
If you have a business, no matter how small, you need a brand. Absolutely anything can be branded, from something as mundane as salt to something as large as a country.
brand, branding
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What is a brand?

If you look up brand in some dictionaries, you can find out where the concept of branding initiated from in that is was “an identifying mark burned on livestock or (in former times) criminals with a branding iron.”


OR if we look in the Cambridge Dictionary, we get this:

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This is a little closer to what we know of branding today.


Now let’s look at what brand guru, James R. Gregory, author of “Leveraging the Corporate Brand” has to say:


“A ‘brand’ is not a thing, a product, a company or an organisation. A brand does not exist in the physical world – it is a mental construct. A brand can best be described as the sum total of all human experiences, perceptions and feelings about a particular thing, product or organisation. Brands exist in the consciousness of individuals and of the public.”


And Dr Thomas Oosthuizen, another well-known South African branding guru defines a brand as:


“a total experience.”


These definitions make it clear that each individual consumer will have a different experience with the products and services that they are exposed to. Based on those experiences, the consumer will form their own personal perception of a brand. This perception will affect whether or not they will purchase the brand and of course how much they would be willing to pay for it.


For luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Mercedes, the perceived value of their brands command premium prices.


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However, companies which provide utilitarian products are also realising the value of brands such as Coca-Cola and Zara.


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Yes, these are the big players in the market, but branding and having a brand strategy doesn’t just apply to big business.


If you have a business, no matter how small, you need a brand.


Absolutely anything can be branded, from something as mundane as salt to something as large as a country. Consumer behaviour in the market is guided by perceptions. Branding assists in shaping consumers’ perceptions of a product.


Here’s why every business should have a brand:

From the customers perspective, brands serve various functions. Kevin Lane Keller author of “Strategic Brand Management” and leading brand strategist states that brands help consumers and your customers to identify the source or producer of a product and allows consumers to assign responsibility to a particular manufacturer or distributor.


Take Johnson & Johnson as an example – they have a proven track record of over 100 years as being a trustworthy manufacturer of baby products.


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More recently this same brand is making a name for itself with the development of one of the few COVID-19 vaccines on the market. It would be interesting to ask consumers how they feel about a baby-product company making a vaccine and if this helps or hinders Johnson and Johnsons brand positioning.


But back to branding and brand strategy for small to medium businesses.


We have looked at branding from the customers perspective, now let’s look at it from the organisation’s perspective. Brands provide many valuable functions to their organisations. Also stated by Keller, brands serve an identification purpose and simplify product handling or tracing.


Operationally, brands help organise inventory and accounting records. A brand also offers your organisation legal protection for unique features or aspects of your product.

A brand can retain intellectual property rights, giving legal title to the brand owner.

The brand name can be protected through registered trademarks; manufacturing processes can be protected through patents; and packaging can be protected through copyrights and designs. These intellectual property rights ensure that the firm can safely invest in the brand and reap the benefits of a valuable asset.


But mostly, your brand can differentiate your product or service from your competitors. Here are all the things your brand can represent for your organisation:

  1. Identification
  2. Legal protection
  3. Level of quality
  4. Unique association
  5. Competitive advantage
  6. Financial return


And that is not all.

With a solid brand strategy in place, you can enjoy further tangible benefits like helping you to articulate and communicate your core values.


People do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Proper branding can also help you identify weaknesses in your brand experience. Inconsistent experiences will lead to mistrust from your customers and little to no loyalty.


Customers trust your brand when their experiences consistently meet or beat their expectations.

A clear brand strategy makes it easier to make decisions about new product ideas. In the words of David Ogilvy, who’s known as the father of advertising: “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is brand image.” The same applies to new products. With a clear brand strategy, you will be able to question whether it will be useful to your ideal customer and if it has a ‘fit’ with your current offering.


You can’t be everything to everyone.

Looking internally for a moment, a clear brand strategy can also keep everyone in your organisation accountable. Everything must be ‘on brand’ not just your adverts.


What you promise to your customer is what you need to deliver.

If you are clear on your brand strategy and positioning, you will be clear on what needs to be focused on. You will know who you are targeting, where you are targeting them and what you need to be saying to them.


A focused marketing effort will save you heaps of money and will deliver better return on investment.

And for start-ups, a clear branding strategy will be more attractive to investors or, if you are looking to exit, a better buy for potential buyers. A brand that has high awareness, perceived quality, and brand loyalty among customers has high brand equity.


A clear brand strategy shows potential buyers and investors that you’ve thought carefully about how to grow the most valuable asset of your business – your brand!

With a clear brand positioning and strategy, you can help your design team to create marketing material that is attractive to your target market. Your creative elements should not be based on your own opinions and likes, but rather aligned to the wants and needs of your customers.


Without a strategy to underpin them, creative decisions are inherently subjective and misaligned to your target audience.

You should look at your business as a sports team. Everyone in your organisation needs to work together towards the same goal. Your brand strategy is your team goal.


A successful brand strategy aligns the different people on your team and gets them striving to achieve the vision and values of your brand.

Different types of branding

There‌ ‌are‌ ‌various‌ ‌types‌ ‌of‌ ‌branding available to brand managers Decide which one best suits your product or service and look at how the leaders in these categories are branding themselves.


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Product Branding

Products enjoy the most common type of branding. In order to set one product apart from another, most products are distinguished by some kind of branding including words, colours, symbols and images.


Consumers buy products which are branded as it guarantees the consistency and quality that is expected from the brand. Unilever, Tiger Brands and Procter & Gamble are some of the biggest companies with the most branded products.


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There are other types of branded products, beside the consumer products mentioned above, and these include business-to-business products, such as IBM and other high-tech products.

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Service Branding

The second biggest category of branded products is services. This category is growing fast as more companies are delivering services and improving the delivery thereof through branding their services. Service brands are the new trusted sources of consistency and there is a trend which shows that service brands, are now being trusted more as providers of quality products.


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The rise of the internet has made service branding more complex as more communication channels open up. Maintaining the quality of your service across multiple channels is becoming a brand differentiator for many companies. This desire to provide a consistent service across multiple channels is known as omnichannel customer service.


Consistently great service builds a good reputation and strengthens your service branding. Ultimately, excellent service generally results in lower customer churn, which means faster company growth.



Retail Branding

Most brands have in-house products, known as house brands, which are supported by their strong service brands. An example of such house brands is the No Name range from Pick n Pay.

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Due to the digital era that we live in, service brands include online products and services, such as Takealot.com, Zando and Yuppiechef.

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Personal Branding

It has been suggested that everyone should have a personal, powerful and visible brand, and that if you do not have one, you are placing yourself at a huge disadvantage in every aspect of your life. Personal branding has become a requirement for anyone looking to grow their business.


Personal brands are becoming popular as more individuals use social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn to build their brands. Personal branding becomes influential in the purchasing of goods and services. More people with personal brands are becoming online influencers.


Richard Branson is a good example of a public figure who has spent a lot of effort creating a recognisable personal brand – fun, adventurous, disruptive, philanthropic – which is well known globally. His branding has rubbed off on some of his companies, which are all under the Virgin brand.


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Another obvious example of someone who has a high public profile, Elon Musk, is known as the first “Influencer CEO”. He has used social media’s irreverent culture and strategic branding methods to share his transformational leadership style and personal philosophies, leading Tesla to huge success. Regardless of what you think of him, it is clear that he has hundreds of thousands of adoring fans who would purchase or support almost any product that he promotes.


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Ingredient Branding

Ingredients Brands can be found in various industries, from fashion, food, consumer electronics to e-mobility, electronics and banking & finance. Gore-Tex, Shimano, Dolby, Teflon, Tetra Pak, Paypal or Android are just a few Ingredient Brands that have successfully become triggers for the buying decisions of finished products incorporating them as relevant components and adding value to their host brands.


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Some brands opt to collaborate with ingredient brands so as to increase their value proposition. These brands can add more to the mix in terms of quality and manufacturing. They are the feature elements of the bigger brand and can lead to more sales and more following, because they are combining their fans with another brand’s fans. Examples are Teflon coatings on pans and Intel processors in personal computers (PCs).


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National, Regional and Cultural Branding

The growth of the tourism industry has led to the emergence of a new category of branding which encompasses the national, regional and cultural ideas which distinguish a nation or region from other nations or regions. Examples of such regional brands include Paris, Durban, Victoria Falls, Phuket and the Nordic region. Examples of national brands are Brand South Africa, Brand USA and Thailand.


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Take the Eiffel Tower as an example, it’s instantly recognisable as a French national icon. Numerous businesses use the image of the Eiffel Tower to identify themselves as Parisian.


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What exactly is brand positioning?


Brand positioning is the strategy used to set a brand apart from the rest.


Brand positioning is the place you want to own in the target consumer’s mind, the benefits you want them to associate with your brand.


Successful brands must be relevant to consumers, and unique versus their competition.  They must also be able to deliver on their promises.  Effective brand positioning will enable your organisations brand to be readily distinguishable from competing brands in the marketplace.


Let’s check in with the guru’s again…


According to Keller, deciding on a brands positioning requires determining a frame of reference by identifying the target market and the nature of competition. This will help you to identify optimal points-of-parity (what aspects of your brand are identical or very similar to your competitors) and points-of-difference (what aspects of your brand are unique and differentiate you from your competition).


In summary, in order to develop your brand positioning, you first need to know:

  1. Who the target consumer is,
  2. Who your main competitors are,
  3. How the brand is similar to these competitors, and
  4. How the brand is different from them.


Identifying the consumer target is important because different consumers may have different brand knowledge structures and therefore different perceptions and preferences for the brand. Without this understanding, it may be difficult for you to say which brand associations are strong in the mind of your customers, favourable, and unique.

How do you develop a brand strategy?

At last, the real question you’ve been waiting for. Where to start? How do you go about developing a brand strategy?


Start with reflecting on where you’ve come from (where it all started and what you’ve learned along the way) and try to identify what makes you different from every other business in your industry. Once you have an idea of what sets your business apart, you can start positioning your business and brand in that direction.


Here are a few examples of brands that use their differentiators as their brand positioning:

Volvo = safety


Although it is assumed that all cars in the category are safe, Volvo made the decision to take ownership of safety, making it the ideal car for a family.


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Axe Deodorant = sex appeal in a can


True to their positioning, in 2013, Lynx Axe launched a humorous dating app to help young men charm women and compete with their friends while on holiday.


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Small business owners cringe when they are told to take time and reflect. We know this is easier said than done! We know you don’t have time to sit down and analyse your own brand. Yet, its such a critical part of your success as an entrepreneur and business owner.


Don’t let your brand become the thing that is unwittingly neglected in your business.

If you have, know this: It’s never the wrong time to define (or redefine) your brand strategy. The time to start is now!



Can a brand be repositioned?

Sometimes organisations have to reposition their existing products or brands. Repositioning is a strategy to change existing perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about a brand.


Brand repositioning is a process whereby product or brand elements are realigned to enhance the satisfaction of the needs and wants of the market or market segments you are wanting to target.


If you take a long hard look at your current brand and realise that it is not well perceived or is not aligned to your target audience, then you should consider repositioning.


To be sure, here are five reasons why a brand may be in need of repositioning:

  1. The brand was originally not positioned correctly. For example, Rooibos tea was never properly positioned in the tea market. Later attempts to position rooibos as a healthy alternative to other teas and coffees was highly effective.Level-Zero | Branding
  2. Competitors have positioned products nearby or the same as you and as a result, market share is divided among too many products.
  3. Consumer tastes, shopping behaviours and preferences continuously shift, and brands need to adapt accordingly. For example, Mercedes Benz used to have a reputation of being an old man’s car. In order to attract younger customers, in 1993, they introduced the C-Class which was the smallest model in their product range.
  4. Factors in the macro environment, such as recession, changing demographics and attitudes that are beyond the control of your organisation, cause consumers to purchase cheaper versions or reduced quantities of the product. For example, the growing popularity of the ‘lite’ beers forced brands such as Amstel to introduce a ‘lite’ version of its iconic brand.Level-Zero | Branding
  5. Research and technology create breakthroughs with profit potential that can be exploited if the organisation or product is repositioned. A good example of this is the repositioning of the Apple Mac and the introduction of the iPad and iPhone. The organisation developed technologically advanced products and repositioned their Mac computer to be the best in the market.Level-Zero | Branding

Start with your Corporate Identity

Whether you are launching a new brand or repositioning an existing brand, you will need to consider and/or review your corporate identity.


Corporate identity is what makes up the physical look of your brand. It usually includes your logo and the supporting devices such as your website, and social media platforms and communicates the ‘tone of voice’ of your business.


Maintaining a consistent corporate identity is vital if you want to stand out and look professional. Sticking to a particular palette of colours and fonts, consistent logo positioning and using the same tone of voice throughout your printed and online communications will help to enhance your professional look.


Managing your corporate identity requires three interlinking tools, where each has the potential to influence the overall impression of the company. These are:

  • Corporate design (visual appearance),
  • Corporate behavior, and
  • Corporate communication.


To underpin the corporate identity of a company, it is important that these different areas should neither conflict nor send contradictory messages.


Corporate design

Corporate design is the most immediately obvious part of the corporate identity. To get started, decide on some basic visual corporate identity elements such as:

  1. Your exclusive company name
  2. Design a company logo
  3. Decide on your brands colour palette – 4 to five colours that compliment each other
  4. Choose a corporate font
  5. Design a business card
  6. Develop your social media presence
  7. Create a website
  8. Design a company brochure


Tips for naming your business:

  • Make sure it’s original, so that it does not violate any trademark rights previously registered by other companies;
  • Your name must be unambiguous (easy to understand);
  • Ensure your name is harmonious;
  • It should also be vivid and memorable;
  • Choose an image that supports your positioning.


Corporate behaviour

Corporate behaviour includes anything the company and it’s representatives do that concern any of its stakeholders. While it definitely includes external behaviour by the organisation which directly impacts customers, the media and the community, it also includes internal behaviour. An example would be the fair treatment of employees and the leadership style of the management team.

Company employees can also have a major influence on corporate behavior, based on the values they choose to adopt and how they treat the customer. All of this impacts and moulds your corporate identity and should be considered when developing your brand strategy.


Corporate communication

A consistent language and communication style are also important components of a corporate identity. Corporate communication is directed at all stakeholders, suppliers, shareholders, customers, employees and the media. As a business owner or brand manager it is important to identify and build corporate communication channels for your organisation.

Level-Zero can help you with your branding strategy

Our team of marketing experts can help your small to medium sized business to set up a branding and market positioning strategy as well as develop your corporate identity. Give us a call, let’s level you up so that you can enjoy the competitive advantage that comes with a clear branding strategy.

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