It’s All About Branding

If I ask you which Ketchup brand you like the most, you’re probably going to state the name of a big brand, like Heinz. However, if I told you that there exist many alternatives with the same taste that are sold for less, would you change your stance?

Probably not. Now, let’s focus on the arguments supporting your preference. A lot of you might say that Heinz’s ketchup is made with greater quality tomatoes, that it’s less acid, less salty. Without even knowing it, you are repeating the company’s sales pitch. However, your arguments might not be that well-founded, because if you look closely at the ingredients list, you will see that Heinz’s ketchup contains added sugar and salt, while that of some brands don’t contain any. You have been had by an age-old technique known as the hypodermic syringe.

According to the hypodermic syringe, developed by Harold Dwight Lasswell in the first half of the 20th century, the media can inject a message of their choosing in your psyche and that of society, as you would with a real syringe in a human body. This model supposes that you are passive and that you will undeniably acknowledge the message’s content. Now, you are probably going to say that this is entirely false and you may be right, to a certain extent. However, to use Heinz’s example again, you nonetheless assimilated part of the company’s message as a reality. Everything is about branding, and companies have learned that a long time ago.

Let’s put aside the ketchup example. Our day-to-day lives are filled to the brim with ads from companies wishing to sell us their products. However, because we have variable incomes and a predisposition towards certain moral values, we filter the offers to find the perfect match for our needs. The true goal of a company, for it to be able to prosper in this highly competitive society, is to distinguish itself from its competitors with its unique branding and value proposition. However, as you may be aware, it’s incredibly difficult to change people’s minds, as opposed to the foundations of the hypodermic syringe concept.

How to convince consumers that my products are more suited to their needs than the ones my competitors offer? The first step is to determine your goals. Is it to sell, increase awareness of a product or to increase the notoriety of the brand? When your goals are set, then you can choose one or a combination of branding strategies (which are also going to guide your positioning). Among the most well-known, there is:

  • Emphasis on tangible attributes of the product or service
  • Emphasis on intangible attributes of the product or service
  • Harmonization of values
  • Creation of a sense of belonging
  • Internalization of the product’s or service’s features

The most common are to put the emphasis on the tangible and intangible attributes of a product or service in the company’s communications. An agency could, for example, advertise itself as “cheap” (intangible attribute) and make that the spearhead of its communications, while a cellphone manufacturer could showcase the range of colours of its models (tangible attribute).

Harmonization of values implies a transfer of moral values to a product or service and, at the same time, to the company selling them, to better reach the core values of the targeted consumers. Take a car, for example. As a piece of plastic and metal, it doesn’t have intrinsic moral values. However, if manufacturers incorporate ecological components in its production, it then becomes possible to sell it as an environment-friendly car, one that takes care of the planet by limiting its carbon footprint during travels. You therefore added value to your product, in an effort to appeal to your targeted consumers. If protecting the environment is a core value for them, they are more likely to buy your car instead of those sold by your competitors. Furthermore, they will most probably think that the company selling them an ecological car is a green company, one that cares about the environment in its operations. Added value has also been woven into your company’s image, bringing your branding on the green side. By communicating this, you will be able to reach your targeted consumers with greater ease and you will establish your notoriety on those foundations.

Creating a sense of belonging is a frequent tactic used by luxury, beauty and fashion companies. They make this statement: you don’t buy just for yourself, you also buy for others. Let’s say you buy a pair of gold and diamonds earrings that cost a little fortune. By doing so, you want to fulfill a need, that is, to wear a proper attire, but you’re also seeking others’ acknowledgement. If you weren’t, any replica costing a lot less would have done the trick. By wearing these earrings, you state that you belong to a precise social group, which in this case would be the elite. By making more purchases of the same type, you will crystallize the fact that you belong to this group, that you’re part of it. If you, as a company manager, are aware that these people are willing to pay more money for this kind of product, you can make that the essence of your communications and position your branding at that level. If everything is well executed, by weaving value in your product or service offer, you will be able to snatch part of your competitors’ customers and still demand a higher price than they do!

Internalization of the product’s or service attributes is a widespread trend across all major modern industries. Renowned as innovative, this branding strategy puts the emphasis on massive communications and price strategies, and is considered the offspring of all the other types of branding. Take Apple for example. In its communications, Apple puts forward the minimalist elegance of its products, the fact that they’re ideal for creative tasks and their ease of use. By massively communicating this, while at the same time bringing these facts to life in its products, Apple has been able to establish itself significantly with today’s trendiest public: the hipsters. This group is characterized by its focus on speed, creativity and things that stand out. To bring this identity to life, hipsters use and showcase products that are believed to hold these traits, like Apple’s. The product then defines part of the individual and social identity, in which there is a total internalization of its traits by the consumer. “I consider myself a creative person, because my ideas are unique and because I use products that bring this identity to life’’, is a statement that could summarize how people create their identities today and how this type of branding, combined with a brand’s massive communications, can establish a strong customer loyalty, even at a discouraging price.

You plan on launching your company and need help with its brand image? You wish to renew your branding and positioning strategies? Don’t be shy, one of our experts is eager to answer your questions!

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