Although cattle ranchers have long branded their livestock with insignia that identify the cattle as their property, the act of branding didn’t start in the Old West. The term brand comes from the ancient Norse word brandr, meaning “to burn.” The term was developed to identify the source, maker, or owner of a product or item.
The modern concept of brands and branding was developed in the late 1800s by Procter & Gamble (P&G) with the branding of Ivory Soap. In the 1930s, P&G developed the idea of brand management, which led to the formalization of marketing, promotion, and communication programs. Today, a brand is used to signify or identify the manufacturer or seller of a product or service.
Modern brands can be protected domestically and globally, bought and sold, franchised or rented. Many things in the world around us can be branded or considered a brand, but generally there are seven categories of brands, which are listed below.
1. Physical goods. Physical goods is an expansive category. These are the traditional products most frequently associated with brands. In fact, some of the most popular brands are physical goods, such as Coca-Cola, Marlboro, and Budweiser. This category can be further broken down into subcategories, such as commodities and high-tech products. A commodity is a product so basic it cannot be physically differentiated in the minds of consumers. Examples are Ivory soap and Morton salt. A high-tech brand is a product that is technology-intensive, technology-based, or requires other technology to use it, such as Intel Pentium or software programs by Quicken and Microsoft.
2. Services. Services are challenging to brand because of their intangibility. In addition, the level of quality can vary depending on the personnel involved. However, branding can be used to make the abstract nature of a service more concrete through the use of an effective logo or slogan.
3. Retailers or distributors. When it comes to retailers and distributors, brands provide a number of important functions. Brands generate consumer interest, patronage, and loyalty in a store. Retailers create their own brand images by attaching unique associations to the quality of their service, their product assortment, merchandising, pricing, and credit policy. In addition, many retailers introduce their own store brands or “private label” brands. Grocery stores and department stores are known for having their own brands side-by-side with widely distributed brands.
4. People. To be a brand, a person must have a well-defined image that is either liked or disliked by others. Politicians, entertainers, athletes, and celebrities are individuals who can be successful brands. For example, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan, and Howard Stern are definitely people as brands.
5. Organizations. Organizations often take on meanings through their programs, activities, and products. For example, in order to remain in the public’s mind, many nonprofit organizations participate in marketing their causes. Examples are UNICEF, National Geographic, and the American Red Cross
6. Entertainment. Confused by some to be classified under people or organizations, the entertainment, sports, and arts industry has its own category. Although this category includes books, music, and television, movies have always launched marketing campaigns to entice consumers to make purchasing decisions. The titles become the brand names, and the product ingredients are plots, actors, and directors. In recent years, sports teams have marketed themselves to consumers in a manner similar to packaged goods.
7. Geographical locations. Geographic locations are rapidly becoming marketed as brands. The tactic is to make people aware of the location and link it with a desirable association. Cities, states, regions, and countries actively promote themselves through advertising and other communication tools. Other examples are historical sites, national parks, and islands in the Caribbean.
Despite the variety of properties that can be branded, they all have one fundamental purpose in common—to be the solution to the consumer’s needs. Consumers have needs and wants that correspond with different strata within a society. That’s where your brand comes in. By making sure consumers know that it offers a solution to their problems, you can ensure the success of your company’s brand.