The Coefficients of Branding
Understanding the ABCs of Branding
One of the most used words in the Nigerian business community is the word branding. It is a concept that has been studied the world over with the aim of creating increasingly valuable brands that maximize profit. Branding can be used to increase the visibility of a product, highlight its unique selling point, target a segment of customers and increase a products market share (the percentage of the market that a product commands in relation to other similar products). Branding in Nigeria increased in popularity after the government of Nigeria undertook a national rebranding project during the Obasanjo regime. While it was the subject of much discourse and analysis resulting in a myriad of questions on its implications and benefits to the Nigerian people generally, it helped arouse the interest of Nigerian businesses in branding.
A survey of the average small business in Nigeria reveals that their owners/administrators are aware of the concept of branding but when asked to define the concept, a large majority of them define it as “packaging”. The term packaging is a street synonym for branding generally recognized by Nigerians. It denotes an attempt to make a product more attractive by giving it a finer modern appeal and presentation. The limitation of this definition is that it does not take into consideration other aspects of branding such as strategy, positioning, standards etc.
The root word for branding derives from an old Norse word “brandr” meaning to burn. It echoes the mark of producers burning their mark unto their products. It implies putting a stamp to identify. Therefore, I will define branding as the process of making your product recognizable and attractive. It simply means increasing your product’s visibility, differentiation, and identification for the purpose of creating a viable proposition for your customers. Those who view packaging as branding are of the erroneous belief that if they can do the following:
Contract a photographer to take nice pictures of their product
Contract a graphic artist to design a good logo
Print any of these; billboards/posters /fliers/ stands/banners/signboards
...and then expect a windfall because you have done branding. They have succeeded in branding their product or business. Branding might involve all these actions at certain stages but it is certainly not limited to these. This is the reason why a lot of small brands cannot transit into becoming bigger brands; they have undergone an incomplete branding process. In this article I have chosen not to focus on the specific branding process but on the other factors that aid in the building of a strong brand. I believe that the failure of businesses to acknowledge these factors are a major reason why there are very few strong brands developed here in Nigeria.
Imagine for a moment that you went into a famous Nigerian restaurant and ordered for our staple pounded yam and ogbono soup but you were given only the pounded yam without the soup what would you do? How would you react to the waiter? You would probably walk out of the restaurant without paying a dime and in a very angry state. This is exactly how customers feel when these factors do not play a role in building your brand. They get for lack of a better word an “incomplete brand”; it is for this reason that I have decided to focus on helping businesses pay attention to the other factors that make a brand stronger.
The coefficients of branding refer to all the factors that aid in the creation of and maintenance of a strong brand. These factors determine the strength of a brand. If a business chooses to ignore any of these factors it will damage or ultimately destroy its brand. They include but are not limited to integrity of the product, employee reward/incentive systems, customer engagement and more.
Every brand is a promissory note to deliver value on demand. The failure to deliver promised value leads to the depreciation of a brand value in the eyes of the customer. To give an example of a brand that has depreciated in value one doesn’t have to look too far. One of the very first eatery chains in Nigeria was a brand behemoth at the height of their dominance. They were pioneers and innovators within the fast food sector consistently delivering value to the customer. After years of unrivalled growth and brand recognition they began to pay less attention to their service delivery, business surrounding, product standards etc. Customers began to complain about smelling shops and stale products. After years of not responding to customer complaints and the entrance of new players into the sector they lost market share. They are no longer big players in the sector. An attempt to rebrand the company has also failed. This is the end result of not paying attention to the coefficients of branding.
These factors serve as the foundation for building and maintaining a strong brand and anyone interested in building a brand would be wise to take note of them and apply them in the development of their brand. In the next write up I hope to introduce you to several of these factors. Until then, if every brand is a promise, what promise is your brand keeping?
By Lawrence Idiakhoa, Brand Innova8or, Afenomenon Digisign Suite. Lawrence writes from Lagos, Nigeria