Right now there is more branding going on than during the glory days of cattle herding. If the trend continues, sometime in the 21st century there will be no more products and services, only brands. There are at least three factors driving this trend.
1. Increasing Competition By branding, organizations attempt to build a customer base with a connection and a commitment to a product that goes beyond brand awareness into loyalty. How powerful can brand-built loyalty be? Consider this example: Seventy-five percent of women who use Tide detergent in their washing machines say it's because their mothers used it. Also: A recent study on one of the staples of continuing professional education (CPE), food (you do serve lunch at your meetings, right?), exhibits the impact of brands. In this study 83 percent of people indicated that knowing the brand name of a food led to a "much more appealing" to "somewhat more appealing" dining experience.
2. GlobalWhile branding campaigns must be adjusted for regional, national, as well as transnational use, brand images can transcend geographic borders and language barriers, making organizations identifiable beyond their historical boundaries. Perhaps the world's best example: Coca-Cola.
3. Product Proliferation We live in a world of product proliferation. A world where everyone can offer detergents, soft drinks, and CPE programs of more or less the same quality. When product attributes alone cannot create and sustain differentiation, building a strong brand identity is the only course if you plan on taking the road to distinction rather than extinction.
What's Your Best Bet? Recognizing the competitive advantage branding provides, the goal of all branding campaigns is to increase brand equity--that is, the net worth of the brand appraised from an analysis of its positive and negative attributes. At its most basic level, brand equity = awareness + experience. To assess brand equity, I have identified 15 brand equity indicators. To strengthen each of these 15 indicators, I have considered Brand Equity Strategies & Tactics (BEST) and developed a Brand Equity Test (BET) to assess current brand equity and track changes over time. These BEST BETs will be fully explicated in a special feature in the December issue of this magazine.
De mas estima es el buen nombre que las muchas riquezas (A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches--Proverbs 22:1) was the title I gave to a seminar on brand recognition held recently in Santiago, Chile. During a section on strategies for building name recognition, my students--physician educators and executives--were invited to proceed in small groups to a standard hotel sleeping room. Their assignment: to identify all of the various ways in which the hotel built name recognition within the context of the room. Following that, we examined how hospitals and continuing professional education providers develop name recognition.
An Offer I Hope You Won't Refuse In my next column I will report the results of the name recognition field trips--and you are invited to make a contribution to the process. Please send me a list indicating all of the ways hotels reinforce their brand names within the context of the hotel sleeping room. The reader with the longest list, as well as the respondent who lists the most items not identified by our Chilean colleagues, may choose one of two prizes: a Harvard School of Public Health Center for Continuing Professional Education T-shirt or a copy of my upcoming book on branding. I will share your discoveries with our colleagues in the second part of this column. (Please send your listings, to arrive by August 13, 1998, to David A. Shore, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115).
When not checking out hotel rooms you may want to check out these previous branding columns, "Why Brand Is Grand" (July/August 1997) and "Valuing Brand Identity" (September 1997).*