While it was not until the 19th century that the term "brand" had the connotation of meaning a commercial trademark, the idea of indiivual styles and types of merchandise have been around at least since the written record. For instance, there are ancient documents commenting on a certain type of wine, jewelry, dye, or clothing as far back as Egypt and Babylon. However, using the term to mark a specific type or image in the minds of consumers did not really become popular until the mid-20th century (Wheeler, 2006).
Branding, then, is really information - it is the sum of all the information about a product, service, or organization that is used to communicate a certain image or relationship to the consumer. It uses logos, visual clues, verbal messages, and is far more than a name: Coca-Cola is a brand because of the connotation of the name and what products, ancillary and otherwise, are offered, while Jones & Company is a name, but not a brand (Vaid, 2003).
Within the subject of branding, however, there are four major myths that will help us understand our analysis of a single branding example:
• Myth #1 - Brands are built only through advertising. Instead of just advertising, as it may have been in the past, brands are now built through customer "expereince," which can be intanguble, but it the sum of all the customer's interactions with said company.
• Myth #2 - The purpose of the brand is primarily to influence the customer. Yes, brands are developed to influence purchasing, but also to build a larger mystique for employees, investors, and the general public, even if non-buying.
• Myth #3 - The key to an effective brand is understanding that brand in the contemporary marketplace. Instead of this rather outmoded view, the key to effective branding is to anticipate a brand's relevance to future purchasers (e.g. Zenith and Cadillac were great brands, are they now?)
• Myth #4 - Brands are symbols and imply emotions and should be managed by creativity rather than analysis. Yes, brands are emotional, but in order to acurately judge their position, it is important to analyze their performance with consistent benchmarks. Many companies get too caught up on the 'emotional side' of their brand, and neglect the quantitiative side.
• Myth #5 - Branding is the responsibility of the marketing department. All departments in a company are crucial, but in the contemporary world, brand building and even retention are qualified more by delivering on the brand promise. This means that R&D, customer service, and most especially, design and production, are key components to a more cyncial comsumer mindset (Almquist, n.d.).
For our example of a company, then, an organization was chosen that has taken branding to a new level - one who has moved from the outmoded mold of 1960s marketing, humerously described in the III Series MADMEN (for Madison Men, see: http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/about/), to a more cenetered approach that makes every employee, essentially, a brand manager: American Express.
American Express does not really sell "anything tangible." Yes, they have some American Express merchandise, but their primary focus for the consumer is to get as many American Express cards into the hands of qualified customers as possible. Money is generated through the fees charged to retailers and credit card clearing houses. But, American Express is essentially branded as a service-oriented business - top notch service that customers receive in their interaction with all American Express staff ("American Express' Joe Bihlmier - interview," 2002). How have they done this?
• Customer Contact - Every step of the American Express experience has been refined to be different and competitive from all other credit and charge card companies. Employees are highly trained, speak English in a professional manner, and rather than take the offensive on certain situations, begin the discussion with the customer as the #1 priority.
• Accuracy of Statement - American Express statements are double and triple checked for accuracy, with an ease of back up data available at a moment's notice. Since American Express realizes that most use is for business, they have organized their statement into categories that make it easier for the employee to report.
• Business Cards - American Express wants large businesses, and has made it easier for company employees to receive cards and generate only their receipts back to the company. American Express will customize reports, by employee and category, for larger companies' accounting management, and for some, even deliver it electronically based on their individual needs.
• Ease of Disputing a Charge - Again, American Express assumes the client is right, and with a simple phone call, will act as an advocate for any unauthorized charges (AmericanExpress.com).
• Utilizing celebrities as role models - Instead of having a celebraty simply pitch a product, American Express has taken two different views of improving its brand using celebraties. The celebrities actually USE the product, their names are printed on the card, and not only are they shown in their particular area of expertise (e.g. Tiger Woods, Robert DiNero, etc.), but the company has ads that play off popular architypes (e.g. the movie "CaddyShack," etc.) (McCarthy, 2005).
• Differential Branding - Now, not only does American Express offer the Gold and Green cards, but a blue and red card, with different cards supporting credit customers (as opposed to charge customers), and the Product RED, which supports the fight against Aids, and other environmental causes. For example, one AmEx commercial shows a sexy model near a traditional Masai warrior; the model holds the RED card and says, "It doesn't make you feel so guilty about spending your money!" ("American Express, 2007).
Thus, for many businessment, American Express is more of an experience - they can call the company 24/7, 365 days per year in an emergency, have funds delivered or charges authroized by phone; they can received discounts on hotels, car rentals, meals, and even special events. Being an American Express member, "has its perks."
Some examples of American Express Branding Advertigins:
"American Express - Card of Conscience," (2/5/07). Access My Library, Retrieved
March 28, 2009. Cited in http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-29500427_ITM.
Almquist, E. and K. Roberts. (n.d.). "Rethinking Brand Strategy: A 'Mindshare'
Manifesto. Lippincott Mercer. Retrieved March 28, 2009, Cited in:
"American Express' Joe Bihlmier - Interview." (3/11/02). ImediaConnection.
Retreived March 29, 2009, Cited in: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/1315.asp.
McCarthy, M. (3/7/05). "American Express Sticks With Tradition of Celebrity
Pitches." USA Today, Retrieved March 29, 2009, Cited in:
Wheeler, A. (2006). Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating,
Building, and Maintaining Strong Brands. Wiley.
"Developing a brand strategy can be one of the most difficult steps in the marketing plan process. It's often the element that causes most businesses the biggest challenge, but it's a vital step in creating the company identity." (Chevron 2008) When a consumer needs petroleum jelly he does not ask the clerk where the petroleum jelly is located ...
The solution discusses the branding strategies for Vaseline.