Most people have a difficult time understanding the concept of branding. Yet branding is the foundation for your business, the most crucial marketing aspect that lets you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Branding is the all-encompassing mental image that people perceive of your business. It collects the experiences and associations attached to your product or service. Branding creates the recognition, expectations and reactions of consumers to set your business apart.
Branding is very unique, too. Anyone can replicate your product or service – just look at your competitors. No one can identically reproduce your brand, though. If they could, they would be your business.
When considering what might make consumers lean towards one product or another, branding often plays into the equation. Proper branding can prompt a choice, increase conversion or sway people to provide word-of-mouth referrals. It can be the deciding factor between a sale and a loss.
Good branding creates demand, encouraging and enhancing the positive feelings and desirability of a product or service. Bad branding, or even no branding at all, can close businesses down.
Examining existing businesses and corporations lets us see the large role branding plays in reaching success. It's an integral element of business success and the foundation of essential marketing.
To show you just how important branding is to your small business, take a look at this success story.
The Biggest Cowboy Branding Success
Around 1955, Marlboro, a cigarette manufacturer, launched a branding campaign that became one of the biggest marketing success stories of the 20th century. The company's popularity soared in just eight months, sales increasing by 5,000% - all from branding.
Ask anyone over 30 if they've heard of the Marlboro man. Chances are that the first mental image that pops into their mind is the rugged, independent Marlboro cowboy who embodied masculine spirit.
The Marlboro man was just a man. But he was the man, the straight-shooter that helped promote sales for the company simply by representing a concept and image of male confidence.
Men everywhere desired that image and bought the cigarettes hoping to enhance their own impression on people. Women enjoyed the Marlboro man's handsome face and were attracted to the campaign. They bought cigarettes too.
By the mid-80s, everyone knew who the Marlboro man was. He became an American icon, a widely recognized cultural symbol still familiar to millions of people today.
And the company's payoffs? Marlboro became the best-selling brand of cigarettes in the United States and sold their product in over 180 countries around the world.
How Marlboro Pulled It Off
The Marlboro Company thought out their branding strategy very carefully. They brainstormed the campaign, the single-most focus on their target market: men. They concentrated on the ideal consumer they wanted to purchase their cigarettes.
To appeal to their target market, both smokers and non-smokers, Marlboro needed to create an extremely masculine association. They needed to create the perception that if you wanted to be a man, you smoked Marlboro cigarettes.
The most masculine symbol they could think of was the cowboy, and the Marlboro man was born.
The Marlboro man was everywhere. His face became a logo, and he featured on television ad campaigns. He was on posters and in magazine ads. Where Marlboro went, so did the Marlboro man.
The company chose reddish colors and brown clothing to tie the campaign together, and they gave it strong exposure. Boots, hats, western landscapes… the whole outdoorsman theme played into Marlboro's branding strategy.
Marlboro created every sensation possible to tie in that feeling of rugged western masculinity to their cigarettes. People thought they would be more confident, attract more women, get better jobs… all from smoking Marlboros.
Marlboro's branding built mental associations, pushed benefits (both tangible and intangible) and created a feeling. It enhanced consumer expectations and backed up its promises. Who wouldn't feel more confident, with this type of perception?
The company's branding sold the product and shot the Marlboro man to fame.
In fact, Marlboro's branding associations still live on today, despite laws against lighting up, campaigns to butt out and negative health effects caused by smoking.