Branding is one of those business topics that is often woefully neglected. The problem is that many companies in the small to medium business segment often don't feel like they are large enough to warrant any time or effort in developing a real branding strategy. Even if some effort is placed into the company brand, it must be fully extended into the individual products in order to be successful.
No product branding = weak and timid marketing!
A strong product brand strategy must incorporate several key elements:
- The target market
- Look and feel of the website
- Core messaging
With those important elements in place, each product can and should be branded for maximum market penetration.
Most companies have several products or services though there are few who have only a single product in a single flavor. Each individual product must have a brand associated with it. Let's briefly examine the fun world of cell phones for an excellent illustration of product branding in action.
When you think Blackberry, what do you think? Smart phone? PDA? Email on your phone? Cell phone? Well, your answer will depend on whether or not you own a Blackberry. For those who do not, you probably think of some combination of “smart phone” and “cell phone.” But Blackberry owners don't think this, rather they are more apt to immediately associate Blackberry with a word like “Storm,” “Tour” or “Curve.” These are the names of Blackberry's more popular models. Individually, Blackberry does a fine job at product branding these devices. The Tour, for example has wonderfully conceived branding. The Tour is a phone that works all over the world. The tag line is “Live the Journey.” The images on the Tour product page includes a young person riding a bicycle in front of a magnificent building in some exotic European destination.
This branding screams, “hip, mobile, travel, let's go!”
When we examine the Tour product brand in the context of the overall strategy, we can see areas that could use some polishing, however. The Storm phones, for example, has a name that doesn't quite fit the line of smart phones. Think about it...Storm, Curve, Tour, and Bold. What exactly do these have to do with one another? Blackberry overcomes this dissonance with their written messaging. Each phone uses a similar tag line:
Tour - “Live the Journey”
Bold - “Live to be Bold”
Storm - “Live the Big Picture”
Curve - “Live the Moment”
Unfortunately, this clever use of tag lines is lost on other models like the Pearl and the 8800 series. But for the newer smart phones, it is clear that some thought has been put into the product branding.
Improvements could probably be made in the product names themselves and in a customer needs analysis. That is, why choose the Curve over the Bold? What if I want to live in the moment and be bold? Are those two things mutually exclusive from one another, or are they quite complementary? There is some dissonance that should to be overcome with some higher level strategic branding. However, this serves as an excellent example of product branding in action.
Take a look at yourself....be honest.
Look at your product. What need does it serve? Identify the core function and benefit and then create a name and massaging that will speak to your prospects. If done right, you can bet that more of those prospects turn into paying customers.