Today, not only products and services, but also institutions, advocacies, countries and people are brands.
“You, too, are a brand. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not.” —Marc Ecko, entrepreneur-artist
My first job after college was in marketing, as brand manager of the Philippine subsidiary of P&G, a top US multinational in packaged consumer goods. My first brand assignment after the mandatory training period was Tide, the first laundry detergent launched in the Philippines.
It was on Tide, and later, on other toothpaste, toilet soap, shortening and “development” brands that I cut my teeth in handling brands in various product categories.
After a few years, I moved to the more specialized world of advertising, eventually putting up the ad agency I headed and grew, in partnership with a US multinational firm, until I “retired.”
It was during a long career of helping client companies launch/sell dozens of branded products in very diverse categories that I learned the value of strong branding. Taking a basically generic product, giving it a brand identity, and creating a niche for it in the mind of the consumer makes it competitive in the marketplace.
As the marketing adage goes, “A product is something made in a factory, and can be copied; a brand is something chosen by the consumer, and is unique.”
A strong brand can multiply the value of a product many times over. This is why an established brand like Zantac (ranitidine) sells for up to three times the price of an identical generic ranitidine antacid or one with an unfamiliar brand name.
The value difference becomes more dramatic when it comes to fashion and personal items. Think Chanel perfumes vs scents sold in malls. There are perfumes and colognes that claim to be clones of the original expensive brands—at a fraction of their price.
With the advent of the internet and e-commerce, recent decades have seen the proliferation of new businesses (including small companies and individuals), and with these the number of brands on the market has increased exponentially.
Today, a glut of branded products competes for attention in traditional and digital media—from basic packaged goods to the latest fashion, from conventional appliances to cutting-edge electronic gadgets, fusion-inspired restaurants, specialty hotels, themed entertainment parks, exclusive resorts, health spas, beauty clinics. The list is endless.
Even media outlets (traditional, cable, satellite, digital) have joined the brand marketing bandwagon.
Outstanding is the aggressive posture of CNN’s corporate commercials, plus the distinct branding of its news anchors, its political, business and lifestyle hosts and commentators. Christiane Amanpour, Becky Anderson, Robyn Curnow, Richard Quest, Fareed Zakaria, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and more are instantly recognizable with their exclusive programs in their respective areas of expertise.
Also joining the brand-building festival are institutions and advocacies: private corporations (Globe, BDO, Ayala Land) government agencies (Pagcor, PCSO, PhilHealth), LGUs (using public service campaigns), social advocacies (Bantay Bata, Earth Hour, WWF for Nature).
And fairly recently, countries are being marketed as distinct brands to generate tourism and foreign investment. Examples: Brand Philippines (“It’s more fun in the Philippines”); Brand Malaysia (“Truly Asia,” and lately “the new, better Malaysia”).
Even Mongolia and some obscure Eastern European countries have been launched as new brands with international TV campaigns of their own.
Today people are being intentionally marketed as brands—entertainers, athletes, business celebrities and, of course, politicians, who have always used advertising as part of their political campaigns.
But today, they and many celebrities hire ad and PR agencies/publicists to professionalize their image-building.
In a broader sense, what many people don’t realize is that every person is also a “brand.”
In daily life, how we present ourselves to others and how others actually perceive us (because of or despite our efforts) create our personal brand (i.e., brand image/personality/character).
Obviously, the best way is simply to present our authentic self to the world, although many people often don’t follow this honest approach.
Of course, there are times we have to put our best foot forward, just like any other brand.
When we go for a job interview, the way we dress, our posture, our knowledge and sincerity in answering questions—all these are components of our personal brand.
The same is true when we make a business proposal to a potential investor, or on a more personal level, when we court a woman who has other suitors (competing brands).
In today’s fast-paced, over-informed world of ubiquitous, real-time communication tools, people usually don’t have the leisure to delve into the detailed attributes, benefits and advantages of products, services, corporate entities, advocacies—and people. So they rely instinctively on the encompassing brand impression they have formed in their minds when making choices or decisions.
It is in the prospect’s mind where the battle is waged, and this is the advantage of a known, trusted and confidence-inspiring brand.
When it comes to people, an unnamed sage put it succinctly: “Your personal brand is what differentiates you from others.”