MT Masterclass: Branding

We all experience branding every day, but what is it, where did it come from, and where is it going?

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

What is it?

Everyone wants their goods and services to be memorable. That is what branding is all about. An effective brand conveys a distinctive message. It is both a label and an identity. It may well hint at the price at which you want to sell said goods and services. 'Brand equity' refers to the value contained within a brand. And the numbers here can be huge: up to half of the market capitalisation of companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's can be attributed to the value of the brand. No wonder companies worry so much about them.

Where did it come from?

Slave owners and farmers have been branding for centuries. With the coming of mass production, business owners realised they needed to protect and promote the distinctive identity of their products. Modern branding had begun. In the '30s, Neil McElroy, a marketing exec at Procter & Gamble, wrote a famous three-page memo that effectively invented the concept of 'brand management' (thereby launching a million careers). Marketing professionals were supposed to nurture and develop their brands and maintain their perceived value in the market so that a premium price could be charged.

Where is it going?

'Brand is bland,' say cynics (and marketing consultants). Brands are not enough, says Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi: what we need are 'lovemarks' - products we feel really strongly about. And, indeed, brands are no longer simply about products: firms have an 'employer brand', and customers do not so much select certain brands as choose between 'customer experiences'. One thing is clear: marketers have rarely felt less in command of the work they do. Savvy ones now talk of 'co-creating' brands with the help of their customers - whatever that means.

- Fad quotient (out of 10) - Eight and rising.

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