Though some debate where modern-day branding first emerged, the basic concepts of branding haven’t changed much over time. To look at the importance of branding and why it’s always stayed prevalent we need to reduce the complexity of it.
Let’s travel back in time and take sugar for this example;
When sugar was first discovered and began being exported from Southeast Asia thousands of years ago, it was in huge demand be the elitist class. Sugar was only available to kings and noblemen at an ultra premium price because of the rarity of the product.
For a short time branding wasn’t completely relevant. At first, you only had one brand and people willing to pay just about any price to get it. At this point, there wasn’t a huge need for heavy branding because the limited quantity and only the elite class could afford the price point of the product. Once scarcity was reduced, inevitably driving the price down and making it more available to other consumers, you began to see competition with sugar vendors develop.
Once competition is created, some product differentiation starts to occur. Some vendors may offer different quality of sugar, or delivery size or time, etc.… Once these vendors have a way to differentiate their product (even slightly), they would also need to figure out a way to have their product stick out from the crowd.
As a vendor, if you had a superior product and wanted to sell it above industry average, you would naturally want your customer base to identify your product from your competition, so they know what they are getting and to become loyal to your brand of sugar. The same can be said for the vendor selling his/her sugar of lower quality at a lower price point. Either way your goal is to create brand recognition and loyalty to grow your customer base and increase your profitability.
I know this all sounds like an Econ 101 class, mixed with a bit of common sense, but this is a very basic look at branding. Branding at its core is about your prospective and existing customers recognizing, understanding and adapting to your product or service. Once you have that, you can start to build strong brand loyalty, which can lead to a lifetime relationship with your customer base.
This is a simple example to cite, but many of the more complex branding and identity issues of today stem from this basic concept. Think about it: does Nike sell shoes or an active lifestyle? Does Buffalo Wild Wings sell chicken wings or a great environment to watch your favorite miscellaneous sporting event with close friends? And does Rolex sell watches at an ultra premium price because they are worth every penny or because some people associate that product with success?
Every industry has it’s own premium and economical sugar vendor (and everyone in between) that needs their customers to recognize, understand and adapt to your brand. Who do you want to be?!