Entrepreneur.com defines branding as “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products”. But we simply define it as the promise of a unique, lasting experience for your customers.
Between individual products, product ranges, services, organizations, individual persons, groups, events, geographic places, private label brands, media, and e-brands, many things can become brands. Here are some of the most common types of brands that your business could fall into:
Products which display characteristics which make them variable or more improved than others in the same category are known as ‘product brands’.
Typically, product brands are associated with tangible products such as cars, household goods or lifestyle products. This can either be specific (individual product) or cover a range of products (product range).
- Individual Product: An example of an individual product brand includes Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
- Product Range: An example of a product range includes Ford cars.
- Ingredient Brand: An example of an ingredient brand would be Windex. It is known as such because there’s a component to the brand that adds value because of what it brings. Ingredient brands reflect the featured elements that add to the overall value proposition.
A service brand reflects a brand that delivers complete solutions and intangible services. They are about the essence of what is done, why and when it’s done, and who it’s done by. Because customers buy services based entirely on trust that the entity they are purchasing from will deliver as promised, service brands need to develop and maintain a strong positive image. Service brands are similar to product brands but involve adding perceived value.
These added values are typically emotionally inclined, as service brands are often characterized by the need to maintain an ongoing high level of customer service. Some brand characteristics should be embraced by all brands. For example, every brand should offer great service, however, a service brand type will make it the top priority.
An example of a service brand is Dollar Shave Club. Broader examples include:
- classic companies (such as airlines, hotels and banks),
- service providers (such as membership associations),
- professional services (such as accounting firms),
- agents (such as real estate agents) and;
- retail brands (such as supermarketing or fashion stores).
Organization brands deliver products and services to consumers. A brand like Colgate is an organization brand as it has qualities associated with it which constitute the brand. Further, the individual product brands which Colgate markets help make up it’s organization brand in that they are the sum of the organization’s products and services offering. David Aaker, an American brand and marketing Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, says: “The corporate brand defines the firm that will deliver and stand behind the offering that the customer will buy and use.” This sense of trust and authority reassures potential customers and stems from the fact that “a corporate brand will potentially have a rich heritage, assets and capabilities, people, values and priorities, a local or global frame of reference, citizenship programs, and a performance record”.
Also known as “personal brands”, a person brand centers specifically on one rather than a few individuals. Personal brands are often associated with characteristics such as personality, how people portray and market themselves via the media, and typically are built to enhance career opportunities.
Celebrities and actors are examples of personal brands. Larger scaled personal brands are often referred to as “personality brands”. Oprah or Martha Stewart are excellent examples of personality brands as they embody the traits outlined above.
Alternatively, group branding happens when there is a small group of individually branded entities with interconnected brand qualities. An example of this would be in the overlapping of brands between the members of a band and the overall group brand of the band, as with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones.
Event brands produce events which deliver a consistent branded experience to its attendees, in turn creating long term consumer loyalty. Sporting events like the Olympics or music festivals such as Bonnaroo focus on the consumer experience as a branded effort, as the brand is typically strongly connected with the experience the attendees gain from being at the event. This is a key reason why product or service brands will often sponsor events - they are trying to leverage the emotional feeling associated with the event’s goodwill by taking advantage of the experience the event offers. An example of this could be a financial services brand sponsoring a race car. As a the financial services brand doesn’t necessarily involve adrenaline or excitement, they may find that the feelings of excitement that the attendees associate with the race may now be associated with their brand.
Countries, cities, streets, and buildings such as landmarks have distinct key qualities that can be seen as identifications of a brand, if utilized correctly. Also known as city or destination brands, these brands capitalize on the feelings that a city or region builds in order to associate itself with related ideas and concepts. The ‘I love New York’ trademark and brand is a great example of this.
- Global Brands: Typically epitomized by household names such as Amazon, these brands are widely marketed.
- Generic Brands: Categorized by their lack of distinctiveness, examples of generic brands include healthcare (where patents have expired and the brand now faces competition from same ingredient imitators), where a brand name has passed into common language as a verb (eg Post-it Notes) or an unbranded, unlabelled product such as Brandless.
- Luxury Brands: Through quality, association, and story-telling, prestige brands such as Marc Jacobs deliver social status and endorsement.
- Cult Brands: Fierce communities of customers help propel these brands forward such as how Patagonia engages its consumers through political advocacy. Cult brands take their cues from their own individual passions and morals rather than what their rivals do to market themselves
Clearly, many brands function across multiple brand descriptions. Using the example of Patagonia, again it is both a service brand and a cult brand. In this way, it is important to recognize that the way in which we engage with a brand can involve multiple contexts. Each context must connect with the customer in that it must be relevant and distinct, the emotions it conveys must be of value. While two or three brand characteristics may seem related to your brand, you should ultimately identify a primary type around which to focus building your brand attributes and strategies.