Some products and services have names that are devoid of meaning from a branding perspective. That is to say, they lack the positive associations in the mind of the customer linking the product or service to a compelling promise of value. They are, therefore, just names—devoid of any real meaning for the customer, and of little branding significance or value to their owners.
A product or service becomes a brand when its name (and its other branding elements) is associated with a bundle of added values that represent compelling value in the minds of customers and stakeholders alike.
How do you create a strong brand?
There are two possible routes:
- From tangible added values to intangible added values
- From intangible added values to tangible added values
The first route is the most broadly understood by experienced marketers. The tangible added values provide a strong foundation for the brand and are integral to its distinctiveness and competitiveness in the marketplace.
However, given the hyper-competition that exists in most markets today and the speed at which product superiority can be eroded by competitors, every brand must quickly bolster it’s identity and value proposition with intangible added values from the moment of its launch into the marketplace.
From tangible added values to intangible added values
Dove’s tangible added value stemmed from its product differentiation at launch; it was “1/4 moisturizing cream”. This allowed it to soften while cleaning skin. Over time Dove strengthened its identity and ability to compete in the marketplace by moving up the brand ladder from ingredient (moisturizing cream) to attribute (softening) to benefit (protection) to brand personality – and with the launch of the “Campaign for Real Beauty” in September 2004, its values and higher purpose.
The identity of the Dove brand is now bolstered by both its distinguishing product advantage and its intangible added values and higher purpose: Helping real women achieve real beauty by “feeling and looking your personal best.” Building self-esteem.
Market results have already shown that this historically strong brand–now imbued with these new and powerful associations–is stronger today than it has ever been in its past.
From intangible added values to tangible added values
But not all brands follow the same evolutionary path as Dove. Some brands start life as an ideal or concept, rather than a product. Economic value is created for the owners of the brand when this higher purpose leads to new sources of tangible added value that customers find desirable and compelling.
The journey of the Apple brand under Steve Jobs is an example.
The higher purpose of the Apple brand manifested itself through Job’s passion and determination to “Think Different” to create meaningful improvements in the lives of customers.
As Jobs so eloquently said it: “Apple… believe[s] that people with passion can change the world for the better… and that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that actually do it.”
The result: iMac (1998), iPod (2001), MacBook Pro and MacBook (2006), iPhone and iPod Touch (2007), MacBook Air (2008) and iPad (2010).
What can we learn from these examples?
Strong brands are “two-legged.” They must constantly strive to add clear and concrete differentiation to strengthen their value for customers. “But material differentiation is a never-ending race: competitors copy your best ideas.”  That’s why it’s so important to bolster the identity and value proposition with intangible added values from the moment of a brand’s launch into the marketplace
One potent way to speed the development of a strong brand is to conceive a higher purpose for your brand at its inception. A brand with a clear raison d’être is imbued with powerful, latent intangible added values from the moment of its launch and also signals its intent to be relentless in the pursuit of new sources of tangible added value to its customers and other stakeholders. These added values then become manifest to the brand’s customers through their interactions with the brand and play a crucial role in distinguishing the brand from competitors in the marketplace over time.