From cradle to grave, every human being today is gripped in the sensational brand-whirlwind; more specifically, in the world of brands. Everything from toothpaste to the hospital we visit and the airline we fly by is a brand. Even the destination we fly to is a brand. To keep it short and simple, even a human being itself is a brand.

Crazy? Absolutely not! In this series of articles I will be writing for, I will answer & elaborate questions like; what is a brand? What is branding? How do we tell apart branding from marketing? How does a brand and branding fit into consumer and business perspectives? What comes under the umbrella of branding? And most importantly, what is expected of a brand manager / executive at any company, particularly IT companies? Many experts will brag about it without even knowing the essence of brand; burdening themselves and others with technical jargon while leaving everyone utterly puzzled. Lost, and out of focus.

Any tangible or intangible thing that can be bought or sold is a brand. Not impressive? Rather bogus. Any tangible or intangible thing that carries a name with it and that can be bought, sold, valued or available commercially is a brand. Fair enough? You bet!

Technically speaking, any registered trademark/name/logo is treated as a brand name. There are already millions of registered trademarks in the world and many more will be registered. However, in its true essence, brand is only a perception in the mind of a consumer. All corporate warfare, struggle to increase market share, boost sales, capture markets, expand regions, sustain growth and increase loyalty to product(s) or service(s) is actually a battle of brands. The brands battle to create a favorable perception in the minds of prospects. Thus, all brands are engaged in a battle of perceptions.

Mobilink is the leading telecom company in Pakistan. True. Mobilink provides the best call quality. Not sure. TCS is the leading courier company in Pakistan. Absolutely! TCS delivers faster than any other courier in Pakistan. Not sure. Within a same family, some likes Pepsi whereas others prefer 7-Up. Which, then, is a better brand? It’s all about how customers perceive.

“Road to hell is paved for companies who invest in their technology & operations and neglect their brand” (Anonymous). Irrespective of the quality and other all-so-wonderful attributes of any brand and mega budgets going down the research & operations lanes, companies who fail to register their brands in the minds of consumers are doomed. Out of mind; out of business.

What not, then, is a brand? This question could have been answered differently a few years back when commodity purchases like eggs, bread and water were not branded. Even commodity purchases today have fallen prey to the brand phenomenon. There are few things in life that cannot be branded, for everything else there is brand name already given or waiting to be explored. Even the scope of this statement is bound to become extinct as the world converges to a brand age.

Then there are brand characteristics. Features of or associated with a brand(s). Brand characteristics have to comply with the perception in the mind of a consumer. These emphasize or confirm to the perception or the brand. Microsoft is innovative, Google is dynamic and Oracle is reliable. This doesn’t mean that any company does not possess the characteristics identified with the other two, but that’s how they are perceived. BMW is the “ultimate driving machine”; Coca Cola is “the real thing” and telenor “the smart call” are the perceptions theses companies boast about their respective brands. It’s the brand characteristics that reinforce the perception. Hadn’t BMW been engineered to give the ultimate driving pleasure, coca-cola wouldn’t taste what its tastes like and telenor wouldn’t be that economical with reasonable quality, these brands’ claims would have fallen apart.

When I talk next about branding, brand characteristics and their role in building or sustaining a brand will be elaborated. Cut it!

A brand is a brand is a brand is a brand! (Anonymous)

 Syed Faizuddin Alim

The writer works at TPS and is responsible for enhancing the brand equity and competitive brand advantage both locally & internationally. The writer is actively involved for the past 5 years in marketing and brand management, promotions, organizing special events, advertising, public relations, Web site management and other marketing operations.