In doing justice to this topic of interest, it is pertinent that we give a concise and uncomplicated definition of branding, a concept which comes from the realization that all purchasing decisions for products and services alike involve a combination of rational (otherwise called functional) and emotional considerations.
Rational considerations refer to physical elements of the particular product or service while the emotional criteria sums up the impressions, opinions, experiences and random associations which the customer has logged in his/her mind about a particular product/service. Essentially, in a competitive situation, when a customer is about to make a choice of buying something he/she weighs up several factors against each other to determine what constitutes the most ideal or fulfilling experience. Now, on one hand, these factors are partially related to the performance of the product or service or the utility derived from it, in other words how well it works in comparison to what the customer is expecting. However, it equally incorporates the brand’s ability to satisfy other (emotional) dimensions of the customer’s needs, be it cultural, psychological, social, etc. and it is these intangible aspects which we essentially seek to influence through branding.
A common assumption by many African entrepreneurs is that branding always costs a lot of money, since it is thought that it can only be done through advertising and media. Most SME owners therefore typically tend to think ‘advertising’ when the subject of branding is brought up and, consequently, a major mindset block lies in that they’re bound to believe their businesses are disadvantaged (in contrast to well-established global brands, for instance) primarily because of the big-ticket nature of the “big-bang” promotional methods. It is easy to come to the conclusion that the only businesses that are able to build strong brands are the big, multinationals, who have the requisite financial wherewithal to run mass-media campaigns across different channels.
To correct the foregoing misconception it is a well-established truth that brand building is not done solely through advertising and media. As a matter of fact, it is an assumption that, in many cases, leads small brands to think that they have to focus squarely on product and price.
To be continued.
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Tomi Ogunlesi, a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK), is a strategic planner at Bates Cossé, Lagos and an MBA scholar at theLagos Business School (LBS).