Any brand name, symbol, design, or combination of these constitutes a branding strategy. The primary function of the brandis to identify the product and to distinguish it from those of competitors. In addition, from the perspective of the buyer, it may simply be consistent quality or satisfaction, enhance shopping efficiency, or call attention to new products. For the seller, selecting a brand name is one of the key new product decisions, and reflects the overall position and marketing program desired by the firm. It is through a brand name that a product can: (a) be meaningfully advertising and distinguished from substitutes, (b) make it easier for the customer to track down products, and (c) be given legal protection. Also, branding often provides an interesting carryover effect: satisfied customers will associate quality products with an established brand name.
Before going any further it is necessary to distinguish several terms:
- Brand: A name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of these that is intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.
- Brand names: That part of a brand which can be vocalized—the utterable.
- Brand mark: That part of a brand which can be recognized but is not utterable, such as a symbol, design, or distinctive coloring or lettering.
- Trademark: A brand or part of a brand that is given legal protection because it is capable of exclusive appropriation.7
As was the case with product design and packaging decisions, branding requires a systematic effort at generating alternative brand names, screening them, and selecting the best alternative. However, before this process begins, a more basic decision must be made. What is the basic branding strategy to be employed? Three viable options are available.
First, a strict manufacturer's branding policy can be followed. This would mean that the producer refuses to manufacture merchandise under brands other than his own, although he may sell seconds or irregulars on an unbranded basis.
Second, an exclusive distributors brands policy could be followed. In this case, the producer does not have a brand of his own but agrees to sell his products only to a particular distributor and carry his brand name (private brands).
The final opinion is a mixed brand policy, which includes elements of both extremes and leads to the production of manufacturer's as well as distributor's brands. For example, Firestone sells some tires under their own brand names and some under private labels.
For most companies, both brand names and trademarks are vital in the identification of products. The design process should be guided by research; often the advertising agency is brought in to help. Brand names are mandatory if the manufacturer or distributor intends to use mass advertising. Brand names also make word-of-mouth advertising effective. Without them, repeat purchases of a particular product would be virtually impossible. Product identification through the brand name is a most important element in the product plan.