How good branding provides a competitive advantage

Branding has two definitions. The primary one being:

“The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”
Now, given that’s what we offer as a service, you’d think that would be the one we’re focusing on, and – generally speaking – you’d be right.
However, the second definition has resonance too:
“The action of marking with a branding iron.”
What does a branding iron do? It’s a red hot, sizzling instrument used to burn a mark into the very fabric of a thing. Usually a cow, in fairness, but also – possibly – a human.
While that may sound a little sadistic, let’s look at the similarities between branding (from a product/service/business perspective) and branding with a glowing, blistering piece of metal. What do they do? Well, essentially, they make their mark.
Historically, branding helped people determine which livestock belonged to them, while a darker side of branding history harks back to slavery and highlighting criminality. That, from a modern brand point of view, isn’t what we’re after – but in essence, it’s not a million miles away.
Via the medium of spectacular branding, we want to sear the existence of a product/service into the public’s consciousness. And while that might be difficult, succeeding in doing so can give a business a significant competitive advantage.
Think of household names. These are brands that really are ingrained in public cognizance. We only have to see golden arches to think of McDonald’s; a white swoosh on a red background is enough to conjure up an image of Coca Cola, while three stripes no doubt sets Adidas in your mind’s eye.
If you’ve created a brand that people will remember, it will unquestionably give you a competitive edge. While a service or product can give you the grounding in which to dominate a marketspace, you need to supplement it with solid branding.
OK, it’s easy to reel off the likes of Coca Cola, Adidas and McDonald’s as standout examples, and, at first reading, that might seem like unattainable levels of brand awareness. And let’s be frank, without millions, verging on billions of pounds of investment, you’re unlikely to get that level of return. However, you don’t need to invest those kinds of figures to get a healthy return on your branding. The majority of markets are smaller than those that these brands are engaged in, but regardless of that, you can still make your mark, especially when operating in a niche sector.
First and foremost, consider your customer. That’s what’s most important. Resonant your messaging and your brand with them, and the rest can fall into place.
Branding has many facets – be that your logo, packaging, typography, tone of voice – and it’s important that all are joined up and interlinked. Focusing on one area while neglecting another presents a chink in your branding armour, which competitors will exploit.
If you maintain consistent branding across all channels, sticking to your core principles, whilst doing what you can to make the appropriate noise, then eventually you’ll make headway with your target market. Once that headway is established – a bridge head, if you like – then it becomes easier to advance and improve awareness of your brand and what it has to offer.
Good branding is a significant differentiator and one that shouldn’t be ignored. In a competitive industry, customers pay attention to the brands that do it properly.