In the realm of marketing, differentiation remains a very important currency and manifests in many dimensions such as product differentiation, service differentiation, distribution differentiation, price and relationship differentiation.
It is typically about how a firm strives to have unique attributes that makes it different in harnessing a competitive advantage. Another dimension of differentiation is brand differentiation and can be viewed as the sum of all. It is exactly what makes Brand X different from Brand Y and a lot of factors are taken into consideration in placing one brand ahead of another. It is also important to note that the aspect of branding goes centuries back.
Branding was mainly used to depict ownership or even to imprint symbols on goods to signify their origin. To demonstrate the origins of branding in our local context in Botswana, cattle owners used to have their unique symbols and would brand them on their livestock as a way of showing their ownership and rights over their livestock. Livestock owners who were famous for producing quality breeds would have advantages as other farmers or cattle breeders would prefer buying from them as they were assured of high quality breeds from are from a stable that ensured cattle were well fed and given the best medical care.
In relation to marketing, similar fundamentals apply. Products can easily fly off the shelves due to their quality proven over the years or owing to their country of origin or the name behind the brand. For example, in the automobile industry, the Germans are well known for superior engineering, hence mention of “German engineering” gives a serious stamp of approval.
Their products such as Audi, VW, BMW and Mercedes Benz are preferred and trusted by many car enthusiasts across the globe, and this has been the case for many years. Similarly, Italians are well known for producing luxury vehicles like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. These reputations were built over the years. Obviously, the competitive advantages will not apply in every industry, due to endowment features or just areas of specialisation. A country can become good at something but not in everything. In beef and diamond production, for instance, Botswana is considered one of the best. Imprinting of “Made in Botswana” in branding of these products endows serious commercial value and mileage.
Branding is not limited to countries of origin or just commercial entities but extends to individuals. Personal branding is about what attributes or emotions come to the fore when someone’s name is mentioned or the individual is sighted? Like it or not, true or not, these perceptions do carry a significant amount of weight. The perceptions are not accidental or knee-jerk reactions created overnight but are the results of how the specific person interacts or has been interacting with others.
In today’s super-competitive world of banking, building reputable brands and protecting reputable brands has become a need for survival. The perception regarding a banking congregates around its products and services, how these are distribution and the relationship the bank has with customers and suppliers. The real test is how a brand connects with its customers, existing and prospective, and how these customers have experienced the brand. It is all about emotions and experiences. Brands that arouse a full spectrum of positive emotions are winning brands; a brand that arouses negative emotions will certainly have a tough time in the marketplace.
In my last few articles, I discussed the importance of customer experience or CX. It still baffles my mind that there are entities or businesses in 2022 that still have total disregard of listening to their customers. Listening to your customers is does not translate to doing everything that your customers tell you. However, if your ears are on the ground, you are able to determine with almost certainty how your customers want your company to serve them – their needs and preferences.
There is no room for being arrogant as brands and pushing products and services down the throats of our customers because they will reject them. But creating brands that stand for quality, brands that listen, brands that know what customers need and want and how they prefer to be served through careful distribution of such the products and services of the company results in magic taking place.
How we are perceived as individuals or companies always goes a long way. Branding needs to be monitored and there has to be a thorough and conceited effort to manage it.
By Gomolemo Kololo Manake
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