Let’s begin with a simple exercise. What comes to mind if we ask you to think of a soft-drink brand that brings happiness to everyone who tastes it? Is it Coca-Cola? Here’s another one: if we ask you to think of the world’s finest smartphone brand, what comes to your mind? Is it Apple? Last, what comes to mind if we ask you to think of a snack brand? Is it Lays? Well, that’s product branding for you!
Product branding creates a unique identity for a given product to connect with its target audience emotionally and physically. In layperson's terms, it means that every time you think of a need or a want, a product comes to your mind. It’s the idea that the product intends to instigate in its consumers.
Let’s elaborate on the examples mentioned above.
You think of Coke when you want a cool drink that refreshes and makes you happy.
When you think of an excellent cellphone that upgrades your lifestyle, you think of Apple.
When you think of tasty chips that bring friends and family to share a snack, you think of Lays.
Being marketers, product branding is often compared with classical branding.
Corporate branding represents a company's overall identity and values, including its culture, objectives, and mission. It is how a company presents itself to the public, typically including elements such as the company name, logo, tagline, and messaging. Corporate branding builds trust and affinity with consumers, employees, and stakeholders, differentiating the company from its competitors.
Product branding, however, promotes and differentiates a specific product or service within a company's portfolio. It focuses on the product's unique features, benefits, and attributes and is designed to appeal to a specific target audience. Product branding typically includes elements such as the product name, logo, packaging, and messaging, and it is used to create a distinct identity for the product in the marketplace.
Product branding is a result of multiplying intangibles together. It involves the creation of a brand strategy that gives equal weightage to stirring emotions and building memories while growing the product category amidst the selected target audience.
The only rule of strong product branding is to create a differentiator from the competition. The differentiator can be how a product looks, tastes, or adds value to the lives of its consumers.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi come under the same product category. Looking for a differentiator, we can consider the sweetness of Coca-Cola compared to the others. Do we even focus on the packaging? Is there any value added to your personality?
The second element that helps in building a strong product brand is the feeling of belongingness. In marketing terms, we tag it as a narrowed sub-market for a sectionalized consumer base, a feeling of belongingness amidst people who matter. When you pick a product, do you feel it’s meant for you? It may or may not be personalized with elements that appeal to you individually, but it may be to people like you. A product may have partnered with an Italian football club which only 5% of the population follows. But if that 5% watches the product communication, they may feel special and consider trying the product at least once.
The last element in building strong product branding is the way it looks. As shallow as it sounds, looks are everything when building a product and subtly yet psychologically suggest your consumer pick your product from the shelf versus others. The product's visual appeal depends on the consumers' personalities they intend to reach out to. If they want to reach out to people who want to upgrade their appeal with a level of class, one may pick an Apple product. But if you want to come across as a tech-know-how who believes in efficiency over panache, you may pick a Microsoft.
Now that we have understood how to build successful product branding;
Let’s look at a few brands that have created a benchmark in this category.
Starbucks focuses on creating a premium customer experience with high-quality products, a welcoming atmosphere, and a sense of community. Starbucks also uses product branding to create limited-time offerings and seasonal products such as the Pumpkin Spice Latte. By leveraging product branding, Starbucks can create a solid emotional connection with customers and build a loyal following for its products.
Apple's MacBook product branding is known for its sleek design, high-quality materials, and advanced technology. The MacBook line of laptops is positioned as a premium product, focusing on innovation and user experience. By positioning the MacBook as a premium product with advanced technology and a focus on user experience, Apple can attract a loyal following of customers willing to pay a premium price for a high-quality laptop.
Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic brands in the world, and its product branding is synonymous with happiness, refreshment, and nostalgia. Coca-Cola's product branding focuses on creating an emotional connection with its customers, using marketing campaigns that promote the brand's values of happiness, togetherness, and positivity. Coca-Cola's product branding also includes a wide range of products beyond its flagship beverage, including Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, and various flavored sodas.
Uber's product branding strategy has been instrumental in creating a distinctive identity for the company in the ride-hailing industry. The company's focus on providing a seamless and convenient experience has been a critical element of its branding efforts. Uber’s product branding consistently delivers on its promise of providing a safe, reliable, and affordable ride in its design, tone of voice, and personality.
In today's business landscape, where building a product is as easy as navigating an app, leaving a lasting impression on your audience can be challenging. A solid product identity can help you establish a deeper connection with your customers and foster greater loyalty towards your products or services. Investing in your branding efforts can unlock new levels of customer engagement and build a more sustainable business over the long term.