In the management context, branding is a symbolic representation of information associated with a product or service. A brand particularly consists of a name, logo, other visible features, including color combinations, fonts, images, symbols, etc.
A brand raises a number of expectations in the minds of the individuals in relation to particular goods or services. These individuals may be employees working with the brand, suppliers, vendors, and their associates, distributors, and lastly, consumers.
According to American Marketing Association, “Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them which is intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.”
The branding process consists of an advertising campaign based on a consistent concept which forms a distinct identity and image of the product (goods or services) in the minds of the customers.
Organizations develop and maintain unique identification in the market through branding. It helps in fascinating and retaining loyal customers. The act of naming a family member is quite similar to branding.
Here producers have children in the form of products or services similar to parents having their own children. As the biological parents are anxious to understand their children’s personality traits, similarly, producers are anxious to find out the nature and scope of their products, not on the names but based on the launch of the product.
Therefore, a managerial process of deciding a particular name for a given product is called ‘branding.’
Branding is considered as a strategic requirement for spreading values and beliefs in the potential market. This is due to the distinctive features of services like its perishability, variability, and intangibility.
There are several service providers who promote their brand names together with corporate branding. Some of the examples of such service providers include telecommunication companies (such as TATA Cellular, BSNL, Reliance, and Airtel), transport and courier companies, and banking and insurance companies.
Methods of Service Branding
The methods of service branding are as follows:
1) Brand Extension: Introduction of a new or modified product can be facilitated by an already existing brand. This is also true for corporate branding.
For example, HDFC employs this method. We can use its brand extensions by the name of HDFC Securities, HDFC Mutual Funds, HDFC Bank, HDFC Chubb General Insurance Company, and so on.
2) Multibranding: Introduction of several brands in the market enables the service provider to capture a larger market share in case the market is fragmented. The inability to adopt this method results in competitors capturing the market.
For example, a number of star hotel chains have been opened by popular hotels such as Taj and Oberoi for the emerging middle-class of the society. Similarly, on an international level, Ramada hotels opened Roadway, and Marriott launched Fairfield Inns, which is a chain of budget hotels. Multibranding is employed in retailing also.
For example, the popular book retailer Crossword has been acquired by Shoppers Stop.
3) Cannibalisation: Cannibalisation occurs when one brand captures the existing or the potential market share of another brand, and both the brands belong to the same service provider. Multibranding is the reason behind cannibalization.
For example, cannibalization took place when Diners Club was acquired by Citibank, which used to have its own debit and credit cards. Similarly, cannibalization effects would be visible if Pantaloons introduced Big Bazaar in the same mall or supermarket where Pantaloons already has its outlet
4) Co-branding: Co-branding refers to the process of bringing in different brands together in the form of a package.
For example, consumer finance companies are co-branding with car dealers, credit card companies are joining hands with international -franchisers such as Master Card or Visa. Service providers can target untapped market segments with the help of co-branding.
5) Private and Generic Brands: Private label brands are those which are launched by specific retailers and franchisees as their own brands. The retailers and franchisees are able to distinguish themselves with the help of private label brands, which also inhibits making comparisons among brands.
For example, Westside, a retail chain of the Tata group, operates only through retail store brands. On an international level, the retailer Gap used to deal with only Levi’s denim. Later on, it introduced its own brand by the name of Gap.
On the other hand, generic brands in services were present in the assembling of ACs and computers, repairing of home appliances, single tutoring classes or counseling, and so on.
Problems in Branding of Services
The most challenging task for the marketing team is to build and maintain a unique and powerful brand name in a particular class. In the case of service brands, this task is much more difficult.
This shows that today’s consumers are empowered and well-connected in the way that they can instantly share their negative experiences with the service provider through the Internet and the World Wide Web.
However, the distinctive and interesting features of services are also responsible for making their branding difficult. The problems in the branding of services are as follows:
1) Intangibility: The consumer faces more difficulties in attaching meanings to intangible service offerings like an internet connection, life insurance, or account handling as compared to more tangible products. As a result, it becomes difficult for marketers to create an appropriate and more understandable brand promise, which is important.
2) Inconsistency: A service is a brand based on experience, and every customer cannot have the same level of experience. This is, therefore, a challenge for the service provider. An in-depth analysis of every experience of the service brand is important, and yet human inconsistencies cannot be removed through it.
The service organizations can also come up with an amazing brand story derived from experiences.
3) Commoditisation: Based on distinctive benefits, the sustainable points of difference are particularly uncommon in the case of services. With the developments in technology, it has become easier to imitate any service offering.
This results in the quick expiry of meaningful points of difference, which makes most services equivalent to that of the competitors. To tackle this issue of commoditization, one way is to utilize the applicability or importance as a differentiating factor.
Those service providers, who keep a careful watch of their activities and offer relevant services to customers, are able to rise above the tag of the commodity.
4) Complexity: To come out of the problem of commoditization, service providers add complexity and uniqueness in their offerings in an attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
However, many times it happens that the value added to the service exceeds the personal expertise and understanding of the consumers so much that they either do not see it or find it worthless.
While delivering multi-dimensional and multi-level offerings, the service providers should always think from the perspective of the target audience so that they do not make the service complex and eliminate the risks of low return on investments.
5) Real-Time: Service brands have to interact a lot of times with their consumers in a day. These real-time interactions with customers can act as opportunities to build the brand image by providing extraordinary services or weaken it by delivering less than the expectation of consumers.
Therefore, service brands try to focus on their resources and efforts of brand building through such real-time dealings with customers.
The front line managers, in order to become true brand ambassadors, should be capable of defining their brand promise and delivering the same in their day-to-day interactions with customers. In every different service brand, these issues and problems make a different impact.
Half of the battle involves conducting a detailed analysis to outline and know which of these challenges makes a maximum impact on the business and the brand. It will help the business in developing and managing strategies and come out with more successful results.