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BRANDING. Branding is the process through which the product is given a name to distinguish it from the range of other products on offer

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Branding is the process through which the product is given a name to distinguish it from the range of other products on offer. The name can be given to a whole range of products, thus identifying them with a certain producer, or be given to individual products even though they originate from the same stable. For example, the washing-powder market is dominated by two producers, Lever and Proctor & Gamble, yet each markets a range of washing powders under different brand names; in fact many believe them to be the products of different companies. There may be several reasons why a firm is keen to differentiate a number of brands within the same product range, to appeal to different market segments or simply to capture those consumers who like to switch brands, to gain more shelf space in retail outlets, and, in the case of firms such as Proctor & Gamble, as a means of structuring the organization around brands to create healthy internal competition.

Apart from the brand name, a particular logo or mark may be used, and some manufacturers feel it important to create a brand style so that any one of their products from a given range is instantly recognizable. Alfred Sloan, the Chief Executive, insisted on that all General Motors cars possessed the definitive "GM look".

A relatively recent development in branding has been the growth of "generic" or "own" brands. These can be found especially in the major retail stores such as Sainsbury, Safeway, and Tesco. A generic is a product that is sold under the brand name of the retailer and applies to all kinds of products. It may in fact be identical to a nationally known brand on the same shelf, but is generally sold at a cheaper price to appeal more to the price-conscious shopper. In some cases generics have acquired a brand image that goes beyond price and value to indicate real product quality. Marks & Spencer deliberately promote this image with their own generic name "St Michael".

The importance of branding for the marketer lies in the pro­cess of creating brand awareness, brand image and ultimately brand loyalty, thereby ensuring repeat purchases of the product. Branding is also useful in helping the consumer search for goods. The hope is that over time the consumer will develop value judgements about certain brands and use them as a basis for discriminating between products. The brand becomes a representative of a whole bundle of product attributes, such as quality or value and can be a vital element in the selling of products as symbols. In this way certain brands such as Martini are promoted as offering the potential consumer a lifestyle as well as a product.

The use of brand image and its variability is illustrated by the selling of cars. The Audi 100 was launched in Britain under the Audi-Volkswagen brand, doubtless stressing the Volkswagen image of reliability. In the USA the same car with a few minor adjustments to the trim became the Audi 5000 and was sold as an Audi-Porsche, capitalizing on the letter's reputation for expensive, fashionable, high-performance cars, and appealing to the large American demand for sports cars. Imagine that the same car was sold in South Africa mainly as a taxi!

A successful brand image can be a great attribute to a company when launching new products, as they may well acquire the favorable attributes of other products belonging to the same brand. Branding is, however, valuable for all products, new or otherwise, in that it can add value to the product. It is for this reason that many firms protect their brand names by registering them as trademarks. The registration of a trademark enables its owner to use the law to prevent competitors from using the same or similar brand name or mark for the same type of product or service. This also protects the consumer from being deceived and confused about the origin of goods.

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