“ADVERTISING practitioners have, largely misunderstood branding as a concept.” 

This is the position of Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi, President Of The Association Of Advertising Agencies Of Nigeria (AAAN), in his speech at the AAAN Business Seminar held last week in Lagos. “I think a reasonable place to start today is with the definition of our main concern, the Brand. If there is one word, which has been used and overused, it is the word “brand”. And if there is a concept that has been misunderstood, it is “branding”. I am hoping that after this seminar, we will all get a better understanding of “branding” and its application in building winning brands,” Akinwunmi began even as he asked: “What do these local and international names have in common: OMO, First Bank, Oceanic Bank, UBA, Vono, Nike, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Mike Adenuga, Tiger Woods etc? They are very well known names, they are very successful brands. In the distant, not-so-complex past, a brand was simply identified as “product + name”. But now that the issue of branding has become more complex, this definition can no longer stand. And so, I believe the best place to start this afternoon is from the definition of the brand. For the purpose of this seminar, we will look at two. The first is from Tom Duncan in the excellent book, “IMC: Using Advertising and Promotion To Build Brands” 

He defines a brand thus as “A perception of an integrated bundle of information and experiences that distinguishes a company and/or its product offerings from the competition. But by far the most profound definition of the brand is from one of the most charismatic ladies in the advertising world, Shelly Lazarus. Shelly is the Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, and is one of the twenty-five most influential women in corporate America. Hear what she had to say about the brand: “A Brand is not just what you say it is, the Brand is the totality of what the consumer experiences. From quality, to taste, to packaging, to the retail environment, to line extensions, to ergonomics, design and colour, to sales promotions, to price, to corporate reputations and public relations, to the sales force and service experiences, to the delivery trucks, to word-of-mouth, to telemarketing scripts and receptionists style, to the way you answer the telephone, to prejudices and attitudes, to collective and individual memories, to history. Scraps and straws that add up to a company’s most valuable asset: a 360� Brand.” Shelly Lazarus, 1998 

“From this definition, it should be clear to all of us that the subject we are now dealing with has assumed such a complex nature and it is something that pervades our lives daily. In the field of marketing, brands originated in the nineteenth century with the advent of packaged goods. According to Unilever records, Pears Soap was the world’s first registered commercial brand. Industrialisation moved the production of household items, such as soap, from local communities to centralized factories. When shipping their items, the factories would brand their logotype insignia on the shipping barrels. These factories, generating mass-produced goods, needed to sell their products to a wider range of customers, to a customer base familiar only with local goods, and it turned out that a generic package of soap had difficulty competing with familiar, local products.”

A brand, the President of the Association Of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria says, “is more than a product. Cars, soaps, sweets, cigarettes, pens, computers are all products. What differentiates one car; soap, sweet, cigarette, pen or computer from the other is the brand. Take universities for example. They all offer the same basic product: education. They all have instructors, courses, students and in most cases classrooms and buildings (except those with online, virtual facilities). Despite this list of commonalities, there are also major differences among them. These differences are determined by the quality of instructors, variety of courses, number of students, location, academic or sports successes and in most cases, quality of facilities etc. when only commonalities are considered, universities, like all basic goods and services are generic members of a product category. But when their differences are taken into consideration, they become successful or unsuccessful brands. Brands are what separate similar products in a product category. Products, companies, people etc are considered to be brands or brandable. This is because they all have significant intangibles manifested in their respective images and reputations. Branding involves decisions that establish an identity for a product with the goal of distinguishing it from competitors’ offerings. In markets where competition is fierce and where customers may select from among many competitive products, creating an identity through branding is essential. It is particularly important in helping position the product in the minds of the product’s target market. At the end of this seminar, we will evolve strategies to outpace competitors, we must be in a position to identify breakthrough, opportunities, be innovative enough to take advantage of them by evolving distinguished brand strategies aimed at achieving the corporate objectives,” Akinwunmi said.

The theme of this year’s seminar according to the AAAN helmsman, was focused on achieving two objectives namely: 

To inspire and challenge business leaders to pursue brand building as a viable business strategy for enduring value creation and the development of a sustainable competitive advantage.

To underscore the importance of building winning brands and clearly demonstrate its role in the realization of business objectives.

* Source: The Guardian Newspapers


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