Marketing and branding, two of the most common used words in the contemporary world, is closely linked to each other without doubts, but the importance of branding to successful marketing is enquired to measure in term of the question. In fact, various people have different ideas on marketing and branding. For most of people, or customers, the two are normally combined in their minds or even equal to each other. For example, people could raise Apple as the answer for both questions of "what is good branding" and "what is successful marketing". In fact, they are two separate topics on academic, and branding is just one of the numerous marketing activities apparently. However, the perception of consumers might be a good guide to answer the question.
In general, there are numerous definitions of marketing as it has various features to involve, and the one below has concluded main factors of it:
"Marketing consists of individual and organizational activities that facilitate and expedite satisfying exchange relationships in a dynamic environment through the creation, distribution, promotion and pricing of goods, services and ideas." (Dibb et al 2001, p1)
According to this, it is obvious that the objective of marketing is to satisfy demand of customers by those ‘individual and organizational activities' like promotion or pricing of goods, which are all just means to achieve that. Additionally, organizations could stand out from their competitors once they meet the needs of customers better than others. Thus, it can be said that the successful marketing is to provide competitive advantages for organizations by doing better in satisfying customers' desires through products and other marketing activities.
Product is the core of marketing, which including tangible goods like food or drinks or intangible services, as it is the major way to embody customers requirements; and, branding is directly associated with it. In fact, branding is all about decisio ns of products, like brand names or trademarks. Stork (2007) asserted that a brand is a unique business identity which represents the personality, quality or origin of products. And, such a product which added value by branding would appear in every activity of marketing, namely, branding is actually react on the whole marketing system directly and indirectly. In addition, Stork (2007) also argued that branding is the process of creating distinctive and durable perceptions in the minds of consumers. This is significant, as it accords with the objective of marketing, and it is the first step to attract customers. By contrast with those basic branding factors, brand loyalty is more complicated but significant. Attracting customers is not enough, organizations demand loyalty of customers to brands to make them competitive among others.
Therefore, based on the analysis of theories above, branding and brand loyalty is vital to successful marketing, but there are still many other factors could affect their importance within the dynamic environment, like the different industry will have different types of marketing and branding. Subsequently, the further and deeper investigation will be conducted with examples of Virgin Atlantic Airway, which is a super brand in airline industry. Virtually, Design Council of UK (2007) defined that the airline industry is difficult to operate. Fixed costs are high, demand can fluctuate quite dramatically and shortages of key airport infrastructure all make it difficult for airlines to operate profitably. Relatively, the marketing for airline industry is not easy as well; the promotion or pricing would be totally different to other industries like food or drink, because its products are distinctive. However, Virgin Atlantic is doing quite well in general, it is famous on its branding and its services and it did won many rewards on that, like it came out on top in a consumer survey of travel brands in 2006. (Business Source Premier, 2006)
As discussed before, a brand is a unique business identity, and a well managed one would be the asset of an organization, and the marketing and financial value associated with its strength in a market is so-called brand equity. (Dibb et al, 2001, p 272) According to Dibb et al (2001), there are four main elements underlie the brand equity, which are brand name awareness, brand loyalty, perceived brand quality and brand associations.
It is good for customers to know the brand names of products which they do or do not like, thereby, they can recognize and purchase products that satisfy their needs simply. Otherwise, the product selection would be complicated or even wrongly selection. At the same time, it is clear that brand name awareness is the very first step for sellers, which would cause familiarity; and a unique brand name or logo may reinforce the familiarity to be memorable, which will strongly remain custom ers to come again. Due to that, organizations should promote their brand names or logos as much as possible within this stage, to gain awareness of their brands from customers. For example, one of marketing techniques of Virgin Atlantic is to advertising activity in the UK includes TV, press, magazines, outdoor posters and taxi sides, all featuring their distinctive logo. Advertising is used to encourage people to try the airline, to raise awareness of new product developments and new routes. (Virgin Atlantic, 2007)
The perceived brand quality means certain perception of customers over the brand quality. This sort of perception mainly depends on consumers' using experiences or the way organizations branded. Well marketed brands would become the indicators of quality or choice making for consumers as they have less or no ideas about the quality of certain goods in some case. As branded of its services, Virgin Atlantic is giving their customers what they want, by offering limousine services, full meal catering, multi-class services, and entertainment consoles on every seat-back. (Stealing Share, 2006) Thus, the perceived brand quality of Virgin aircrafts is quite high; customers probably would consider it firstly or secondly while they are choosing an airline that is good at customer services.
Thirdly, the brand would be more attractive and memorable if it associated with certain lifestyle or other characteristics. Virgin is one of the best choices for illustrating this point. As one of extended brands of Virgin Group, Virgin Atlantic is absolutely under the organizational culture as well, which characterized by Richard Branson, the founder of the company. Virgin's brand values are really Branson style, which are innovative, competitive challenging, fun and so on and this also embodies in Virgin Atlantic. For instance, Virgin's design teams always working on challenging new technologies or services, like the design of its upper class suite. (Design Council, 2007) Or, the entertainment consoles on every seat-back shows their focus on providing fun to customers.
Like other three elements discussed above, brand loyalty is also valued to brand equity thanks to its function. Dibb et al (2001) defined that brand loyalty is a strongly motivated and long standing decision to purchase a particular product or service. Once customers loyal to one specific product, the market share of that product for the company would be relatively stable, allowing the company to use its resources more effectively or obtain premium prices. In line with what discussed before, organizations could be competitive with a relative stable market share among their competitors through brand loyalty, and meanwhile companies can diminish certain costs like the cost of attracting new customers.
Moreover, brand loyalty has three degrees that are recognition, preference and insistence. The recognition is just alike as awareness of brand name; customers realize that brand is an alternative to purchase. Brand preference is stronger than recognition, as customers is showing certainly prefers on one brand over others, but they would accept substitutes wh ile the brand is not available. The last degree is the strongest one as consumers would insistent on the particular brand and will accept no substitutes. (Dibb et al, 2001, p 273) Though, it is less to happen due to various reasons, like in the airline industry, it is difficult for customers to insistent on one brand thanks to limitation of airline routes and destinations.
Nevertheless, airlines companies need to try their best to gain customer loyalty as which is important but not easy to operate. The most common method is flyer programme that record mileage of frequent flyers and then reward them according to that. It is a normal but effective way to obtain customers' loyalty to the brand by this sort of reward. Virgin's flyer club has this function, and it tightly associated with other marketing activities as well, like its database marketing. (Virgin Atlantic, 2007)
To sum up, this essay is attempting to measure the importance of branding and brand loyalty to successful marketing by analyzing theories and facts. Benefits of branding and brand loyalty had been discussed with terms like brand equity or perceived brand quality, and examples were provided. It is can be said that the two are significant to successful marketing, because they firmly coupled with other marketing activities as fundamental factors to all of them. In addition, branding as one of the communication means between organizations and customers is vital.
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