Your brand is one of your company’s most valuable assets, if not the most valuable. But, you might be wondering, what exactly is a brand, why is it important, and how can you strengthen yours?
We discussed the meaning of the word ‘brand’ in a previous post. We concluded that it was an intangible, abstract quality of the company with which the target market identified. Here, we look into the concept more deeply, and to help clarify its meaning, we analyse an example of a modern brand.
A brand exists entirely in the minds of the people who come into contact with it. It is made up of emotional experiences, thoughts and sensations that a person associates with your product, service or company. That might be something like quirkiness, playfulness, integrity, or authenticity, to name just a few examples. It can be very complex and rich especially if it’s developed over time.
Why is your brand important?
Although other players in the market might copy your product, your brand will be much more challenging to emulate, and it is your brand’s uniqueness that will foster loyalty from your customers.
For instance, some consumers may be loyal to a particular brand of expensive flour even though virtually the same product is available in different packaging at a lower price.
Many generic products such as painkillers, toilet rolls, cereals, salt, and bottled water have branded, more expensive counterparts with loyal fans. People will often pay substantially more for a similar, if not identical product. The feelings and thoughts the consumer associates with the brand create loyalty to that brand, which will make them willing to pay more for it.
The stronger the brand, the stronger will be the consumer’s preference to choose your brand over another. A loyal customer will also be less likely to switch to another brand in the long term.
So your brand dictates your market share, directly contributing to the company’s profitability. Your brand, therefore, is essential because it ultimately defines how profitable your business will be.
What is Branding?
Branding is defining your brand by deciding precisely what feelings and perceptions you want to be associated with your company, then making sure that this becomes embedded in the mind of others. It means ensuring that your customers and everyone who comes into contact with your brand associate certain unique feelings and perceptions with your company.
For brand integrity, you must be sure that all contact points within your company align with these feelings and perceptions and that you do nothing to communicate something which doesn’t align with the uniqueness of your brand.
So that’s a quick rundown on the meaning of ‘brand’ and ‘branding’. To drill down further and see how this looks in the real world, we will analyse one particular company and how it’s developed its brand over time.
Glenfiddich is a single malt whisky produced by William Grant & Sons in Speyside, Scotland. It is a distinctive brand that is very well-known in the UK and has an array of concepts, images and ideas associated with it.
Family and Heritage
William Grant was born in Dufftown, Speyside, in 1839. The story goes that he dreamed of making ‘the best dram in the valley’. In 1886, he and his nine children began the construction of a distillery in Dufftown, and with the help of a stonemason, they hand-built the distillery stone by stone. The descendants of William and his family, the Grant family, still run the company and the same distillery today.
A Bold independent spirit
The story of the distillery’s inception, and the sheer will and determination of William Grant to achieve his dream, forged the initial brand attribute of a bold and independent spirit. The company has continued to build on this perception throughout its history.
For instance, although single malt whiskies had been around for centuries, they had never been specifically marketed as such before the 1960s. In 1963, the Grant family began marketing Glenfiddich as a single malt to places outside Scotland. This astute move eventually led to the worldwide popularity of the single malt whisky category.
Glenfiddich also became the first whisky company to open its distillery to visitors, eventually leading to a new tourism sector in Scotland. There are now over 130 Scottish distilleries open to the public.
At the time of writing this article, Glenfiddich is running an advert for Christmas 2022, which appears on TV and online. ‘The Stag’ advert is not a new advert, it’s been running on and off for a couple of years now, and it illustrates very well the core principles of the Glenfiddich brand.
In the advert, we see a red deer stag walking through a city alone in a time of uncertainty. The commentary runs:
‘Every year, a stag sheds its antlers. It must face uncertainty alone, exposed. But only by embracing the unknown can it grow stronger. Reaching the top is just the beginning. Glenfiddich – where next?’
This commentary implies that growth can only be achieved by embracing risk. Shedding the old antlers each year allows the stag to grow something new. Taking the stag from its natural habitat into the unfamiliar surroundings of a city suggests a willingness to face the unknown, which seems particularly relevant in the current economic climate. So ‘The Stag’ advert further reinforces the idea of a bold and independent spirit.
The advert mentioned above and the company logo both feature a stag. Besides personifying a strong, bold and independent spirit, the image of a stag is historically associated with Scotland. There are large populations of red deer in Scotland, and the stag features on the crest of many Scottish clans.
A well-known painting by Sir Edwin Landseer called “The Monarch of the Glen” inspired the Glenfiddich logo. It was one of the most famous paintings from the nineteenth century and features a majestic stag looking out from a Scottish mountaintop.
Also, in a further association with deer, the name ‘Glenfiddich’ is Gaelic for ‘Valley of the Deer’.
The Glenfiddich brand is deeply rooted in Scotland. The company was founded and remains in Scotland; the name is Scots Gaelic, the whisky is distilled in Scotland, and the casks are recycled on-site in Scotland. The imagery associated with the brand, such as the stag, scenes from ‘The Stag’ advert and the Scottish accent of the advert voiceover, are all strongly associated with Scotland.
Quality and craftsmanship
The Glenfiddich brand emphasises quality and attention to detail. They have a dedicated on-site cooperage where casks are recycled, on-site coppersmiths who build and maintain the copper stills, and on-site bottling facilities. The distillery also uses a single water source, the Robbie Dhu spring. There are no cutting corners for a cheaper product, and all these factors ensure that the whisky is of the highest possible quality.
Innovation and looking to the future
Although the brand is immersed in its heritage and long history, it doesn’t remain constrained within a traditional image. Since William Grant and his family first built the distillery in 1886, the company has embraced innovation. The advert spells out the brand’s core principle of constant change and looking forward. From the marketing of whisky as a single malt to the distinctive triangular bottle and the wide range of products, the Glenfiddich company has always done things a little differently.
So the concepts, feelings and perceptions at the core of the Glenfiddich brand are:
- the bold, independent spirit of a stag
- Scottish culture and imagery
- quality and craftsmanship
- innovation and looking to the future
Most prominently, constant change and innovation seem to be at the brand’s core, despite it being a traditional product.
This analysis shows just how much richness, depth and complexity can contribute to a brand. Glenfiddich is a brand that has developed and matured over time, much like its product.
Clearly, brands can’t appeal to everyone. They’re not supposed to. They’re designed to connect to their target market precisely. Glenfiddich doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. Its brand will appeal to someone for whom the ideas and mental images above will deeply connect.
Applying this to your own brand
You can use analysis of successful brands to help develop your own brand. So using the Glenfiddich brand as an inspiration, try asking yourself these questions to get a clearer idea of your brand:
- What stories does your brand tell?
- What images, sensations, places and values do you think are associated with it?
- Do you want all of these to be associated with your brand?
- Do they align with your target market?
- Which of these would you like to embed in your brand more powerfully?
- Which one of these is most important to you?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to develop a brand strategy which will inform your decisions and help you to build your brand for many years to come.