Interpreting brands and their role in strategic businesses


In our growing years, our description of the phrase, ‘brand new car’ was one posh automobile that passed by. We completely misconstrued its5 meaning. Ironically, our understanding and expression of ‘brand new car’ was according to the way the vehicle appeared.

Sadly, enough, we have walked with that quite misleading or deceptive idea for years and were almost becoming a false established truth until we decided to seek professional knowledge. It may surprise you to discover that, non-connoisseurs of marketing can still call a nice vehicle that passes by today ‘brand new car’.

O’ Guinn, Allen & Semenik (2006) gave a formal definition of a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. It allows a firm to communicate consistently and efficiently with the market” (p.21).

So in the brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers. In other words, a brand is a combination of things or constitutes a number of things and therefore we cannot explain it without mentioning them. Marketing scholars know this from an academic viewpoint. However, the real knowing of it is in the practice.

Even in human identification, we bear different names so that we can be able to tell the difference between one person and another. It is the same with brands. ‘Brand’ is used in business terms and the name of a business differentiates one from another indeed. As a matter of fact, the name of one business, suggests to the public what that business is up to in terms of what they offer or deliver to buyers.

So the name of a business alone differentiates it from another before other areas are considered. The scholarly opinion described this in the definition as “feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”. In the brand name, therefore, is embedded in all that the industry does.

The literature source also mentioned something as a ‘term’.  Another synonym for ‘term’ could be ‘expression’. This represents the language people within an organization uses to communicate in business. In other words, it is their trade or business terminology or slogan.  For instance, the term for ‘sasso’ mosquito coil is ‘kum tum tum preko’. As soon as staff and customers of Samara Company hear this slogan, they can identify it with sasso insecticide or mosquito coil.

The literature also made mention of a ‘sign’ and ‘symbol’. Now, the sign or symbol of the Mercedes saloon is three pointed ends in a circle which is also known as the crown of the vehicle. Correct? Hence, the sign or symbol of Ghana could be identified as 1. The shape of the Ghana map, 2. The Coat of arms or 3. The colors of the national flag or 4. What the mention of the name ‘Ghana’ symbolizes such as Goldcoast or the land of gold, Kente which is popularly associated with the Ashantis but with the outside world, they know Kente is from Ghana. Other representations can also be referred to as ‘symbols’ in other contexts or jurisdictions but the above mentioned are just examples that can help you determine other brand signs and symbols when you see them.

The final part of the scholarly definition made mention of “any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”. It implies that: apart from the name, term, sign and symbols, there are other characteristics that differentiate a brand from another and that is the content of the product, what it is made up of or what constitutes the product. What goes into producing the product and the functionality of it could be a better description.

Now you can eat the same food from different vendors or sellers at separate times yet, they taste differently simply because the persons who cooked could have applied their ingredients differently determining what they want to put in and what they want to avoid.

As to what they added or eliminated from the ingredients made their food taste better is for their customers to determine and that is why some food vendors and sellers in general attract more customers than others. An appealing or distasteful meal makes all the difference.

If customers are patronizing a particular food joint or shop more often to eat or buy besides other factors, it clearly explains the food tastes well and the product is good.  This trade outcome largely depends on the principle of the food, product or service organization. That is ingenious blend of spices or excellent customer service or after sales service that is not very common with other food, product or service organizations. This particular business trait is known as the core-competence of the production staff that makes them unique from others and puts them at a competitive advantage in the industry they find themselves.

These same production principles apply to companies that produce, biscuits, toffees, drinks and beverages. It is that thing that makes that toffee or biscuit so sweet that consumers cannot stay without it. It is an exceptional quality that the producers have developed over years that is a trade secret and is not easily or commonly known to competitors in their industry of specialization. Users of Mercedes Benz expect certain features and characteristics of its performance such as enduring strength, good mileage and durability.

The spark alone of the Mercedes Benz must excite its users; they must enjoy the sound of the engine and experience the overwhelming comfort that is significantly derived from Mercedes brands. The unique features of the Mercedes are made possible due to the way the parts of the vehicles are developed and assembled to meet customer expectations. This is also based on particular knowledge or discovery made by manufacturers that delight it customers and makes the usage of Mercedes top-class and very different.

The last point the scholarly literature raised was the fact that, the brand ‘allows a firm to communicate consistently and efficiently with the market’. Producers could only get the attention and sustain the interest of buyers once they keep up with the brand standards. As consumers use the product, they daily communicate with the brand and can tell when the brand qualities are going down.

Producers must therefore have a channel of communication through which consumers can lodge their complaints and observations about the performance of the brand in the market. The channel through which communication goes should be clear and concise, easy to read and reach. This opens up conversation between customers and producers, creates flexibility and strengthens mutual relationship to the good of the two parties now and the future.

The Writer is a Marketing Specialist with a Degree in International Marketing 

Email: [email protected]  

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