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What is a brand and why is it important to know?

Everyone has an idea of what a brand is. But what really is a brand? And how it works?


By Marcelo Sapoznik, Professor of Brand Identity Design in the Graphic Design career University of Buenos Aires


Surely someone close to us has saved money to be able to buy a phone or a computer of a certain brand; think she is the best. Someone always buys the same brand of sneakers and sportswear; is the one he likes the most. Standing in front of the supermarket shelf, someone counts the coins: do you have the cheapest noodles or do you indulge in those others, which seem richer or give you more security? Most of our clothes have a brand. Most of the products have a brand. Accounting firms, radio programs, museums, science and technology organizations, film industry awards, everything has a brand.

We know all this; it is nothing new. But what really is a brand? How does it work? To what extent do brands affect our actions? Why do we want those sneakers, that phone? Continuing with the examples we know, someone can’t afford to buy a very expensive bag that they love and instead buy a very, very similar copy; why? Someone has the brand of car they like the most tattooed on their arm; what do you gain from it?

In 1970 the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard published the book The Consumer Society. Its myths, its structures, where it develops, among others, a fundamental idea to understand this case: “Needs do not produce consumption, consumption is what produces needs”. We tend to think that the world consumes one thing or another because it needs them, but Baudrillard will argue that it is the other way around: it is the consumer society that drives the production of needs. Because you have to sell, you have to generate a need. The same author goes on to say: «What there is the social production of a material of differences, of a code of meanings and status values, on which goods, objects and consumption practices are situated. » What do you mean by “difference material”? isn’t this added value that we seek to perceive in a product? Our goods and our consumption practices are the material of difference that defines and constitutes the social person that we represent. What really circulates, what is sold and what is bought, is this material of differences, which simply must be mounted on goods, objects and consumption practices, to allow its circulation.

The brand as a promise of added value.

Perceived value added is neither uniform nor universal. Every time we buy something, a system of values and beliefs is put into play. The added value that we perceive in things and that coincides with our search for personal values is what ends up conditioning most acts of consumption. Companies are very clear about this dynamic and that is why their brands condense some kind of symbolic value.

Relevance occurs insofar as the brand represents a promise that is effectively an added value for its customers. It has to matter to your audience. That is why it is usually based on a benefit, whether rational or emotional, that your products or services bring to your target audience. It is clear that not everyone cares about the same things and that is why many companies market very similar products under different brands that represent different promises and with which they can reach different customers.

The value-added promise also has to be consistent. Or it should be, to be credible and sustain over time. Most promises are untestable, it’s true. But they have to try to make sense of the reality of the organization.

Finally, a good value-add promise must be different from your competitors. As a Jewish proverb says: “If I am like you, who will be like me?” Let us not forget that.

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