Corporate Branding vs. Product Branding

Product branding is a well-known phenomenon in marketing. A brand is a promise to the customer that goes beyond the generic product, the technical and physical attributes. When selling a branded product the company promises that the consumer will achieve special qualities by using the product, different qualities than when using a similar non branded or different branded product. A typical message from the company is “when using this product you will be more attracted, become better looking and signal a higher social class“. By using the branded product the consumer can communicate his/her lifestyle or wanted lifestyle.

On the other side corporate branding refers to the practice of using a company’s name as a product brand name. It is an attempt to leverage corporate brand equity to create product brand recognition. It is a type of family branding or umbrella brand.

Martin Roll, author of Asian Brand Strategy : How Asia Builds Strong Brands has an interesting view on corporate branding:

Corporate branding employs the same methodology and toolbox used in product branding, but it also elevates the approach a step further into the board room, where additional issues around stakeholder relations (shareholders, media, competitors, governments and many others) can help the corporation benefit from a strong and well-managed corporate branding strategy. Not surprisingly, a strong and comprehensive corporate branding strategy requires a high level of personal attention and commitment from the CEO and the senior management to become fully effective and meet the objectives.

Among the advantages of a corporate branding strategy we can count:

  1. the corporate brand is the face of the business strategy, portraying what the corporation aims at doing and what it wants to be known for in the market place, is the overall umbrella for the corporations’ activities and encapsulates its vision, values, personality, positioning and image among many other dimensions.
  2. corporate branding strategy creates simplicity; it stands on top of the brand portfolio as the ultimate identifier of the corporation.
  3. a coporate branding strategy can drive some cost efficiencies that can often be achieved as opposed to a large multi-brand architecture where the corporate brand plays a smaller or insignificant role.

On the other side among main disadvantages of this strategy is that products may not be treated individually, which reduces the focus on the products’ unique characteristics or that the corporate name can become synonymous with a product category

Three different strategies can be approached for corporate branding:

Branded identity is when a company uses different brands for their products that function independent from each other and the company’s brand. The strength of this strategy is the flexibility. The company can build different brands in different marked segments and for different products. If a brand is involved in a scandal it will only damage that brand, and will not hurt the other brands of the company.

Endorsed brand identity is when an organisation has a group of products or companies that it endorses with a group name and a common identity. The strength of this approach lies in the relationship of the products/companies, they can benefit from the goodwill given to others with the same common identity.

Monolithic brand identity is when a company uses only one name and one visual style for all it products. The strength is the simplicity and the potential for growth. The weakness is that one happening; one scandal can cause severe damage even to big strong brands.

9 Components of Corporate Identity

Marcia Yudkin author of Internet Marketing for Less Than $500 Year and 6 Steps to Free Publicity has an interesting list of 9 components of small business identity:

1. Values.
Do you stand for stability, like Prudential insurance? Innovation, like 3M? Educational curiosity, like the Discovery Channel? Social consciousness, like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream?

2. Personality.
From the company’s personality can flow ad campaigns, kinds of special events to sponsor, company colors and typefaces, corporate gift selection, even the talent chosen to record company voice mail messages.

3. Behavior.
Your company’s image includes not only how you promote yourselves but also how you act toward customers and the public. Things like how you answer the phone, how you greet shoppers, how cheerfully you correct mistakes or accept returns, how aggressively you negotiate contracts all become bound up in one composite image.

4. Price.
How much you cost in comparison to competitors often becomes part of your image. If you’re tempted to keep price out of the equation until someone expresses a desire to buy, think twice.

5. Range.
Customers should understand the spectrum of products and services that you sell.

6. Geographical roots.
Where did your company come from? If you’re a locally owned family business competing with multinational giants, make sure people know that. If you’re selling nationally but rooted in a picturesque corner of the country, make hay out of that.

7. Longevity.
Moody and Regan, a printing company in Waltham, Massachusetts, wisely and impressively uses as its tag line, “Established 1898.” Whenever you’ve been around much longer than competitors, you can profitably incorporate that into your image.

8. Slogan.
Which brand “tastes good like a cigarette should”? Which car is “the ultimate driving machine”? Even local or specialized companies can achieve this kind of awareness with their clientele.

9. Benefits.
What do buyers get when they purchase from you? Most companies provide intangible, emotional benefits as well as tangible, practical ones (Burger King: inexpensive, satisfying meal; Boston Pops: a fun night out; Kodak: photos with true-to-life colors).

Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity and ten other books hailed for outstanding creativity. Find out more about her new discount naming company, Named At Last, which brainstorms new company names, new product names, tag lines and more for cost-conscious organizations, at

Trends in Product Branding

There are two trends in product branding, which may at first seem disconnected: the focus on product experiences, and the growth of corporate branding.

People increasingly see the product experience as a key driver of the brand relationship. The quality of the product experience is growing in importance after a couple of decades when some companies perhaps lost focus on product performance, particularly in developed markets. If true innovation is defined as product change that provides real solutions to real consumer issues, then it’s not unfair to suggest that some brands ignored this in favour of quick-fix brand extensions which lacked any longer-term impact

Surface innovation that fails to truly innovate or differentiate can have a short-term positive impact on profits. This may be enough for a new product manager under pressure to deliver, but it can turn off consumers in the medium term, as marketing becomes a surrogate for product innovation and stops being truly effective.

Consumers buy products, and for many the product experience is by far their most important touchpoint. It should be stressed that, although it has been over-emphasized on occasion, the so-called softer side of the brand remains an important component of the brand alchemy. Through a brand’s emotional story, the product experience is amplified and linked to the consumer’s imaginative life – it is all a matter of balance.

The second trend is the development of corporate brands, which have traditionally stayed ‘behind the scenes’. Procter & Gamble’s name is increasingly visible on many of its brands. Its main competitor Unilever also announced early last year that they would use their corporate name in customer-facing marketing activities. We could also mention Nestlé, Danone and many others, which have been historically keen to hide their wide range of branded products from consumers. Many reasons drive the decision to appear as one company under an ‘umbrella brand’. In part it is a response to a global marketplace, but the main factor is the need to rationalise marketing spend.

Many companies have developed multi-layered and extremely complex brand architectures over the years – some for historical reasons (like brand acquisitions), some possibly due to a lack of internal cohesion or communication. The trends toward corporate branding and an emphasis on the product allow us a different perspective on what brand architecture could and should look like. They imply a simplified brand structure in which the corporate brand would directly endorse a range of product brands, with all intermediate brand levels progressively disappearing. This would clarify the offers, put the product back at centre stage for consumers, and force companies to really define their corporate brand and related values.


Corporate Branding Key Concepts

Discussing about branding and corporate branding we meet a lot of different and sometimes confusing concepts, sometimes similar or sometimes very different, sometimes unanimously similar understood or sometimes generating controversy in terms of meaning.

Corporate Philosophy – the business mission and values espoused by the management board (or founder).

Corporate Personality – the sum total of the characteristics of the organisation or a distinct organisational culture, which reflects the organisations (or founders) distinct mission and philosophy

Corporate Image – consisting of two components; functional and emotional. Functional relates to tangible characteristics while the emotional component is associated with psychological dimensions that are manifested by feelings and attitudes towards a company. Or it can be described as a profile or sum of impressions and expectations of that organisation, built up in the minds of individuals who comprise its publics.

Corporate Identity – comes into being when there is a common ownership of an organisations philosophy which is manifest in a distinct corporate culture (the corporate personality). At its most profound, the public feel that they have ownership of the philosophy.

Corporate Reputation – a collective representation of a firm’s past actions and results that describes the firm’s ability to deliver valued outcomes to multiple stakeholders.

Corporate Associations – a generic label used for “all information about a organisation that a person holds, including perceptions, inferences, and beliefs about a organisation.

Read more about Corporate Branding and Corporate Identity – what are they ?


Employees Branding Guidelines

The brand-developing process centers on the messages the organization sends and the processing of those messages in its employees’psyches.

Employee branding is a process by which employees internalize the desired bran dimage and are motivated to project the image to customers and other organizational constituents. The messages employees take in and process influence

  • the extent to which they perceive their psychological contracts with the organization to be fulfilled
  • the degree to which they understand and are motivated to deliver the desired level of customer service

In so doing, they drive the formation of the employee brand. The messages employees receive must be aligned with the employees’organizational experiences if the psychological contract is to be upheld. Therefore, the conscious development of organizational messages is the fundamental building block in this process.

The messages must then be delivered through appropriate message sources.The following guidelines provide a starting point in this process:

  1. Organizational messages should be carefully thought out and planned in much the same way mission and vision statements are thought out and planned.
  2. The organizational messages should reflect the organization’s mission and values.
  3. Messages directed toward external constituencies must be in line with the messages sent to employees.
  4. Messages directed toward external constituencies should be sent internally as well.
  5. The design of recruitment and selection systems should incorporate messages that consistently and frequently reflect the brand and organizational image.
  6. The compensation system should incorporate messages that consistently and frequently reflect the brand and organizational image. For instance, managers in organizations that value training must be held accountable when they fail to train and develop their employees.
  7. Training and development systems should help managers and employees internalize their organization’s mission and values and help them understand how the mission and values pertain to their roles in their organization.This should enable them to more effectively articulate messages that consistently and frequently reflect the brand and organizational image.
  8. Advertising and public relations systems should communicate messages that consistently and frequently reflect the brand and organizational image.
  9. Managers should be taught the importance of communicating messages that are consistent with their organization’s mission,vision, policies, and practices.
  10. Performance management systems should address inconsistencies between practices and policies to minimize violations of employees’ psychological contracts.
  11. Accurate and specific job previews should be given to new employees so that realistic expectations are incorporated into their psychological contracts.
  12. Corporate culture (artifacts, patterns of behavior, management norms, values and beliefs, and assumptions) should reinforce the messages employees receive.
  13. Individual output should be measured and analyzed to determine if there are message-related problems at the departmental, divisional, or organizational levels.
  14. Individual messages should be continually examined for consistency with other messages.
  15. Message channels should be examined to ensure consistency of message delivery.
  16. In the event that messages need to be changed or psychological contracts altered, organizations must take careful steps in rewriting the messages.
  17. Measures should be used to assess outcomes such as customer retention, service quality, turnover, and employee satisfaction and performance

10 Steps For Successful Corporate Branding

For any company, branding is critically important it reflects and shapes relationships with its stakeholders customers, media, investors. Branding could mean the difference between success and failure. Just found an interesting article from author of author of Asian Brand Strategy: How Asia Builds Strong Brands, Martin Roll presenting 10 crucial steps for succesful corporate branding strategy:

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Seven Types of Branding

Building strong and lasting relationships with customers and the communities in which the businesses reside as well as with their own employees seems to be (or should be) the focus of many companies.

Just as there are many branding techniques, there are also many different uses for branding. Here are the seven common types of branding.

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Corporate Branding

One of the questions that many companies grapple with is which level of branding they should use. The main choices are:

Corporate branding

Corporate branding is where the corporate name is the brand, and here the products tend to be described more in alpha numeric or letter terms, and not have distinctive brand names. Such is the case with BMW. Corporate branding gives each product the strength of the corporate brand values and positioning, and saves a great deal on advertising and promotional spend. It builds up the strength of the corporate brand and its financial value. Corporate branding is very appropriate to those companies engaged in service industries, as their products are more intangible in nature. When consumers cannot see the product, the company brand name helps give them an assurance of quality, heritage, and authenticity.

Product branding

Product branding is where each individual product has its own brand name and resources. With this strategy, the company name is either totally or virtually absent. It gives each brand the opportunity to have unique values, personality, identity and positioning. As a consequence, this approach implies that every new product the company brings on to the market is a new brand, and can be positioned precisely for a specific market segment. Product branding makes it easier for the company to evaluate brand performance and worth, and makes for better resource allocation decisions. Moreover, if the product is a flop, or is involved in a marketing disaster, the bad news does not attach itself to the company name. Product branding is costly though, as advertising and promotion costs cannot be shared, and its success depends on the product itself having a sustainable competitive advantage and clear positioning in the marketplace.

House branding

House or endorsement branding uses both ideas, and the corporate name is placed alongside the product brand name. This allows the product brand to assume its own identity and positioning, but draw strength from the values of the corporate brand, and give consumers the assurance, in many cases related to quality, of the corporate brand. There are a variety of ways in which this can be achieved, with the corporate brand in lesser or greater prominence. House branding helps with the introduction of new products, where it can be very difficult to break into mature markets without the endorsement of a strong and credible corporate parental brand name. One possible disadvantage is where the product is not favourably received and causes damage to the parental brand name.