While it was not until the 19th century that the term "brand" had the connotation of meaning a commercial trademark, the idea of individual styles and types of merchandise have been around at least since the written record. For instance, there are ancient documents commenting on a certain type of wine, jewelry, dye, or clothing as far back as Egypt and Babylon. However, using the term to mark a specific type or image in the minds of consumers did not really become popular until the mid-20th century (Wheeler 2006).
Branding, then, is really information -- it is the sum of all the information about a product, service, or organization that is used to communicate a certain image or relationship to the consumer. It uses logos, visual clues, verbal messages, and is far more than a name: Coca-Cola is a brand because of the connotation of the name and what products, ancillary and otherwise, are offered, while Jones & Company is a name, but not a brand (Vaid 2006).
Within the subject of branding, however, there are four major myths that will help us understand our analysis of a single branding example:
Myth #1 -- Brands are built only through advertising. Instead of just advertising, as it may have been in the past, brands are now built through customer "experience," which can be intangible, but it the sum of all the customer's interactions with said company.
Myth #2 -- The purpose of the brand is primarily to influence the customer. Yes, brands are developed to influence purchasing, but also to build a larger mystique for employees, investors, and the general public, even if non-buying.
Myth #3 -- The key to an effective brand understands that brand in the contemporary marketplace. Instead of this rather outmoded view, the key to effective branding is to anticipate a brand's relevance to future purchasers (e.g. Zenith and Cadillac were great brands, are they now?) (Randall 2000).
Myth #4 -- Brands are symbols and imply emotions and should be managed by creativity rather than analysis. Yes, brands are emotional, but in order to accurately judge their position, it is important to analyze their performance with consistent benchmarks. Many companies get too caught up on the 'emotional side' of their brand, and neglect the quantitative side.
Myth #5 -- Branding is the responsibility of the marketing department. All departments in a company are crucial, but in the contemporary world, brand building and even retention are qualified more by delivering on the brand promise. This means that R&D, customer service, and most especially, design and production are key components to a more cynical consumer mindset (Almquist & Roberts 2009).
Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts evolved into a leading player in the luxury resort niche in Asia. As part of its strategic growth strategy, Banyan Tree launched new brands that included resorts, spas, retail facilities, and even culturally relevant museum shops. The company is desirous of continued growth, and believes with the new propensity towards globalism that it must manage its brand portfolio and expand its business organization while, at the same time, preserving the strong brand image and distinctive identity of the flagship brand, Banyan Tree (Wirtz 2011; The Banyan Tree Experience 2012).
Factors for Success
Banyan Tree's success is likely attributed to attention to the details of a well-designed tactical and strategic marketing plan with the focus and design of developing a brand over the long-term; a brand with significant cultural appeal. There have been several excellent external and internal avenues of success for the company that has allowed it to prosper within a competitive, but niche market. Too, globalism and the opening of numerous other markets combined with easier access to international tourist dollars results in continued success. Some of Banyan Tree's more successful choices have been:
Choice of target segment -- found gap in market
Positioning and branding strategy
Products and Services -- from design to delivery
Aggressive and focused internal marketing
Using local and regional access and groups (public and private) to expand brand
Taking the lead as the first mover (pioneer status)
Sustainable and ecologically sound business practices (McElhiney 2011)
Perhaps the most innovative move towards success came with the realization that there was a considerable pricing gap in the luxury resort nice. Middle class consumers (a growing demographic trend) must either save and stretch their budgets for top-of-the-line resorts or settle for resorts that cater to the masses, which tend to be more crowded and less exclusive. Banyan Tree found the gap within this niche and exploited it so that there is a memorable holiday experience that is relaxing, provides luxury services, is less crowded, and still has the exclusivity feel for many middle and upper-middle class travelers.
Brand Positioning and Communication Strategies
When first launched, Banyan Tree's service offerings were unique. However, the branding is not really set up to be a long-term competitive advantage because many organizations could copy merchandise, products, etc. However, by establishing the Banyan Tree service brand, and backing it up with exceptional service and follow-through, prevented some competitors from entering the market and allowed Banyan Tree to remain unique.
One particular strength for Banyan Tree has been the positioning of its services as a "sanctuary" for romantic get aways. Looking at the demographics and psychographics of the new middle class, Banyan Tree found that the hectic and stressful lifestyle of the up and coming also translated into a need for a calm, luxurious get away spot. By branding "romance and intimacy," certainly intangibles, Banyan Tree was able to deliver an experience and redevelop a clear and unique marketing position. The success of Banyan Tree, however, has been reinforced because the organization consistently delivers on the promise of clean facilities, exemplary service, unique dining and romantic experiences, and rooms designed to comfort and pamper its guest. For some companies, branding must be something tangible -- for Banyan Tree, it is the brand loyalty and emotional bond that created the success of the organization (Trip Advisor 2012).
Brand personality is a set of human characteristics associated with a particular brand -- the way the brand behaves if it were a human entity. For instance, we tend to see the Marlboro Man as masculine, the Virginia Slims woman as feminine; IBM as older and establishment, Apple as younger and hip; Coke conforms, Pepsi is for a new generation. Brand personalities, much like humans, are built overtime. It is important because it refers to the outcome of the consumer's total experience with the brand. Thus, in the consumer's mind, the brand personality merges over time to form an overall concept of what they might expect. McDonald's, Apple, Levis, Nike, etc. all have this emotional and ethereal feeling that transcends their current marketing message and becomes iconic. Brand equity, on the other hand, is vital strategically but extremely difficult to quantify. Brand equity is a totality of the marketing effects and outcomes that accrue over time. Done correctly, this allows a more premium view of the product, more loyalty, and as such, fiscal validity and recognition to where new launches, ancillary products and services, and brand extensions are far easier than without brand equity. The manner in which brand equity is build, however, is a combination of the consumer's views and the influence of the advertiser via sales promotion and consistency of message., recent research into the issue of impact on brand equity shows that there is indeed a relationship between brand personality, sales promotion, and the formation and actualization of brand equity in the minds of consumers (Insead - Knowledge 2011).
Aggregated, there appears to be a positive impact of brand personality and negative impact of sales promotion intensity (volume and number). It seems that when customers already view a brand personality as positive, they begin to become irritated by what they consider to be too much pressure, or push, to convince them of the efficacy of the brand. Using square path modeling, the research shows that there are a series of structural relationships that occur between brand personality and brand equity -- and that, at times, aggressive sales promotion tactics can actually have a negative (and undesired) effect upon the consumer's perception and indeed belief about the brand.. Thus, while one would think that continuous promoting of the brand within the media would have a continually evolving positive effect, it turns out that money spent on aggressive promotion may actually drive the consumer away from brand loyalty (Valette-Florence, Guizani & Merunka 2011).
For Banyan Tree, the brand portfolio is a combination of tacticle and emotional attributes. If we look at them as unique components of the brand, we find:
Location -- luxurious villas, native settings, pristine and comfortable accomodations provide guests with the idea of a unique "island" location.
Services -- Employees are trained to be warm, sincere, and respectful; employees learn to greet guest by their names, recognize preferences (mineral water, or drinks, timing of appetizers, wine, etc.); this is…