Traveling abroad or leafing through a newspaper, we often notice that there are areas with high counts of brand copycats or pirating. This is where someone steals a known brand, reworks it ever-so-slightly, and then markets it to make a fast buck. This questionable and at times illegal practice draws jeers from many Western folks. They think: “Good grief, are these people so stupid to buy something that says ‘Nice’ instead of ‘Nike’ or ‘Abibas’ instead of ‘Adidas’? They must really be naive to fall for that nonsense.”
But the fatal error being made in this argument is that those that buy these “knock-offs” or even produce them are not that stupid at all—they are actually fairly clever. They understand the name value of these brands and what they represent to the consumer market. You can certainly argue the ethics and practices of this faux brand business, but it isn’t about stupidity at all.
For good or ill, brands have become an integral part of our lives and the brands we love succeeded due to hard work on the part of the company behind them. They wanted people to see what they had was more than just a product to be sold; owning the product showed the rest of the world something about the lifestyle and livelihood of the consumer and of the company behind the product. The companies that successfully branded their name created a unique world along with that great product.
Can just anyone do this? Sadly, no. The corporate identity development and branding of a company takes years to achieve and a bit of money, elbow grease, and perseverance. But that doesn’t make it impossible. If you want to develop your company into a recognizable brand, you just have to be ready to give it all you have.
Branding your business requires both visual and palpable material behind your product. Starting with the visual aspect, you should invest some time and effort in logo design and development if you want to create a brand. The sight of a bite in an apple or three stripes across a piece of clothing immediately identifies a company as a branded object. This is what you need to do; create a solid, simple logo that can be recognized by everyone. You may have to work a few images and combinations of colors to get this right, but once you have one in print, digital, cloth, and plastic form, you have a strong logo to represent the quality of your business. Applying this logo to everything from your web site design to poster and exhibit sign design will put this logo out into the public for people to begin to recognize.
All of your business-related material must have some sort of branding aspect as well. Creating specific graphic designs, illustrations, even cartoons and mascots helps with this. Since branding means lifestyle beyond the product, you have to work to make sure all of your material reflects your business in the most professional, positive light. Stan Lee, the boss behind the Marvel Comics empire, saw to this by creating fan clubs, newsletter and catalogue designs, and even flexi-disc recordings, all bearing representations of Spider-Man, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk. Or consider KISS, the rock and roll brainchild of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Everything from figurines to coffins to Visa credit cards bears their faces. None of this is musical, but with just a glance, it all conjures the chorus of “DetroitRockCity.” The key is to build a world around your products that turns consumers into almost elite club members of your products or services. That environment is what makes a brand special.
It may be true that we are oversaturated by brands in today’s ultra-competitive consumer world. But going back to the copycat artists, one has to remember that a brand signifies something more than just a material item bought at a plastic counter; it represents an entire lifestyle. If you want to create something that is more than just a product, you have to build a brand name that is recognizable and sticks with everyone. It takes time and work but it can lead to great things later.
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