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Retail / Brand


McDonald's, represented by the Golden Arches, is one of the world's most famous brands.In marketing, a brand is the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected with a product or service. A brand typically includes a name, logo, and other visual elements such as images or symbols. It also encompasses the set of expectations associated with a product or service which typicaly arise in the minds of people. Such people include employees of the brand owner, people involved with distribution, sale or supply of the product or service, and ultimate consumers.

In other contexts the term "brand" may be used where the legal term trademark is more appropriate.

Some marketers distinguish the psychological aspect of a brand from the experiential aspect. The experiential aspect consists of the sum of all points of contact with the brand and is known as the brand experience. The psychological aspect, sometimes refered to as the brand image, is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service.

Marketers seek to develop or "align" the expectations comprising the brand experience through branding, so that a brand carries the "promise" that a product or service has a certain quality or characteristic which make it special or unique. A brand image may be developed by attributing a "personality" to or associating an "image" with a product or service, whereby the personality or image is "branded" into the consciousness of consumers. A brand is therefore one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme, as it demonstrates what the brand owner is able to offer in the marketplace. The art of creating and maintaining a brand is called brand management.

A brand which is widely known in the marketplace acquires brand recognition. Where brand recognition builds up to a point where a brand enjoys a mass of positive sentiment in the marketplace, it is said to have achieved brand franchise.

Brand equity measures the total value of the brand to the brand owner, and reflects the extent of brand franchise. The term brand name is often used interchangeably with "brand", although it is more correctly used to specifically denote written or spoken linguistic elements of a brand. In this context a "brand name" constitutes a type of trademark, if the brand name exclusively identifies the brand owner as the commercial source of products or services. A brand owner may seek to protect proprietary rights in relation to a brand name through trademark registration.

The act of associating a product or service with a brand has become part of pop culture. Most products have some kind of brand identity, from common table salt to designer clothes. In non-commercial contexts, the marketing of entities which supply ideas or promises rather than product and services (eg. political parties or religious organizations) may also be known as "branding".

Consumers may look on branding as an important value added aspect of products or services, as it often serves to denote a certain attractive quality or characteristic. From the perspective of brand owners, branded products or services also command higher prices. Where two products resemble each other, but one of the products has no associated branding (such as a generic, stored-branded product), people may often select the more expensive branded product on the basis of the quality of the brand or the reputation of the brand owner.

Advertising spokespersons have also became part of some brands, for example: Mr. Whipple of Charmin toilet tissue and Tony the Tiger of Kellogg’s.


Brands in the field of marketing originated in the 19th century with the advent of packaged goods. Industrialization moved the production of many household items, such as soap, from local communities to centralized factories. These factories, generating mass-produced goods, needed to sell their products in a wider market, to a customer base familiar only with local goods. It quickly became apparent that a generic package of soap had difficulty competing with familiar, local products. The packaged goods manufacturers needed to convince the market that the public could place just as much trust in the non-local product.

Many brands of that era, such as Uncle Ben's rice and Kellogg's breakfast cereal furnish illustrations of the problem. The manufacturers wanted their products to appear and feel as familiar as the local farmers' produce. From there, with the help of advertising, manufacturers quickly learned to associate other kinds of brand values, such as youthfulness, fun or luxury, with their products. This kickstarted the practice we now know as "branding".

Examples of well known brand names
Business Week magazine publishes an annual "brand scorecard" of the top 100 most valuable brands worldwide. Some of the results from the 2001 survey, which contained 62 American, 30 European, and 6 Japanese brands, are listed below.

In this context, the meaning of "brand" is closely aligned with the meaning of "trademark".

United States

  1. Apple (computer)
  2. Boeing (aerospace)
  3. Coca-Cola (soft drink)
  4. Columbia Records (recorded sound—since 1988 owned by Sony)
  5. Ford Motor Company (automobiles)
  6. Hershey's (chocolate)
  7. McDonald's (fast food restaurant)
  8. Microsoft (software)
  9. The Gap (clothing)
  1. BP (petrol—UK)
  2. BMW (carmaker—Germany)
  3. BRIO (toys—Sweden)
  4. Cadbury (chocolate—UK)
  5. Ferrari (automobile—Italy)
  6. Ikea (furniture—Sweden)
  7. Lego (toys—Denmark)
  8. Mercedes-Benz (automobile—Germany)
  9. Nestlé (food—Switzerland)
  10. Nokia (mobile phones—Finland)
  11. SAP (software—Germany)
  12. Orangina (soft drink)
  13. Chanel (luxury apparel—France)
  1. Canon
  2. Honda
  3. National
  4. Nintendo
  5. Panasonic
  6. Sony
  7. Toyota
  8. Sega
  1. Myer (department store)
  2. Qantas (airline)
  3. Rip Curl (surf/clothing)
  4. Telstra (telecommunications)
  5. Woolworth's (store chain)

Criticisms of branding

Criticism has been leveled against the concept and implementation of brands, much of it associated with the "antiglobalization" movement. One of the better known criticisms of branding is found in Naomi Klein's book, No Logo. The book claims that corporations' brands serve as structures for corporations to hide behind, and that such global problems as sweatshop labor and environmental degradation have been permitted and exacerbated by branding.

Criticism of branding also comes from within corporations, with some employees becoming frustrated by being limited by overall brand strategies that restrict what they can say, how they say it, and what Pantone colour to say it in. Some shareholders also have concerns about the amount of money invested in branding.

Skepticism toward branding has also grown in parts of the marketing community since the end of the dotcom boom, though for a very different reason: in many ways, branding has failed to live up to its promise. Conventional branding sometimes operates on the assumption that a strong brand can substitute for actual differentiation – using extraneous imagery to manipulate consumers into paying a premium for a commodity product. In recent years, new approaches to marketing strategy have emerged, such as reason-based strategy [1], which emphasizes differentiation through a tangible reason to choose a company or product over the competition.

See also

  1. Advertising
  2. Brand management
  3. Employer branding
  4. Genericized trademark
  5. Kmart realism
  6. List of fictional brands
  7. List of most frequently mentioned brands in the Billboard Top 20
  8. Marketing
  9. Product management
  10. product
  11. New product development
  12. Trademark
  13. Store brand

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