What is brand development?

Brand development involves a series of activities designed to improve consumer perception of your brand.

Successful brands do not happen by chance.

These brands are carefully developed over time. Even with success, companies continue to manage and nurture their brands to ensure that they remain successful in the face of competition. You need to adopt the right strategy for your company to develop and enhance your brand. Proper brand development can help customers identify your brand and create positive feelings towards your brand.

There are many activities that your company can embark on to develop your brand. You can run an advertisement campaign, create a website, print corporate materials or develop a more professional approach to building relationships. Remember that you need to manage consumer perceptions while communicating your brand. There must be consistency in the delivery of your brand message to create a holistic consumer experience. You need to constantly drive the message across to consumers that you are better than your competitors so that they can identify you, associate with you and remember you.

Case Study

Moving with the Times
In its earlier days, Coca-cola was a strong believer of the 3As brand development strategy – Affordability, Availability and Acceptability. The strategy worked well for them, making Coca-cola one of the most recognisable consumer brands. However with changes in consumer mindset and increased competition, Coca-cola found the need to refocus its brand development strategy on the 3Ps – Price Value, Preference and Pervasive Penetration. Today, Coca-cola remains a global leader in the beverage industry.

A strong brand is important to you.

It can influence consumer behaviour, win loyalty and commitment from your customers and help overcome any shortfall that your products may have. A successful brand can even be sold as a source of revenue.

Why do you need to build a strong brand?

A strong brand is important to consumers.

It helps them save time in searching and choosing products. If they recognise your brand and have had a previous good experience with your brand, they may choose to purchase your product without looking further.

Your brand may serve as an assurance of quality and reliability and reduce any risks consumers may perceive in buying a product. For example, when Apple launched the iPhone with no track record in telecommunication, consumers trusted the Apple brand and believed that they would be able to deliver the same quality they had experienced in the iPod.

Trust in the brand plays an even bigger role in the purchase of an industrial product, as the value and risk involved are much higher. A plant manager would not risk his company’s reputation or his own by buying equipment and parts from a company that he does not trust.

Your brand may also reflect consumers’ personal values. They may identify with your brand and connect with it. For example, the Body Shop is a popular brand amongst consumers who are concerned about environmental and social issues because the brand represents values they personally hold.

What are perceived risks?

Perceived risk is the level of risk a consumer perceives when they purchase a product. Negative perceptions and uncertainty are then created, whether or not this risk is factual.

A strong brand can help eliminate or diminish these perceived risks. The six types of perceived risks are as follows:

  • Functional risk is the possibility of a product not performing according to expectation.
  • Physical risk is the possibility of a product having safety issues or posing a threat to the physical well-being or health of the consumer or others.
  • Financial risk is the possibility of the perceived value of a product being lower than what the consumer paid for.
  • Social risk is the possibility of a product causing embarrassment to the consumer, especially among friends and family.
  • Psychological risk is the possibility of a product affecting the mental well-being of the consumer and disrupting his “peace of mind”.
  • Time risk is the possibility of a product causing time to be wasted or opportunities to be lost by failing to perform.

Brand development in 6 steps

There are 6 basic steps in Brand Development


Step 1:
Brand positioning is about creating a position for your brand in the minds of consumers based on what you do best.

With successful brand positioning, consumers will be able to recall your brand and associate it with the set of values communicated in your brand message. Before you start to position your brand, think through the following questions:


First, you need to identify your potential customers. You will then be able to position your brand to attract the right group of people.

Next, you need to know who your competitors are. Identify the benefits they are offering consumers through their products. You can then benchmark, identify or create competitive advantage (see Creating Competitive Advantage) and develop superior offerings.

Lastly, make sure that the performance delivered by your products must at least match, or exceed, consumer perception of your brand.

The next few steps of brand development can be summarised into 3Cs – Communication, Confidence and Connection.

Communication addresses how your brand engages consumers, which is the fundamental aspect of brand building. This involves getting consumers to become aware of your brand’s existence, recognise it and know what product categories it covers.

Confidence addresses the cognitive aspects of your brand, where consumers trust your brand because of what it stands for.  Confidence can be established from past experience, feedback from trustworthy sources and what your brand conveys.

Connection addresses the affective aspects of your brand, where consumers become emotionally attached to your brand because of its image or associations. Connection can cause consumers to overlook cognitive aspects or reasoning and make buying decisions based on what they like or identify with. They may choose the product even if it may not be as good as others or if there are issues or defects.

Case Study

Connecting with Apple
When the highly anticipated iPhone 4 was released on 24 June 2010, hundreds of thousands of customers queued up to be one of the first to get their hands on one of them. In just 3 days, an estimated 1.7 million units were sold.

Subsequently, issues with the phone started to surface – ranging from reception issues to display discoloration on its fragile casing. However, demand for iPhone 4 remained strong and 3 million units were sold in just 3 weeks.

This shows that when a brand has built strong connection and trust with their customers, they are willing to overlook minor product defects and give the brand a chance to redeem itself.


Step 2:
When planning the communication of your brand to consumers, you need to address these questions.

  •          What is your brand value?

Let consumers know what your brand stands for. What are you passionate about? These values must be communicated strongly in your brand message, which must in turn be supported by the performance of your products and enhanced by your company's activities.

  •       What is your brand message?

Think about the attitudes and perceptions you want to elicit in consumers. Your brand message must be clearly and consistently delivered to achieve this. Do not confuse consumers by sending multiple or contradictory messages through word or action that will dilute what you want to convey. This may even result in a loss of confidence and connection with your brand.

  •       How do you gain brand recognition?

Consumers need to first understand what you do. Having a strong association to a certain product category reminds consumers of your brand when they need such a product. If your product belongs to a new product category or one that is not easily understood, gain credibility and become a leader in this category by educating consumers about it. If your brand does not explicitly say what you do, highlight this by incorporating a slogan or tagline. For example, Nokia uses “Connecting People” to tell people that they facilitate human communication, rather than just manufacture mobile phones. Increase the familiarity of your brand through repeated exposure.

Act on It

Your Brand Manual
Create your own brand manual for your employees to refer to. This will ensure that they will be able to deliver the brand message and apply your brand correctly and consistently.

Use the editable template provided: Develop a Brand Identity Manual


Step 3:
You need to build consumer confidence in your brand by performing consistently well.

The consumer’s assessment of your performance will determine the level of confidence he has in your brand. The actual performance of your products must reinforce your brand value and not contradict it. For example, if your brand stands for quality, make sure that consumers are able to see or at least perceive quality in your products. Always live up to your brand promise to create and maintain positive consumer perceptions.

What builds consumer confidence in your brand?

Product Reliability is the ability of your product to perform and maintain its functions consistently.

Product Durability is the ability of your product to withstand wear and tear and perform over a long time.

Product Serviceability is the degree to which the servicing or repair of your item can be done.

Service Effectiveness is the ability to serve the right customer at the right time in the right way.

Service Efficiency is the ability to serve customers effectively with minimal waiting time.

Empathy is the capability to identify with and relate to your customers’ feelings and needs.

Step 4:
You need to think about ways to build brand association, image and personality for consumers to connect with you.

  • Brand Association refers to anything that connects consumers to a brand. It can be developed through elements such as product attributes, imagery and personality. This is a vital component of consumers’ perception of your brand. Positive association encourages purchase while negative association will cause consumers to shun your brand even if they are aware of your existence.
  • Brand Image refers to the total impression created in the minds of consumers by a brand and all its functional and emotional associations. Your brand image needs to be favourable, strong and unique. One good way of creating a positive brand image is to contribute to society and conduct your business in a socially responsible manner. Be seen and heard favourably in the markets where you sell your products. All these will help to reinforce a positive perception of your company. See “Corporate Social Responsibility” in a later section.
  • Style and design are also important components in your brand image. You should pay attention to the aesthetic design and presentation of your brand to project an image that will appeal to consumers. However, they are effective only if they reflect and emphasise your brand values and differentiation.
  • Brand personality is the way a brand speaks and behaves. Human personality traits and characteristics are assigned to a brand to achieve differentiation. These characteristics are showcased through various brand communication channels.

Below are five main categories of brand personality that some companies have built their brand image on. As you go through the list, ask yourself what are the brands that come to mind.

  •  Sincerity  (Warmth, down-to-earth, honest, wholesome)
  • Excitement (Fun, daring, innovative, spirited, modern)
  • Competence (Security, reliable, intelligent, successful)
  • Sophistication (Exclusive, upper-class, charming)
  • Ruggedness (Tough, enduring, challenging)

One Minute Trigger

Brand Personality
After you have thought about the brands that come to mind for each category of brand personality, you can Google to find out which brands have been thought to fit these personalities.

For example, you may find:
Toyota, Hallmark, Coke
Pepsi, Porsche
Volvo, Hewlett-Packard
Lexus, Mercedes, Chanel
Timberland, Harley-Davidson

Step 5:
Internal branding is about communicating to your employees your brand promise and the attitude and behaviour expected from them to deliver on that promise.

  •       Understand your brand. Everyone in your organisation who is handling and communicating your brand must understand it well. They must be clear about what it means and what it represents so that they can communicate the brand accurately to your customers.
  •       Live up to your brand promise. Make sure you do not say one thing and do another. Delivering what you promised increases your customers’ trust and confidence in your brand.
  •       Support your brand. You must allocate sufficient resources to carry out regular brand building activities. Building a brand needs time and money so make sure you have the ability to give your brand the necessary attention to grow it.
  •       Be patient with the brand. Brand building takes time. Do not expect overnight success. It takes time to build trust and confidence in your brand.
  •       Manage your brand properly at all times. It is important to ensure consistency and be alert to internal or external factors that could detract you from your brand message. This ensures that your message is reinforced and that your customers will remember your brand in a positive way.

Your employees are in constant contact with your customers. Each and every employee is an ambassador for your company, your products and your brand. Motivated employees will be able to engage your customers in a more positive and effective manner compared to employees who are unhappy and disgruntled.

Case Study

Branding from the Inside Out
In Feb 2008, Starbucks closed its 7,100 shops across America for 3 hours to conduct staff training on brewing “the perfect coffee” and transforming customer experience. It reflected on Starbucks’ strong commitment in helping all 135,000 employees live the Starbucks brand and in equipping them to live up to the brand promise. This unwavering dedication to live up to their customers’ expectations is vital to Starbucks’ success.

Step 6: 
Once you have created brand awareness and positive association, the final step to building a successful brand is to establish brand loyalty.

With brand loyalty, you will benefit from your customers’ commitment to repeat purchases, reduced sensitivity to minor weaknesses, and customer retention. Recent research (Dawes, 2009) has found statistical evidence that loyal customers also tend to be less sensitive to price increases.

The following are some possible strategies to encourage brand loyalty.

  •       Increase customers’ perceived value of your product. You can showcase testimonials from satisfied customers.
  •       Satisfy your customers. You should surpass, or at least meet, your customers’ expectations.
  •       Build confidence in your brand. Perform well consistently to increase the level of consumer confidence.
  •       Gain your customers’ trust. Serve your customers’ needs first and sell later. Show them how your products can meet their needs or solve their problems to genuinely impress them.
  •       Engage your customers. After-sales communication is important and can be easily done via a phone call, an email or a postcard. Keep a database of your customers for future engagement.
  •       Give them a reason to return. Come up with reward or loyalty schemes for your customers.


Today a few great and charismatic brands run far ahead of the pack. These brands build on respect, but they also make crucial emotional connections. They are products, services or entities that inspire loyalty beyond reason - people love and fiercely protect them.

Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, calls them Lovemarks. You can Google his blog to find out more.

Case Study

The Tesco Clubcard
In the mid 1990s, Tesco held a distant second place in the British grocery market, trailing far behind Sainsbury’s. Then in 1995, Tesco launched a customer loyalty program – the Tesco’s Clubcard, which allowed customers to earn points to exchange for cash vouchers. It went on to become their distinct competitive edge. Within 5 years of the launch, sales increased by 50% and by the 10th year, Tesco had 10 million registered loyalty program users. Today, Tesco is the number one player in the market with its share doubling that of its closest competitor.

Engaging a brand consultancy

Engaging a brand consultancy could provide you with a useful external perspective.

Should you decide to engage a brand consultancy to help you in your brand development, it helps to understand what the job entails. There are multiple skills and competencies required to develop a brand, and consultancies could offer a range of these services. The basic ones  are listed below:


These are some of the questions you should ask to ensure that you are getting consultants who can meet your needs:

  •  What is the background of the team that will be working on my project?
  • What kinds of projects have they worked on before and for which companies?
  • Which part of the project were they involved in? (Refer to the above competencies)
  • What success of their client can be attributed to that project? (While this may not be quantifiable, they should be able to share the thinking behind it. You could also seek the opinion of the client)