ERMA's desk...: What’s the message behind branding?

Consumers like you determine the success of commercial branding. Companies work hard to integrate you with their brands.

Is it manipulation for profit? Are you a willing pawn in the game of profit?


Branding, commercial imaging, triggers emotional responses based on personal experience and subjective perception. One either is comforted by the image or one becomes anxious, depending on what one has read, heard or learned about the image. What thoughts come to mind when you walk through your neighborhood, and see the words “Neighborhood Watch?” “Safety” and “security?” It should be safety and it would be, if that promise is delivered.

The concept is related to ‘branding’ whereby familiarity with what lies behind the words or image is founded on experience. The child coming home from school, playing in the neighbourhood or visiting a friend’s house will be comforted by the “Neighbourhood Watch” message as they have learned the basis of the words is ‘safety.’ Likewise, a steeple on a building signals a place of worship, a church, behind which are thoughts of God. Again, the ideas of ‘safety” and ‘security’ are behind the structure.

However, if either of these symbols falls short of its promise, if either fails to deliver its reassurance of safety and security, they are guilty of not adhering to their promised standard.

If we pass a man, not knowing who he is, we likely continue what we are doing without any interruption. However, if this same man disappears into a room and then emerges wearing a clerical collar, our emotional response would change. More than likely we would greet him as a supportive member of the community, his garb conveying the message, “a minister of a church.” Perception may erroneously convey that he is a good man simply because he is a man of the cloth and past experience likely reinforces the concept that clerics mean safety and security. What a difference appearance and perception can make?

Men and women who wear a uniform are usually branded with the message of safety. Police in uniform are assumed to have knowledge and skills ensuring the protection and safety for their community. The uniform conveys the message that they serve and protect. Our response to message branding is dependent on past experience and it may be ambivalent, either positive or negative, depending on our past interaction with the police. Branding is like a trademark giving a significance or meaning as important as the name given to a new born. Our comfort or discomfort with the world around us is based on branding and its positivity or negativity is dependent on our personal experiences and past interactions.

Branding is pivotal to the success and its potential popularity stems from public familiarity and awareness of the brand. Value, popularity and acceptability are determined by personal experience. Many of us like a particular brand of coffee, so we look for the logo of our favorite beverage in places like Timothy’s, Tim Horton’s, Second Cup or Starbucks because we enjoyed our earlier experience. Branding may be equated with purpose.

Branding represents the desired image and intended goal of the individual, company, or the organization. Its intent is to create trust and increase brand loyalty based on delivering what is promised. Industries and businesses labelled as being service related invite a certain level of expectation. Their success depends on being faithful to their brand promises.

Successful branding often means companies will retain the same brand or logo though ownership may have changed. A reputable brand is not something a new owner will discard carelessly. Often the brand is retained for in hopes of guaranteeing future sales. Often the brand name or logo is included as part of the sale contract of the original company. There is an old adage “the fruit does not fall far from the tree”. Consumers expect continuity of the past connection between the brand and the product or service.


Keeping the brand at the forefront of the minds of consumers is paramount to the company’s success. Companies which have had long time success, spanning multiple generations, sometimes undertake studies or do surveys to better understand the mindset of subsequent client generations. Thus, the companies respond more effectively to the changing needs of each generation in relation to the product or service they provide. Understanding the wants and needs of the clientele may mean the difference between success or failure. Only the strong or shrewd survive.

Over the past years, advertising clarity has transformed so much that now often the message is so blurred that one is confused as to what the real messages is. Soap is soap, stick with the message. Confusion may impact negatively on sales.

Branding is crucial to any commercial endeavour. The responsibility of every employee is to ensure the continuity of the brand. The employees are responsible for fanning the flames of the business to affirm the viability of its brand. Along with the branding, the company aims for continued client satisfaction based on repetitive positive experiences. The ambiguity of accountability and fairness notwithstanding, the individual still determines the success of a familiar brand. Branding creates the stream from which client loyalty may flow but the success of the branding is still determined by the patron. Humans determine the final outcome of the brand. Branding may promise much but without delivery, failure is inevitable.

Branding with fulfilled promises is the accountability benchmark for any firm.


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