Some of my latest posts have been regarding a brandologist, who has traveled back through time to study us "milennials" at the apex of marketing theory and thought. I've noticed, though, that I haven't really stopped to explain what I consider "brandology" to be.
Branding, as I usually define it, is the practice of managing the entire image of an entity and the whole experience of those who interact with it. In the business world, this would be your company's reputation, the relationships you have with your partners, and the overall experience of your customers. It is the practice of grabbing real estate in you customer's mind by building automatic, habitual associations between your product, service, or story and something your customer will come across on a regular basis.
The Starbucks logo is an easily recognizable beacon of hope to the weary coffee drinker running behind in the morning. The choice to pull in to a Starbucks on the way to work isn't so much a decision as a programmed behavior - the atmosphere is comforting, baristas are friendly and help you relax, and the actual product is of comparable quality every single time. When then experience of going to Starbucks is consistent and consistently understood, then the brand managers are doing their jobs.
Brandology is studying branding. It sounds simple, but really isn't. Branding is intuitive story telling, and you can get it wrong just as easily as you can get it right. Take "new Coke," for example. Coca Cola was well-recognized and popular, but the managers of the brand failed to realize this and, in attempts to actually strengthen their product offering, cost themselves their jobs and their company a great deal of respect by the public. There's just as much art in the practice of branding as there is science, and brandology is the study of that clever dance between intellectual finesse and deep down in your gut confidence.
Branding is one of the newest fields of marketing and, in my opinion, becoming one of (if not the) most important aspects of the discipline. In an era where the color of your product's packaging is less important than the minimum wage in your overseas factories, creating and delivering on a consistent brand story is increasingly important.
In the wake of sweat shop scandals for some of the largest apparel manufacturers in the market (::cough:: Nike ::cough::), the public opened their arms to new entrants like American Apparel, made in downtown Los Angeles. Their products are comparable in price with those manufactured abroad, though at the obvious expense of the bottom line. The company is going strong, though, bringing in customers who shop because of the domestic aspect of the brand, not the prices.
New Season's market is another great, albeit local example. While the store carries several national brands, most of its produce and a great deal of its packaged goods are products of local companies. People shop at New Seasons for the consistency of the "grown local" message and brand story.
Creating a brand is easy ... creating a successful brand is incredibly difficult and almost a matter of luck. One day soon, though, we "milennials" will figure out a pattern behind branding. Once that happens, creating a popular, marketable brand will be as formulaic as scripting a cable sitcom. Hopefully the ride from here to there will be more entertaining, though ... and the first one to get there will definitely hold an enviable spot in the market for quite a while.