Your Guide To Unforgettable Product Branding

Why does product branding matter? Let’s look at it this way. You may love Coca-Cola, Nike, or Apple. But you would probably not be able to remember the other brands that advertise in the same category as them nearly as easily. And this all comes down to product branding. 

Another drink may taste similar or even the same as Coca-Cola. Another brand may have the same style as Nike and another tech brand may offer great features like Apple but they just don’t see the same. As much as you could try to logically refute this, the compelling cases made by their marketing are hard to counter. 

Let’s focus on Coca-Cola in particular for a moment. It features a red and white script that is iconic and six ounce glass bottles that generate instant brand recall around the globe. These brand elements offer people a feeling of comfort and a sense of familiarity. Even though it’s a combination of sugar and water that has been carbonated. This is the result of great product branding. 

When you develop a product, you should also develop its brand. It’s not enough to rely on your overall brand to carry your products forward to success. For each of your products, identifying who it’s aimed at and how you want the world to see it will help you engage your customers better. And as you gain their feedback this understanding could in fact change how your product is made and how it works.

What exactly is product branding? 

Just like in the case of companies, individuals and organizations, individual products can have their own distinctive traits and characteristics too. And product branding allows people to differentiate between products. 

When it’s done right, it can help set products apart from those of competitors and even from your other products. For instance, if your company produces clothing for different age groups or genders you will want to differentiate them according to the audience that you are catering to. One of the most common ways of doing this is to use a particular color to signify which product is being represented.

To be successful with product branding you must ask yourself one very important question. How is your product different from the rest? And beyond this, why would customers decide to choose your product over alternatives. 

If the product that you offer does not have characteristics that will make it unique it will easily get passed up. But by building a positive reputation, focusing on great design and a story that resonates with your audience you can make your product the one to beat. 

Despite all belonging to PepsiCo, each of these products has a unique brand. Source: Top Employers Insitute

Product branding vs corporate branding 

Most of us are familiar with corporate branding but not always with product branding. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between these two types of branding.

General vs specific  

In corporate branding what you need is a general message. It needs to capture everything that your company stands for because the brand is company-wide. In the case of product branding, you’re looking at much more specific messaging. 

When it comes to product branding your goal is to highlight the value-adds of your product and help it stand out from others that are similar in the market. The product and not the overall company, need to be emphasized.

Branding across sectors 

When developing corporate branding you’re setting up your brand to represent it in a wide range of use cases and maybe even sectors. Your company may even offer products across many different sectors. With product branding, your marketing efforts will focus on just one sector at a time. If you have several products that you want to create product branding for, for many different sectors, you will need to run separate marketing campaigns for each of them. 

Short term vs. long term 

When you think about corporate branding, it’s the long game. Every tactic that you use should factor in the long-term growth of your brand. There’s a certain amount of consistency required in order for your audience to get used to and familiar with your brand. With product branding, the most important driver is keeping up with the market. Your product and your product branding need to reflect your audiences’ changing needs/desires. This means that product branding tends to be refreshed and revised much more often.

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Another example of product brands that are distinct from their corporate brand (Nestle). Source: Nestle

Product branding tips & best practices 

Now that you have a good understanding of what product branding is, let’s dive into some of the best practices. These ideas will help you figure out how to position your product most effectively. 

Do some legwork first 

Even before you start discussing concepts with your designers, take a step back. Remember that research always comes first. Some of the questions to consider at this stage are: 

  • Why are you selling your product? And why have you chosen the audience that you have? 
  • How can you connect with your customers on a deep and emotional level? 
  • What is the promise that your product delivers to your customers? And can it deliver as promised? 
  • How do people see your business and your product line right now?
  • How would you like people to see your product line and business in the future?

To get the most informative answers to these questions you need to go to the experts on your brand. Your team and customers and potential customers. Once you have their inputs you’ll be able to narrow down how you want to convey your product to your customers. 

Identify and analyze your competition and audience 

Your research should include analyzing your niche, your competitors and your audience. Think about what their strengths and weaknesses are and the branding tactics that they employ for their products. Look at the emotional triggers that they target and how the products that they offer are similar or different from your own. This will also help you get insight into the market and look at opportunities that may be open as well as the ones that you have missed. 

When analyzing your audience consider the following to create buyer personas:

  • Who are you making this product for? 
  • What are their preferences? 
  • How can the product that you offer help them improve their lives? 

When you’re thinking about your ideal customers, consider their educational and professional backgrounds, expectations, interests, pain points and needs. And remember the categories of individuals that you identify as your ideal buyers are the ones that you want to focus all your energy on. Do not try to appeal to everyone. If you do so, you will end up appealing to no one. 

Define your brand identity 

Before you can start on the narrative of the product and apply it into advertising campaigns or branding, you need to define your product’s brand identity. For this, you will need to evaluate the following. 

  • What is the purpose of your product? 
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are the core beliefs and values of this demographic? 
  • Are there any similar products in the market?
  • If so, what do people love and hate about them?
  • What will make your product stand out?
Be consistent 

Product branding requires consistency. This includes images, design quality, copy and messaging style. Think about taking the following steps so that you have a cohesive product branding strategy. This will also ensure that your many different products do not clash or compete with each other. 

  • Have a clear brand message that each and every product needs to deliver to your audience. 
  • Designate color palettes, fonts, imagery and elements for each product 
  • Create a style guide to help your designers understand your product branding
Select a color scheme 

One of the most important components of your product branding is picking the right colors. Before you design any of the marketing material for the product branding, pick a color palette that will help make your brand really shine. This will become a visual signal for all things that are connected to the brand as a whole. Use color psychology to tap into certain emotions and compel your audience to react in certain ways. 

Pick your fonts next 

It is not just about what you say, but also about how you say it. Your font choices can really make or break your copy and play two very powerful roles. First, they can help improve the readability of all your marketing material. Let’s say you are doing some product branding on your websites. Sans serif fonts would be the easiest on the eyes.

And speaking of easy on the eyes – try to choose fonts from the same family if you’re going to incorporate a few different styles. Secondly, the right font will help you maintain a unique product brand. And it can even become one of those signature elements that your customers associate your brand with.

Consider a product logo and tagline

We know what you are thinking. You already have a brand logo and tagline. And chances are they took a lot of time and effort to create. Fair enough. But your product branding could really benefit from having a unique logo and tagline. And this could simply be a variation of your existing brand logo and tagline. You just have to figure out a unique twist to add. 

Expand your product branding beyond your product

The purpose of product branding isn’t just to get your products to market and to help your audience recognize your product. It has a role to play in your interactions with your audience and building lasting relationships with them. Keeping this in mind, some ways to extend your product branding beyond your product are:

  • Supporting different causes and charities related to your product’s brand
  • Running promotions, contests and giveaways that highlight the benefits of your product for your customers
  • Collaborating with other brands to develop co-branded initiatives or even new products 
  • Maintaining a simple and hassle free refund policy

Product branding that missed the mark 

Just as there are great examples of product branding that are loved by their audiences, there are also many examples of product branding that failed. Let’s take a look at some of these: 

When colgate started getting into food

Colgate is known for their toothpaste. The product is synonymous with the brand. However, in 1982 they introduced Kitchen Entrees ( a line of frozen foods). The assumption was that the connection between maintaining dental hygiene and eating nutritious food should be understood by customers. And that Colgate’s product brand could extend to this new offering. We can see why that did not work. Who would want to eat anything with the name of a dental hygiene product on it?! The company saw a steep fall in their products after this failed attempt.

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Low calorie fries from Burger King

Many people who choose to eat fast food do so for a few reasons in particular. It’s cheap and it can make for great cheat meals or comfort food. They rarely look at the nutritional value of the food. That’s not why they’re ordering it! But Burger King overlooked these facts when they decided to compete with other low-calorie snack options. The product ultimately failed because customers did not know what the product was or why they should choose it. The name Satisfries definitely didn’t help. Most chains reportedly stopped selling the product after a short run.

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Try your hand at product branding 

Your product could be the best in the category but if its branding is lackluster then that just doesn’t matter. While you may land a couple of customers, the vast majority of those who could benefit from your product won’t even come across it. So give product branding a try. Build on your existing brand, or create something entirely unique. Whichever approach you take, it’ll help you build brand loyalty and generate a loyal following of customers.