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This site is currently under construction. We are, however, pleased to say that the SMU 102 Digital Copywriting Unit is now open. We've also added Marketing Principles and an Intro to Public Relations. Our Content Marketing Unit is currently in development.

SMU 101 - Session 03: Brands vs Products/Services

image representing brands are not products or services

Purpose/Aim of this session

In this session you will gain an understanding of the critical difference between a brand and a product and/or service. It is a session designed to address a fundamental stumbling block and misconception when it comes to branding.

Learning Aims for this session:

  • You will develop an understanding about the difference between brands/branding and products/services
  • You will explore what some of these differences are
  • You will develop an understanding of the relationship between your brand/branding and your product/service

Learning Outcomes for this session:

At the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • Define the difference between a brand/branding and a product/service
  • Identify the main elements of the symbiotic relationship between brands and products/services
  • Explain how brands connects a product or a service with consumers

How this Session Works:

  1. Read through the Overview that accompanies this session. This provides an overall context for the session.
  2. Work your way through the items on the Preparatory section that accompanies this session.
  3. Listen to the Lecture that accompanies this session.
  4. Work your way the branding scenario in the "Scenario" tab. The scenario is a practical exercise activity to develop your initial understanding of the branding concepts covered in this session.
  5. Work your way the template in the "Template" tab. The template will support you as you take the first steps in developing your understanding of your brand.
  6. You can browse through some carefully selected material in the "Reading Room" tab. These materials will build upon your initial Brand concepts.

SMU 101 Session 3 Study Activities

  • Preparatory Activities
  • Lecture
  • Scenarios
  • Template
  • Reading Room
  • Overview

The No Logo documentary video below, from Discovery & Documentary HD's  YouTube Channel, provides an excellent overview for this session. It covers how corporations moved away from just making products to creating branded identities people adopt in their lifestyles. It addresses the concept of globalization, documenting the positive and negative aspects of the process. It is a longer video than typically provided on our courses. However, it will add to your critical understanding of the difference between brands and products/services and will give you pause to think about how you develop your own branding strategies.

"Justin isn't in the shoe business. Justin is in the cowboy business." Need we say more? The video below perfectly illustrates how a brand can create an icon out of a product - something a product cannot do on its own. This video covers lifestyle branding at its most effective.

In the short video below, Coca Cola's European Marketing Director, George Bradt, explains how people buy brands not products. In the course of his discussion, he explains why New Coke was not as popular as the Old Coke. It succinctly addresses how branding crates a fundamental perception about a product through branding.

If you don't think something as simple as a pen can make a statement, then watch the short video below. Branding lifts the Mont Blanc pen from the utilitarian into something else entirely. It's more than a pen: it's a brand and a symbol. The voyage from a product to a brand, and, back to a product is discussed.

The last of our preparatory videos covers the psychological connections between consumers, brands and products. Consumer Psychologist and Associate Professor, Tiffany Barnett White, talks about some of the psychological components in the consumer-brand relationships. Her research addresses affective, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of these relationships, including self-brand attachments and the development and deterioration of consumer trust.

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Watch the video below, which will develop your understanding of what constitutes a brand.

Watch the video below, which delves more deeply into the concepts outlined in the video above. While the panel assembled by British Vogue is composed of some of the most innovative fashion design brands in Britain, and is design-centric, translate the points they make about design, branding and products to your own industry.

The Q&A session at the end is especially interesting.

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A scenario has been provided to prompt you to demonstrate your understanding of the concepts introduced in this session. It's an assignment designed for you to reflect on your own brand. This reflection will inform the answers you'll be providing on the Template that accompanies this session.

When you have completed answering the scenario questions, please go to the Template section for this session.

Brand Experience Scenarios for SMU101 Session 1 - Intro to Branding

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Before starting work on the template that has been provided for this session, please read the following short article:

Gunelius, S. Brand or Product – What Is the Difference?, ATYM.

The template below has been provided for you to reflect on your own brand, or a brand you manage for a client.

Working through it will help you initially identify:

  • What you feel the top five aspects of your brand are -what does your brand stand for (one word answers)
  • The five adjectives that best describe your brand
  • How do you demonstrate/illustrate your passion for your brand?
  • The five best things about our brand
  • The five worst or misunderstood things about your brand

If we can't be honest and transparent with ourselves about our own brands - how can we get our audiences to believe our stories?  Honesty and transparency are important factors in brand building and brand communication.

There are no right or wrong answers for this activity: only honest and truthful answers...and those that aren't.

Keep this activity in a safe place. If you prefer to print it and complete it, keep your completed printout in a file or folder. If you complete it electronically, keep it in a specific directory on whatever device you'll be using regularly throughout this course. We'll be asking you to return to this template at the end of the course to complete it.  We can almost guarantee that you will change roughly 50% of your answers when you return to complete it.

Identifying your Basic Branding Elements Template

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The Reading Room for this session provides carefully selected resources for you to further explore the basic components of brands. The reading for this session delves much more deeply into the concepts of brand congruence and continuity.

While this reading will develop a deeper understanding of the concepts covered in this session, it is not mandatory.

Gunelius, S. Brand or Product – What Is the Difference?, ATYM.

Hague, P. The Power Of Industrial Brands, Chapter 3: Brands, Brand Values, and Brand Image, B2B International.

Martisiute, S., Vilutyte, G., and Grundey, D. 2010. Product or Brand? How Interrelationship between Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty Work, European Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2010.

Rosen, K. 2012. Product marketing vs. brand marketing: Separate your product or separate your users?, Francis Moran & Associates.

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image for 'what is a brand?'

A product or service is a physical thing. A product or a service exists in the real world (even cloud-based operations require physical servers that occupy a physical space and require real people to ensure everything works ok). Branding, on the other hand, is an experience and a perception. And, as such, is intangible. Branding represents a product or a service - it is not the product or service itself.

A company's brand and its products or services have a symbiotic relationship.  In other words, it's a relationship where one affects the other.  Like any symbiotic relationship, the interaction between a brand and a product is a special one. Sometimes it's a beneficial interaction and relationship, sometimes it's harmful. This relationship is essential to a business because it provides a balance between a branding activity and the products/service it represents that can only be achieved by the two working together.

Amazing branding cannot overcome a bad product or service. Flipping the coin over, an amazing service or product can be undermined by bad branding.

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