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Product Branding 101: Examples, Advantages, and Strategy

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What is product branding? — Article header image shows a green hexagon, purple triangle, red circle, and a yellow square overlapping across the length and width of the graphic. Where they overlap the colors mix to form yellow (from green and purple) and blue (from yellow and red).


We’re exposed to product branding every day. From the coffee cup we’re handed at Starbucks to the toothpaste we choose from the shelves of grocery stores and the ads we see on our smartphones. Companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Starbucks have product branding that is so recognizable we take it as a normal part of our environment.

When you hone and execute your product branding strategy to this level, you get some serious advantages. One of them is that people recognize your product and buy it without having to qualify whether or not your product is good enough. Let’s take a closer look at the definition of product branding, learn about some of the advantages of getting it right, and take a look at some of the most successful product branding examples.

What is product branding?

Product branding is a strategic combination of design, messaging, and experience that uniquely identifies a product and sets it apart from other products in its category. It’s everything from the name of the product, to the visual design of the product, the materials it’s made from, the way it’s delivered, and the look and feel of the product packaging. 

Let’s take Apple for example. Their products are immediately recognizable thanks to their iconic logo, the design of the products themselves, and their sleek product packaging. They started developing this formula with home computers, nailed it down with the iPod, and perfected it with the iPhone. When you create a truly unique product brand and communicate it consistently, you get to enjoy a number of advantages.

Advantages of product branding

The many advantages that come from successful product branding start with people recognizing your product in a sea of other products. And at the highest level, your product becomes the symbolic representation for a whole category of products — e.g. iPhone and smartphones, Hershey’s and chocolate, Coca-Cola and soda. Here are some of the biggest advantages to getting your product branding right. 

    • Makes your product immediately recognizable. Customers can see your product anywhere and have buying confidence from the start. Think of Kraft Mac & Cheese or Campbell's Soup and how quickly you recognize those boxes on the shelves and know what you’re in for.

    • Develops overall brand awareness. Your product might create so much awareness in a category that it elevates your company’s brand to a new level. The Apple iPod is a great example of a brilliant product branding strategy that evolved a computer company into the tech leader we know today.

    • Sets your products apart from countless others. If your product is on store shelves or sold at many online retailers, you need a product brand that stands out. Think Hershey Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or M&M’s. On a shelf or website full of candies, you can immediately pick these out from the competition.

    • Create an emotional connection with customers. Coca-Cola in a glass bottle can easily trigger nostalgia and a strong emotional response in customers. This took generations to establish, but you can use today’s omnichannel customer experiences to create new kinds of emotional connections with your market.

    • Become known as the go-to product in a category. This is the ultimate goal for any product branding strategy. You want your product to be the one people think of when they think of a whole category — e.g. smartphones, electric cars, coffee.

These are advantages that every brand wants while only a few companies in the world have figured out how to accomplish them. 

Specific product branding examples

No two companies approach product branding the exact same way, but there are similarities to notice across successful brands. Simplicity, appeal to the senses, and a consistent product experience are all themes that show up again and again. Here are specific examples of how Coca-Cola, Apple, and Starbucks each focus on product branding.

Coca-Cola

Packages of Coca-Cola classic stacked on a shelf in a supermarket.
Image credit


Coca-Cola has been around for over 125 years and their focus on product branding is a key part to standing the test of time. A Coke product is made up of a few crucial brand elements — mainly the logo that uses a script font that hasn’t changed much in over a century, a color palette that revolves around shades of red, and a recognizable can or bottle.

Even though Coca-Cola has gone through a number of brand relaunches over the last century, they’ve kept the central brand formula the same. Their glass bottles are particularly recognizable because they’ve been around across generations of people. When you see that white script backed with red in the store or on a menu, you know you’ve found Coca-Cola.

Apple

iPhone in a box with the power cord and adaptor out of the box.
Image credit

The Apple iPhone, iPad, and Macbook are all products that own their category. Besides the high performance of the products themselves, their product branding helped each of them get to the top and stay there. From the visual design of each machine to the sleek product packaging, every detail of Apple’s product branding creates a unique experience for customers

The product branding strategy of the iPhone was so effective that almost every competitor has followed suit in product packaging design. You could write a master’s thesis on Apple branding but some of the main takeaways are to lean on simplicity, sensory experience, and letting the product speak for itself. 

 

Starbucks

Caucasian left hand holding a white Starbucks cup with a lid — presumably a hot drink — with an out of focus Starbucks logo in the background.
Image credit

You could be traveling through an airport in any country in the world and recognize the green Starbucks logo on a simple white cup. The experience at each store will be recognizable and you’ll know just how to order the right amount to keep you energized (tall, grande, or venti).

Starbucks combines a recognizable logo, reliable quality of coffee, and a familiar ordering experience anywhere in the world as the main elements of their product branding. You can be in Seoul, see someone walking by with a Starbucks cup, and know just where you’ll get your next cup of coffee to fuel a day of travel and meetings.

Create your product branding strategy today

Now that you know what product branding is, the advantages you can get from doing it right, and have some examples from the world’s leading brands, you can start to create your own strategy. In order to put your product branding strategy into action, you’ll need a powerful tool to manage all your brand’s digital assets. 

Creating and maintaining your product branding takes coordination, consistency, and lots of content. A digital asset management (DAM) solution helps support and scale your brand management efforts. Get in touch to see our DAM platform, the Widen Collective®, in action. 

 

Topics: e-commerce

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