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Branding in the Age of Ubiquity

Water bottles

We live in an age where you can pop into Tesco for some bottled water to put on your dining table because you’ve someone fancy coming round – and be faced with four shelves of options, half an aisle long.

There’s your good old Ashbeck, Tesco’s own bottled-at-the-source offering. There’s Highland Spring in its nice pointy bottle. Oooh Perrier, of course – a classic. Voss, in its GLASS bottle that you could keep and take to the gym as an impractical aesthetic choice.

Mineral water, sparkling water, vitamin water, VAPOUR DISTILLED FROM SPRING WATER FOR A CLEAN, CRISP TASTE.

Ubiquity, my friend. We’re in the age of it.

No brand, no choice

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So, I’m faced with all these types of water. And your man on the street (your dad, basically) would say he just buys what he needs, none of that marketing nonsense – but he’d be lying to himself.

You see, there’s a bottle for the person who will Instagram it next to their #chia #smoothiebowl. There’s a bottle for the person who always feels sportier with an Evian. And there’s a bottle for the person who thinks they’re not susceptible to branding: the no-nonsense own brand.

We make these choices without thinking about it, to build up our own personal brand. Which sounds so whack but it’s true. Since the days when we were painting our faces with woad to denote which tribe we aligned with, we’ve been telling other people who we are with the choices we make.

If there is no branding, there absolutely cannot be this many kinds of water. It wouldn’t work. New kinds of the exact same water can only enter the market because we are ALL susceptible to branding.

Oliver Caporn

Branding is a power for good and evil

Branding can make people buy your product even if it sucks. That’s especially true in the water market, where a large share of the bottles contain filtered tap water – and sometimes not even filtered.

Harley Davidson sell expensive, rattling motorbikes to old men who should really be riding something quite a lot smoother, if at all.

Innocent sell expensive, sugary smoothies that rot your teeth and make you fat – to children and adults alike.

Apple sell expensive, unreliable devices to people who prioritise them over nearly any other must-have, like new school shoes for the kids.

Branding can convince people to ignore any bad stuff they hear about you – even if you deserve it. You’re their choice, you’re their SELF. It’s a morally awkward place to be. Unless you’re a shareholder, of course, in which case your bed of money will be far too comfy for you to lay awake at night, worrying about morals.

How to be a good brand

The best brands look good because they actually, honestly do good. A cool logo, packaging and Instagram account is just the wrapping for a product or service that should be great all by itself. Branding to reel ’em, quality to keep ’em.

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In other words, don’t invent a ‘new’ kind of water.

  1. Don’t launch new products without finding a gap in the market – relying on branding as a differentiator rather than a genuine USP is expensive and a bit gross.
  2. Make future branding decisions based on what your demographic wants and not just on what you reckon will fool people into spending more money.
  3. Be WORTH the money! Amazing branding but a crappy product won’t work for a small business.
  4. Reassess and adjust all the time. If it feels like how you started out isn’t quite right anymore, make an open and honest change.
  5. When overheads go up, question whether your brand has room in its reputation to pass that extra cost on to your customer. It could end up costing you more on balance.
  6. Ask your own guys if everything is cool. They will be the first to notice if customers aren’t happy or something’s broken.

When all’s said and done, the best way to stand out is to give the best bloomin’ service someone’s ever had. Make your brand about THAT.