Product Vs. Service Branding

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I’ve said before that “a brand is an empty vessel into which we pour meaning,” but that isn’t exactly correct. If a product, the brand is not an empty vessel, it’s a thing – a thing to which we “attach meaning.” A bottle of water is a bottle of water. We expect it to be clear, tasteless, and priced reasonably. It bring meaning that marketers must work with when branding. The same can be said, somewhat, for a service. Though not a thing, it does come with prepackaged meaning: a lawyer provides legal service, physicians healthcare, etc.  Services can be branded but present a slightly different challenge.

My approach to brand development for both is the same. I work to understand at what ta product or service is great and what consumers want most.  This is the area in which I live as a brand planner. As a beyond the dashboard planner I may think delve into what the customer doesn’t know s/he needs (but will need)…and dial that up a bit.

Where a service differs from a product is often in process. For a healthcare system a brand plank might be about “sharing.” For a website, maybe “community.”  Services, though they may not have a visual or taste appeal, can open up exciting new ground based on the simple fact that employees who deliver the service, who affect the experience, become part of the strategy. Done well, with a tight plan, that can be very meaningful. And very appealing.

Product brands live in your hand and your mind. Service brands only in the mind. But that’s a powerful place to be. Peace.