Practically every product on the market has a lot of competitors to beat. Using product branding, you can make your product stand out from the crowd—even when the features of other products are similar. Packaging, messaging, logo and colors: it can all seduce buyers to pick your product.
We’re often talking about the importance of branding—for your business—but doing it right means also putting thought into your product branding.
With the right approach, you can even successfully brand a standalone product, or make a single product the leading factor in your rebranding efforts.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the product branding basics, and make it practical. We’ll also give you some real-life examples of successful product branding to draw inspiration from.
What is product branding, and why is it important?
Think of your favorite product that you used this morning. Why is it your favorite? Why didn’t you buy its equivalent from another brand last time you were in the store?
Chances are, the price was similar. So was the smell, the ingredients, and other features. Then why did you automatically grab that one again, instead of taking a risk with the competitor?
Probably because that product, that brand, did a great job at product branding. It created a product that catches your eye, is easy to recognize, easy to connect with and ultimately builds customer loyalty.
That’s what all the world’s best products have in common: strong product branding, and loyal customers who like it enough to keep coming back.
Product branding is a crucial step to making your overall marketing strategy work. Think about this: you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating a stellar strategy and brand. You’ve considered every detail—you know what tone of voice to convey, what colors work…
But then when you create your product, you tone it down. For whatever reason: to fit in with the other products on the shelves, for instance; or to stay within budget.
But that could easily be one of the most expensive mistakes you’ll ever make, because it basically means your overall brand strategy goes to waste.
Product branding is the branding that directly falls in the hands of your particular market, so it could be considered one of the most important factors in branding and marketing.
Branded products always outperform products that play it safe—plus, people are willing to pay more for a product that comes with strong branding, that represents who they are and that they are willing to showcase in their home.
Because let’s face it: does a Smeg fridge really cool your kombucha better than any other pastel-y fridge without the letters S, M, E and G on it? No. But heck, does it look cool.
Not convinced yet? Let’s look at the stats:
It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand. Here’s why that means you should invest in product branding: people will probably not come to your website 5 to 7 times. You’ll need to showcase your brand where consumers are most likely to bump into it, and often that’s in stores—meaning your products will have to do the heavy lifting.
Presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%. Need we say more? In case we do: don’t forget that a store also counts as a platform. Make sure your products are as catchy as your TikToks and as well-thought-out as your Instagram posts, is what we’re saying.
Consistently using one color palette on your logo, products, digital content, and promotional material can drive your brand recognition up by as much as 80%. So if you have a funky pink-yellow color palette going on in your website, make sure your products match that.
40% of consumers will post photos on social media of products that come with unique branded packaging. And that goes way beyond Starbucks cups. Jewelry brands ship their goodies in almost unnecessarily pretty product packaging—but it gets shared loads, giving the brands a huge boost on social media through countless unboxing videos.
How corporate branding differs from product branding
You could see product branding as an extension of corporate branding. They have to be in line with each other. Product branding is where you make your corporate brand more tangible, touchable and can go all out with it.
Corporate branding basically lays the foundation for all the ways your brand will communicate with customers. Your product branding strategy dictates how it will specifically do that through your products.
You can take certain elements from your corporate branding and choose to highlight them in your product brand.
Do make sure these are the elements that are truly representative for your brand identity, that they are easy to recognize and that they make sense so showcase the product.
How to create a successful product branding strategy
It’s hard enough to create a great product that meets all your customers’ needs—it’s even harder to also create a product brand around that. But don’t panic: we’re here to help.
Successful brands all have their own checklist when creating a new product with its own product branding strategy, so make sure to make your own as well—but draw some inspiration from these tips below.
Have a strong vision in mind
Dare to stand out. Because isn’t that what a product branding strategy is for? There’s no point in creating a product branding strategy that will help you fit in. A well-formulated vision is an essential element for any recognizable brand.
Draw inspiration from Coca-Cola. When they were in the process of creating that iconic bottle we’ve all held in our hands, this was the brief:
Create a bottle that, when smashed on the floor into little shards, will still be recognized as the Coca-Cola bottle, even if you just saw one shard on its own.
Yes, that’s incredibly ambitious. Some product designers might even call it ridiculous or impossible—Coca-Cola’s probably did, until they set to work.
But look at where it brought Coca-Cola: 94% of the world’s population recognizes the brand. And a huge number of people buy and consume Coca-Cola products, knowing very well that it isn’t the healthiest addition to their diet.
Pay attention to your messaging and tone of voice
Got any Lush products in your bathroom? Go get one real quick and resist smelling it—but read the label instead.
Lush is a great example of how you can let a brand personality and brand voice shine through in product branding.
They’ve perfected a tone of voice and are showcasing it even—or especially—in the finest print on their product packaging.
Their product branding is also another place where they reinforce the company’s values, by explaining not only what the product is made of, but by who and when—showing that they are serious about doing things differently.
Other brands might focus on how the product makes you feel, or focus on the type of people they target in their advertising campaigns.
Lush, on the other hand, uses its products to communicate its mission and vision, and connects with people through loud and clear copy.
Make it recognizable by making it shareable
An important element of making product branding easy to recognize, is by making sure it spreads like wildfire. The perfect example? The Starbucks cups.
Hate ‘em or love ‘em, but Starbucks knew exactly what visual elements would help them create a product branding that people want to share.
We can’t think of a single brand that leveraged people’s need to share their lunch and drinks better than Starbucks did.
It’s visually appealing enough with its iconic logo, pretty neutral—making it fit into any Instagram post—and it comes with an element of personalization: your name (even when it’s misspelt) and the little hearts and smileys the baristas draw on the cups.
Cute and useless? We think not: it’s just another way they unleash valuable customer interactions.
Consistency is key
IKEA is not suddenly going to release premium products, or products with weird prints that don’t fit into any type of interior.
They’re the leaders of consistency in product branding, maintaining the low costs, affordability, quality and recognizable features in front of other visual elements.
IKEA is a distinctive brand in how it sticks to its company values and with that, builds an immense amount of trust with its customers.
Know your target audience
Did you know that Converse is owned by Nike? That’s right: since 2003 Nike is the parent company of the brand that sells shoes to virtually any teenager—and adults who have a certain vibe of coolness around them, you feel me?
Both brands come with a strong brand identity, but they are vastly different. Converse was made to dance in the mud during a festival. Nike is for people who wake up at 5.30am to go for a run.
Nike did their market research right and decided that if they wanted to acquire the business of the festival goers, they couldn’t simply make a new product line with new Nike shoes. Instead, they chose to give that specific target market its own brand and product’s identity.
Give your product a personality and backstory
Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good, red dress? Sure, there are countless options. But which one to get? The brand Laagam found a solution to that issue: make their dresses tell a story.
And boy, did they find a story for their version of the little red dress: make it the one that Rachel Green wore, in Friends. Who wouldn’t want to dress like that? Immediately it becomes more than just another red dress: it represents an era and an icon, and you’ve just got to have it.
5 Benefits of a great product branding strategy
We’ve already touched on some of the statistics that show you just how important a strong product branding is, but there are some things you can’t just express in numbers. Here are five more benefits of investing in a great product branding strategy.
1. Product branding helps you connect with customers
Let’s go back to Converse. We’re sure that Nike could have designed a shoe that some Allstar wearers could’ve been convinced to buy. But we all know how attached we can become to that one pair of dirty Converse. Sticking to the product’s brand was the best way to connect with customers.
The same goes for Apple users. Their target audience is not as much attached to the product itself, but more to what it represents. They become advocates for the brand and the product, because everything is just right.
2. Build loyalty to boost repeat purchases
What comes from customers who feel connected to a certain product? Repeat purchases!
With the right, fun product branding, people will buy from you over and over. You’ll be top of mind every time they need new shoes, a phone, shower gel or a cup of coffee when they’re in a new city. People like buying from the same company if they know the product is reliable and has its own identity.
3. Product branding contributes to overall brand awareness
There’s no point in creating a stellar brand and having an extensive branding process, and having bland products in store. Supercharge your branding by extending it to your products, to every last detail.
Your product is part of your marketing materials, and will therefore power up your branding efforts. Want to know how you’re doing on that? Use our brand tracker to find out how your branding is contributing to the success of your business.
4. Be the first brand customers recognize thanks to strong product branding
This is a benefit on its own. A strong product brand will stand out, both visually and emotionally. And in a store people usually go for the products they recognize, because nobody has time to go through all the other ‘new’ options and evaluate them. So, make sure your product packaging catches their eye before anything else does.
5. Protect your parent company with a separate product brand
Another reason Nike and Converse didn’t just become ‘one’, is because both have a strong product brand and by having a diverse line for both, they remain protected.
Giving a specific product line and target group its own brand helps you protect the parent business from potential flops and allows for plenty of experimentation.
If you’re looking to launch a particular product that speaks to a specific market you are not used to, consider creating a sub brand or even keep it completely separate.
This way, if your new brand speaks to different segments, you can go all out without doing any real harm to the company’s reputation or messing up its unique identity.
Get the results you want from product branding
Want to know if you’ve got your product branding strategy figured out, or if there are opportunities for improvement? Launch a brand positioning survey with a special focus on product branding strategies, to find out how individual products are influencing your brand image.
Product branding is how you brand a single product using recognizable elements such as a logo, colours and copy. It’s an extension of your corporate brand, which comes directly into the hands of consumers.
What are examples of product branding?
It’s where branding, messaging and packaging comes together. Think of the Starbucks coffee cups shared on social media, the Lush soaps that have quirky copy on them or Apple products that are perfectly aligned with the company’s vision.
How do you brand a product?
You start with a clear idea of your target group and interview customers. Then you look at what aspects of your company’s branding you can highlight in the product specifically, and double down on that, to create a stronger brand and a product everyone wants.
Senior Customer Research Manager
Nick joined Attest in 2021, with more than 10 years' experience in market research and consumer insights on both agency and brand sides. As part of the Customer Research Team team, Nick takes a hands-on role supporting customers uncover insights and opportunities for growth.