In the business world companies or business, ventures create an edge over their competitors in the market, by making their products unique from similar products in the market. A brand is, therefore, a unique symbol, mark, or word that discerns a certain product and or company from similar ones in the market and especially their competitors. Brands are intangible assets aimed at creating a permanent impression of a product among its users, as well as building a good reputation in the market. Branding is quite essential in the marketing processes, and through regulatory authority, companies register (trademark) their product’s brands to provide legal protection.
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The industrial revolution and technological advancements in manufacturing and communication in the early 20th century have led to extensive usage of brands, especially in the mass-marketing of consumer goods and services. However, the wide-scale usage of brands has led to societal concern on their impacts and value on social welfare to all stakeholders in the society (Clifton & Simmons 2003). Lindermann (2007) argued that the explosive intrusion of mega brands globally was a reason for discontentment among consumer groups worldwide.
Social vices such as workers’ exploitations and monopolistic attributes were associated with the branding phenomenon in the society, more evidenced in the growing economies. Brands are also accused of heightening competition, which is the mother of all business crimes in society. Criticism and debates have been raging over the social value of brands to society, individuals in society, and brand owners.
Some of the underlying reasons for the increased societal concern over brands are discussed.
Concern on social responsibility
Society demands some social responsibility from brand owners. Issues like participation in social affairs are a value expected from brand owners. It’s a social value and expectation of the society, for a brand company to give back. Through this, the companies strengthen their grip on the societal trust in their brand products. As observed in the Economist Newspaper (2001), companies with brands in the market such as Disney and Cadbury were highly dedicated to utilizing their company profits into social affairs such as improving towns, schools and hospitals.
The social responsiveness of brand owners over social issues such as living standards in society is another concern. Noble (2004) maintains that brands should aim at providing opportunities to socialize, which will enhance people’s living standards and generally promote social good. Noble cited Diageo’s brand for helping the unemployed and the disadvantaged people in the society in finding relevant job opportunities as well as providing developing countries with safe drinking water. Brands have an impact on the social well-being of people in society. Brand companies globally are accountable for creating a third of the world’s wealth. Wealth among consumers consequentially leads to high levels of living standards and social well-being, in addition to the creation of employment opportunities.
Respect to consumers
Customers and consumers of a product demand that brand products or services be up to the expected standards as well as being well priced. A brand and its corporate company ought to practice its activities with due respect to society and its constituents. Respect to consumers is an issue increasingly on the debate forum, for many brands owners versus their activities to the stakeholders in the business field. Arrogance, hypocrisy, and mishandled public relations are some of the anti-social values which undermine the respect consumers deserve.
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The Economists Newspaper (2001) outlined the case of Coca cola’s contamination incident evidenced in Belgium, where its boss dismissed the incident as a disrespectful statement, “Where the fuck is Belgium?” Nike, a big brand company lost its social value to its consumers when it was associated with oppressive working conditions and low wages in its sweatshops in Asia. Disrespect to consumers by brands companies it’s an increasing social concern on the social welfare as well as social values to all the stakeholders.
Competition versus quality products
Competition of brands is a great issue of concern on how it is impacting the social values of consumers and the society at large. Competition should be fair between competing brands to impact positively on consumers and customers. Stiff competition should not be a reason for a company to offer low-quality products to people. Lindermann (2007) maintained that healthy competition among brands was the basis of continued product improvement and development; hence improvement in quality of the products which in turn led to increased investments in the automobile industry in the UK. An increase in competition between various brands should encompass ethical practices which should impact positively people’s social needs, and their practices should be embarked on social responsibility to the society.
Branding is a positive social phenomenon
Even though brands are sometimes associated with anti-social values such as worker’s exploitation and anti-social behaviors, the modern business world and society are predominantly characterized by positive attributes in branding. With increased consumer awareness of their rights and increased competition in the consumer market, brands are being used to positively give their companies an edge over their competitors. Companies are utilizing brands to build a good reputation in society.
Big brands no longer take their leading opportunities in the market for granted, as a slight blunder in concern with social values can create a total mistrust between the brand and the society constituents, hence its downfall. Brand companies are ever involved in social activities in society, to sustain their market share. It is therefore evident that branding is a positive social phenomenon in the current society.
Brands in the current business world and society impact more positively on social values. They should be encouraged for both economic and social benefits they are capable of offering to the society and its constituents Brand owners should be accountable to consumers and the society, in terms of the provision of quality products and ethical practices of their activities. Therefore, branding is a social phenomenon that accounts for more social good than evil and should be highly utilized.
‘Claims that consumers are being manipulated by big corporations and brands’, The Economist Newspaper, 2001, pg1.
Clifton, R & Simmons, J 2003, Brands and branding, Bloomberg Press, Princeton, NJ.
Lindermann, J 2007, The social value, British Brands. Web.
Noble J 2004, Are brands a force for good? British Brands Group. Web.