One of the truths of modern business is that there is almost nothing that your competitors can’t duplicate in a matter of weeks or months. If you have a great idea, you can be certain that somebody will copy it before long. And not only will they follow your lead, but they may also be able to do a better job or sell the product or service at a lower price. The question then becomes, “What competitive edge do I have to offer that cannot be copied by anyone else?”
The answer? Your brand.
Creating a strong brand identity will build mind share — one of the strongest competitive advantages imaginable. As a result, customers will think of your business first when they think of your product category. For example, when you think of tissues, more likely than not, you think of the Kleenex brand. And when you’re looking for tape to wrap a present, Scotch is the brand that springs to mind. Likewise, when your child wants a hamburger, he will often say he wants to go to McDonald’s. The reason behind these strong brand-product associations is that these companies have built rock solid brand identities.
“A brand is the one thing that you can own that nobody can take away from you,” says Howard Kosgrove, vice principal of marketing at Lindsay, Stone and Briggs Advertising in Madison, Wis. “Everything else, they can steal. They can steal your trade secrets. Eventually, your patents will expire. Your physical plant will wear out. Technology will change. But your brand can go on and live. It creates a lasting value above and beyond all the other elements of your business.”
That value is often called brand equity, or the worth of the brand. Brand equity, unlike other abstract marketing notions, can be quantified. For instance, if you owned the Marlboro Company and wanted to sell it, you would begin to value the firm by looking at the assets tied to the Marlboro brand. You would then identify the cost of the factories, patents, trucks, machines and staff.” They are worth a small fraction of what you can sell that brand for,” says Kosgrove. “The value of that brand is huge compared to those actual physical assets.”
The importance and value of branding becomes apparent when an entrepreneur wants to sell his or her company or take it to Wall Street for a public offering or other infusion of capital. It is often the brand that a business owner has to sell in such cases.

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