In the modern era, branding has extended to a broader range of areas including petrol, beer, perfumes and canned food products.

This “creep” in the 21st century now extends into services such as estate agents, attorneys and financial and medical service providers and on to political parties, football teams and performing artists.

Branding has also developed to the point where it includes a role for a manager of the marketing and communication techniques, or a consultancy arrangement. Both will use various tools, including media, to help differentiate a brand from its competitors, with the goal of creating a lasting impression in the minds of customers.

It is a very broad subject and cannot be covered effectively in this feature’s space. Suffice to it to say the process, in brand terms, offers a promise to customers as to what they can expect from the interaction, which may encompass emotional as well as functional benefits.

As the brand guru Walter Landor succinctly put it: “Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind”.

From a golf club’s perspective, the branding process, combined with effective packaging, often reduces price sensitivity, as the brand is associated with the experience and value rather than just the price.

Top golf courses in SA such as Fancourt and the Pearl Valley Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course at Val de Vie Estate, have cultivated their brand presences in the market with continuous marketing initiatives. These initiatives involve the effective packaging of their core golf product to offer an experience which offers great value to their customers.

Not many golf clubs have the mix of elements that make up Pearl Valley or Fancourt, but every club can and should find and develop its own unique identity and brand image.

For five years during the 1980s, I was the head professional and then director of golf at a golf club in KwaZulu-Natal. This club had no "championship credentials" to use in brand terms and I therefore set about reinforcing the club’s image as the best and most welcoming resort course in SA.

Extensive media exposure and initiatives such as the Gold Palm and Zambia Airways Pro-Ams and the Executive Golf Challenge were created to support this. All the subsequent reports and feedback showed that the objectives were achieved, which data was further supported in terms of the increased rounds’ numbers.

Eagle Canyon in Johannesburg also has no pretensions to being a “designer” golf course. However, the club has developed its own niche in the West Rand around offering very good value golf packages for individual golfers, groups and golf days.

In this process, it has also enhanced its reputation as an on-ramp for golf, with its excellent driving range, golf school and practice facilities.

As a final example, and while having no physical facility such as a club, The Collier Survey’s services are effectively the organisation’s brand and it makes great efforts to keep its brand reflected positively in front of its partners.

This is achieved by regular communications with all its partner golf clubs and involving itself in the promotion of environmental and governance concerns, and its role in these, at every suitable opportunity.

Many golf clubs have failed to realise the importance of building their brand image around their names, or have failed to capitalise on it effectively.

Continuing to make this basic error in marketing terms could prove very costly in the medium and longer term, especially as in the current economic environment as the market for players and new members will become increasingly competitive.

For those golf clubs lagging behind in this respect, the journey needs to start NOW and I shall leave the final words on the importance of a brand to Steve Forbes the editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine: “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business”.

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