What is Brand Identity? Elements, Prism, Identity Management

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  • Post last modified:05/01/2023
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An individual in this world has his own identity. Likewise a brand also has its identity. It consists of brand associations. Brand identity creates a bond between the customer and the brand. The bond is based on value creation.

What is Brand Identity?

A brand is associated with a product. It has also an organizational association. The brand has a personality. The brand is also a symbol. Collectively, they constitute the brand identity.

Brand identity has two dimensions structurally an inner core identity and an extended identity. Though the brand image is a matter of perception on the part of consumers and does so help in creating brand identity, the brand identity goes much further.

The brand is not just a consumer’s viewpoint identity. It reflects the essence of a brand and its futurity. It has strategic intent. Brand identity is much more comprehensive than brand positioning which communicates to the consumer the relevant values of the brand to distinguish it from competing brands.


Brand Vs Product

A product is anything that may satisfy a want or need. It includes physical objects, services, persons, places, organizations and ideas. Consider a cell phone. It is a product. It has physical attributes of sound clarity, a dialing system, name and number storing capacity, charging capacity and other extra features.

Consider the Nokia mobile. It is all these physical attributes plus the feeling of comfortableness and worthiness. A brand is much more than a product. It includes not only the characteristics of products but also:

  • Country of origin

  • Corporate association

  • Brand users

  • Brand-customer relationship

  • Emotional benefits

  • Self expressive benefits

  • Symbols

  • Brand personality

Brand Identity Elements

Brand identity can be anchored to four elements. These are:

  1. Brand as a product

  2. Brand as an organization

  3. Brand as a person

  4. Brand as a symbol

These have been tabulated here.

PerspectiveDimensionRemarks
Brand as productProduct class AssociationBrand name evokes the name of product class, e.g. quality and ice-cream.
AttributesExtra or additional benefits are emphasized, e.g. Gillette Sensor which glides smoothly over the contours of the face.
QualityA quality-price relationship is kept in mind.
Use occasionFace creams for oily skin and dry skin.
UsersJohnson and Johnson products for babies.
Country or regionIt lends credibility to the brand. A wristwatch from Switzerland is accepted.
OrganizationOrganizational attributesTata stands for quality.
Brand as PersonalityBrand as a personIt enriches a brand and makes it more exciting. A brand can be friendly, funny, youthful, casual, formal, active, competent and intellectual. (e.g. Boomer, Passion)

Vehicle to express the personality of the user.

Basis for the relationship between the brand and the customer.

Contributes to functional benefits.

MRF muscle man suggests MRF tyres are strong.
SymbolVisual imageryCoca-cola’s classic bottle, red cap for pet bottles.
MetaphorCupped hands in the LIC logo show security.

Two Dimensions of Brand Identity

Brand identity has two dimensions-core identities and extended identity. Both of these have the product, organizational, personality and symbolic perspectives. It does not mean that a brand should reflect all these perspectives.

Core Identity

It is the essence of a brand. Lux is a soap for complexion-a beauty soap. It is its core identity. Core identity represents the soul of the brand and the fundamental values and beliefs that back it up. Core identity may draw its sustenance from an organization that stands for certain values.

Extended Identity

Core identity is not enough to describe a brand. Elements of extended identity make for the complete description. Elements of marketing programs which have a bearing on brand identity are included in extended identity.

The concept of brand identity is illustrated by taking two examples.

Core Identity: Oral freshness which allows young people to come closer to each other.

Extended Identity: Quality product from Lever.
Mouth wash is combined with a gel paste.

Value Proposition: Functionally, it is a sweet gel: having bright colors. It not only cleanses but freshens the mouth. A product that makes you confident in social interactions.


Brand Identity for Maruti Car

Maruti’s core identity is that it is a small, economical, fuel-efficient car with proven technology. Its extended identity includes its largest market share and availability of cars for everyone.

Its proven Japanese technology adapted to Indian conditions is also an important element of extended identity.


Brand Identity Prism

Brand identity has six key elements. The first two elements are brand physique and brand personality. Next comes brand relationship. The fourth element is the projection of the target audience of what it wants to be. The fifth is the self-image which tries to be consistent with that of the target audience.

The sixth is the brand culture which decides the communication package and the kind of products which constitute a brand portfolio.

Jean-Noel Kapferer has put forward a hexagonal theory of brand identity which he calls a PRISM consisting of physique, personality, culture, relationship, reflection and self-image. There are internalization and externalization elements and the picture of the sender and the picture of the recipient. The three internalization elements are personality, culture, and self-image.

The three externalization elements are physique, relationship and reflection. A product becomes a brand not by just putting a name on it. Nike was not born as a brand. It was just a name put on a pair of shoes. When these shoes were used, people realized that they make a fashion statement, and are fun to wear. Nike then becomes a brand by acquiring an identity.

As the customer needs to keep on changing, the change must be assessed. The prism should always remain consistent with the changing market. The change looks like a growth cylinder for a single-brand company.


Brand Identity Prism for Nokia Cellular Phone

Dimensions of Brand Prism

The following table illustrates the dimensions of the brand prism:

DimensionRemarks
PhysiquePhysical attributes
PersonalityHuman traits attributed to a brand. E.g. a friendly car
Rites, ritual, values
CultureBonding created by a brand. A product does not create a bond.
RelationshipImage of its buyers.
ReflectionReflected image of its target audience in communications. It is
outward façade of the target audience
Self-imageHow a customer perceives himself in relation to the brand? It is
inward façade of the target audience.

After establishing a brand identity, a brand can be built up through marketing activities such as sales promotion activities, advertising and public relation. All these lead to the consolidation of brand identity ahead of the brand building making it more effective and focused.


Factors Influencing Identity

  • Loyalty of customers: Loyalty of customers is an indication of how good the identity is. Low loyalty points to the need for developing an attractive identity.

  • Updation: Outdated identity did not match with the present times calls for updation of identity.

  • Consistency: The brand identity should be consistent all over the world. If it is not consistent all over the world proper brand identity management is needed.

  • New products: If the company introduces new products or services in addition to the existing ones it requires identity management.

  • Competitor’s Identity: Competitor’s identity does affect our own identity.

  • Customer profile: If there is any change in the need, behavior, and life style of consumers the brand identity should also be updated according to the consumer’s expectations.

  • New markets: When a company enters new markets, it must review its existing identity.

Identity Management Vs Brand Management

Brand management is concerned with taking tactical decisions for individual brands such as pricing, promotion and advertising. It is less concerned with long-term decisions on strategic aspects of a brand’s survival such as brand identity and brand image. Brand management leaves aside inter-brand identities and corporate identities.

Because of the narrow focus on brand management companies have moved to category management.


Identity Management

According to Schmitt and Simonson, the following tasks are performed while managing identity.

Managing Expressions

An organization plans its expressions in such a way that produces the desired customer impressions. The key expressions consist of levels of analysis (properties, products, presentation and publications), the structure of the organization, internal characteristics of the firm, breadth of image management and the choice between consistency and variety.

An organization may have monolithic identities often of divisions of closely related business. Branded identities have noticeable brand identities, e.g. packaged goods industry. Endorsed identities are combinations of monolithic and branded identities.

An organization has to express its mission. Similarly, a brand has to express its character. The private self of the brand is its character. There should be harmonization between the private face of the brand and the public face of the organization.

Managing Style

A style is a manner of expression. It has a distinct quality or form. The style gives distinction. It creates brand awareness. It encourages associations. It enables the categorization of products. The primary elements of style are sight, sound, touch and taste.

The various element is combined to make an aesthetic style of the brand.

Theme Management

Themes refer to the content, meaning and projected image of identity. Themes can be expressed through prototypical images of real and unreal people, e.g., the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Themes are repeated to get embedded in the consumer’s mind. Of course, themes must be adapted to keep them contemporary.

‘Always Coca-Cola’ can be adapted to any number of occasions. Themes can be used as a cluster of interrelated ideas. For example, Diwali celebrations. Themes can be sourced through the organization’s mission, its core capabilities, its legacy, it is corporate and brand personality and values.

In creating themes, customers are considered in firms of demography and psychography. Themes are also set keeping in mind the competition. The surrounding culture helps to identify the themes.

Themes are to be conveyed as corporate names or brand names, symbols, narratives, slogans and jingles, concepts and any combination of these.

Poison is a brand name that is magical and represents the dark side of human nature. Though alluring, it is dangerous at the same time. Singapore girl of Singapore Airlines is the symbolic representation of a theme. Disneyland’s characters tell a story. It is a narrative theme.

Music may be used as narrative content. E.g. Starbucks Maruti is a brand name built around concepts of strength, ability, and manoeurability associated with Hanuman. It is an apt them for a car. Each thematic expression has its merits and demerits. All these are considered before setting a theme. An organization can use a single theme or multiple themes. A company can vary themes for different target markets.


Brand Management Topics


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