Elements of Branding
Brands are unique in many ways. Each brand has its position in the customer’s mind and delivers a set of values perceived higher than those of other competing brands. Looking at the fundamental nature of the learning of brand management, we introduce four key concepts as elements of branding, namely brand identity, brand image, brand position and brand equity.
You should understand the differences between these four terms and apply them to your business decision situations. We will discuss these terms from the brand communication perspective.
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The concept of brand identity helps in building brand equity. Aaker defines brand identity as a set of five categories of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand that add or subtract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and also to the firm’s customers.
These categories of brand assets include brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality, brand associations and other propriety assets such as patents, trademarks and channel relationships. These are a unique set of brand associations that represents what the brand stands for and what it promises to customers.
According to David Aaker, brand identity consists of twelve dimensions organised around four perspectives, viz. brand as products (product scope, product attribute, quality/value, uses, users, country of origin); brand as organisation (organisational attributes, local versus global); brand as person (brand personality, brand-customer relationship) and brand as symbol (visual imagery/metaphors and brand heritage).
David Aaker, holds that brands have core and extended identities. The core identity is the central, timeless essence of the brand, which is most likely to remain constant as the brand travels to new markets at different periods of time.
The core identity involves cohesive organisation of various brand identity elements into meaningful groups. The extended identity comes out of the secondary associations of the product.
Kepferer summarised brand identity as ‘though all things are possible when a brand is first created, after a time it acquires autonomy and its own meaning’. Starting as a nonsense word attached to a new product, year after year, it acquires a meaning, composed of memories of past emergent communications and products.
Brand identity is the configuration of words, ideas, and associations that form a consumer’s aggregate of a brand. The identity is a brand’s unique fingerprint that makes it one of a kind. The identity is the whole fabric of how a product or service is seen by its constituencies, the integrated composite of how it is perceived to perform.
That includes the strategy that dictates how it will be sold, the strategic personality that humanizes it, the way in which these two elements are blended, and all those tangible and intangible executional elements that ideally flow from their joining, such as brand name, logo, and graphic systems.
It is part of the brand equity that reaches outwards to offer benefits and makes it more attractive as an object of possible purchase.
It is the end result of the combination of brand personality and brand positioning and is played out in the product/service performance, the brand name, its logo, and graphic system, the brand’s marketing communication, and in all other ways in which the brand comes in contact with its customers. This facet of the brand is directed toward customers and prospects.
Like brand identity, every brand has got a distinct brand image in the customer’s mind. In simple words, what the customer perceives about the brand is called the brand image. A brand may aspire to communicate a lot through its brand communication strategy but what the customers receive and perceive as the brand is termed the brand image.
It is a combination of brand associations and brand personality. It includes a set of brand associations usually structured in a logical fashion. Consumers express them in the form of descriptive thoughts by using similes and metaphors.
In understanding brand image, it is important to see if consumers see themselves as a ‘fit’ for the brand and vice versa. As there is a high level of brand clutter, many brands enjoy similar kinds of images. Brands in the consideration set enjoy a greater degree of fitness with consumer perceptions.
Brand personality helps in defining the personality of the brand as a combination of different traits that people tend to associate with human beings. For example, Horlicks is perceived as a great nourisher whereas Boost is perceived as an energy drink for the sportsman due to its typical positioning and celebrity endorsement.
The brand image of Amritanjan balm is that of an all-purpose balm whereas that of Vicks Vaporub is of a cold balm for children. Brand consumer fits are well planned by the brand manager, which helps in developing a strong brand image in the consumer’s mind. Brand personality determines whether the brand and the audience are made for each other or not.
Psychologically, the audience tries to build up some comparison and conclusion between its own personality and that of the brand. If there is a greater fit, there is likely to be a greater belief in the claim of the brand. A successful brand has a perfect fit between brand identity and brand image.
After the brand identity and value proposition decision is taken, which corroborates with the expected brand image, the brand manager’s task of implementing the branding strategy begins. He needs to establish communication objectives and plan the creative execution strategy.
The beginning of an execution strategy is the brand position statement. Brand position is that part of brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience which depicts the advantages of the brand over competitors.
Once the brand position decision is made, brand identity and value proposition can be translated into a suitable execution strategy in the form of an integrated advertising campaign.
There are three places to look at within the brand identity system, which help in identifying the brand positioning statement. These statements are the core identity of the brand, which explains the central, timeless essence of the brand.
The most unique and valuable aspects of the brand are often represented in the core identity. So brand position should include the core identity so that the brand communications do not stray away from the brand’s essence. A brand position can be based on the point of leverage, which may not necessarily be in the core identity. Sub-brands, features, or services can become a point of leveraging.
A customer-related benefit is part of the value proposition and forms a basis for brand-customer relationships. For example, the positioning statement of Titan as a ‘Tata Product’ explains the core identity in the form of a brand position statement whereas the brand positioning statement of DHL couriers explains the service component with ‘Nobody delivers like us’.
The BPL washing machine with fuzzy logic technology explains a higher value proposition compared to the other washing machines and serves as a positioning statement.
The extent to which a brand calls certain attributes of a product category to the mind of the consumer Marketing communication managers communicates various roles and statuses through their brand associations. As a marketer, they need to be aware of what kind of status symbol each of the products and services carries for the consumer.
In modern society, status comes from achievements, sources of income, and materialistic ownership of products and properties, whereas in oriental and traditional societies, consumers tend to get a status out of ascription and inheritance. Marketing managers develop favorable brand associations by linking their brands and products with meaningful status connotations in society.
This creative platform concentrates on an analogy or other relationships to convey its message. It often borrows interest from another, more exciting product or situation. Thrilling activities and scenes of marvel are used to associate with the product. The advertisements of Bajaj scooters and Thums Up show such kind of brand associations.
Fantasy is a special associative creative approach. The advertisements of MRF tires with unidentified associate brands not merely utilize a glamorous setting but also plays on the target market’s wildest dreams and hopes. This allows the audience to fantasize about themselves in the position of the famous, rich, and adventurous as shown in the advertisements.
Marketers are also interested in attracting not only brand users but also consistent users of the brand. The repetitive purchase patterns of brands are studied to classify customers into highly loyal, moderately loyal, switchers, disloyal, and fence-sitters. When the company is able to identify brand-loyal users, it can develop an appropriate marketing strategy to attract customers who are loyal to competing brands.
Therefore, it is possible to segment the market based on brand loyalty. Companies develop relationship-marketing programs to keep their loyal customers happy. Many companies have also started key account management programs to attract and keep their loyal customers. This is based on an assumption that the cost to serve loyal customers is lesser than to make new customers.
The marketing manager focuses on creating brand loyalty and brand preferences at the maturity stage. Advertising usually lays emphasis on brands. This emphasis makes the consumer a slave of a particular brand. Therefore, the existing large producers tend to block new competitors from entering the market, by creating a high degree of brand loyalty through advertising.
Researchers in this area of consumer behavior have tried to study demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables of consumers to study the deal proneness to find any correlation. Consumers, who are brand loyal, generally may not qualify as deal prone.
However, if the deal happens to be on some preferred brand (low-involvement product category), they may avail of this opportunity and buy more than their immediate requirement.
In fact, many producers in an attempt to reward the brand loyalty of the consumer announce promotions on such brands. An important question arises, is it the trait of the deal proneness of the consumers that leads to brand switching, or is it the sales promotion that makes consumers deal-prone? It seems that the price sensitivity of consumers has a strong relationship with deal proneness.
Other factors that perhaps may influence consumers in becoming deal prone are education and the level of income. The research conducted so far has provided strong support to the view that the characteristic of deal proneness does exist in consumers for many product categories. However, the findings so far do not reveal who are those consumers that possess the trait of being deal prone.