Managing Brands Over Time

In recent years many changes have occurred in the marketing environment. These changes create challenges for managing brands. Changes in consumer behavior, competitive strategies, government regulations, or other aspects of the marketing environment can profoundly affect the fortunes of a brand.

Besides these external forces, the firm itself may engage in a variety of activities and changes in strategic focus or direction that may necessitate minor or major adjustments in the way that its brands are being marketed. So brand management needs proactive strategies to maintain brand equity.

Effective brand management requires taking a long-term view of marketing decisions. The brands can be managed over time by reinforcing the brand meaning, and by making adjustments to the marketing program to identify new sources of brand equity.

Reinforcing Brands

Brand equity is reinforced by marketing actions that consistently convey the meaning of the brand to consumers in terms of brand awareness and brand image. The important considerations concerning brand reinforcement are as follows:

Maintaining Brand Consistency

The most important consideration in reinforcing brands is the consistency of the marketing support that the brand receives, both in terms of the amount and nature of that support. Brand consistency is critical to maintaining the strength and favourability of brand associations.

Brands that receive inadequate support in terms of shrinking research and development and marketing communication budgets run the risk of becoming technologically disadvantaged.

Protecting Sources of Brand Equity

Although brands should always look for potentially powerful new sources of brand equity, a top priority should be given to preserve and defend those sources of existing brand equity. For example, Procter & Gamble made a minor change in the formulation of its Cascade automatic dishwashing detergent, primarily for cost-saving reasons.

As a result, the product was not quite as effective as it previously ad been under certain, water conditions. After discovering the fact, one of P&G’s chief competitors, Lever Brothers, began running comparative advertisements for its Sunlight brand featuring side-by-side glasses that claimed, “Sunlight Fights Spots Better than Cascade”.

Since the consumer benefit of “virtually spotless” is a key brand association and source of brand equity for Cascade, P&G reacted swiftly.

It immediately returned Cascade to its original formula and contacted Lever Brothers to inform that company of the change, effectively forcing it to stop running the new Sunlight ads on legal grounds. This episode clearly demonstrates that Procter & Gamble fiercely defends the equity of its brands.

Fortifying versus Leveraging

There are several different ways to raise brand awareness and create strong, favorable and unique brand associations in consumer memory to build customer-based brand equity. The advantage of creating a brand with a high level of awareness and a positive brand image is that many benefits may accrue to the firm in terms of cost savings and revenue opportunities. Marketing actions that attempt to leverage the equity of a brand in different ways may help to fortify the brand by enhancing its awareness and image.

Fine-Tuning the Supporting Marketing Programme

Reinforcing brand meaning may depend on the nature of the brand associations involved. Several specific considerations play an important role in reinforcing brand meaning in terms of product-related performance and non-product-related imagery associations, as follows:

  • Product-Related Performance Associations: The core associations of a brand are primarily product-relate performance attributes or benefits, innovation in product design, manufacturing, and merchandising is especially critical to enhancing brand equity.

    For example, after Timex watched brands such as Casio and Swatch gain significant market share by emphasizing digital technology and fashion in their watches, it made a number of innovative marketing changes.

    Within a short period of time, Timex introduced Indigo glow-in –the dark technology, showcased popular new models such as the Iron man in mass media advertising, and launched new Timex stores to showcase its products. These innovations in product design and merchandising have significantly revived the brand’s fortunes.

  • Non-Product-Related Imagery Associations: For brands whose core associations are primarily non-product-related attributes and symbolic or experiential benefits, relevance in user and usage imagery is critical. Because of their intangible nature, non-product-related associations may be potentially easier to change.

    In categories in which advertising plays a key role in building brand equity, imagery may be an important means of differentiation.

Revitalizing Brands

The changes in consumer tastes and preferences, the emergence of new competitors or new technology, or any new development in the marketing environment can potentially affect the fortunes of a brand. In virtually every product category, there are examples of once prominent and admired brands that have fallen on hard times or, in some cases, even completely disappeared.

A number of these brands are managed to make impressive comebacks in recent years as marketers have given a new life to their customer franchises. Examples: Brands such as Reader’s Digest, and Boston Market. Thus brands sometimes have had to return to their roots to recapture lost sources of equity.

Reversing a fading brand’s fortunes requires either lost sources of brand equity to be recaptured or new sources of brand equity to be identified and established.

Revitalization strategies involve a continuum, with pure “back to basics” at one end and pure “reinvention” at the other end.

Many revitalizations combine elements of both strategies. Customer-based brand equity framework provides guidance to refresh old sources of brand equity or create new sources of brand equity to achieve the expected positioning.

According to the model, two such approaches are possible:

  1. Expand the depth or breadth of brand awareness, or both, by improving consumer recall and recognition of the brand during purchase or consumption settings.

  2. Improve the strength, favourability, and uniqueness of brand associations making up the brand image. This approach may involve programs directed at existing or new brand associations.

Expanding Brand Awareness

One of the powerful ways to build brand equity is to increase the breadth of brand awareness. The company has to make sure that the consumers will think of purchasing a brand in a situation in which the brand can satisfy consumers’ needs and wants.

The starting point fro creating new sources of brand equity is with ways that increase usage. Either increasing the level of consumption or increasing the frequency of consumption can increase usage.

In general, it is probably easier to increase the number of times a consumer uses the product than it is to change the amount used at any one time. Consumption amount is more likely to be a function of the particular beliefs that the consumer holds as to how the product is best consumed.

Increasing frequency of use, on the other hand, involves either identifying additional or new opportunities to use the brand in the same basic way or identifying completely new and different ways to use the brand.

Increasing frequency of use is a particularly attractive option for brands with large market shares that are leaders in their product category.

Both of these approaches are shown below:

Identifying Additional or New Usage Opportunities: In some cases, the brand may be seen as useful only in certain places and at certain times, especially if it has strong brand associations with particular usage situations or user types. In general, to identify additional or new opportunities for consumers to use the brand more.
A marketing program should be designed to include both of the following:

Communications to consumers as to the appropriateness and advantages of using the brand more frequently in existing situations or new situations.

Reminders to consumers to use the brand as close as possible to those situations.

For many brands, increasing usage may be as simple as improving top of mind awareness through reminder advertising. Some brands are seen as only appropriate for special occasions. An effective strategy for those brands may be to redefine what it means for something to be “special”.

Another potential opportunity to increase the frequency of use is when consumers’ perceptions of their usage differ from the reality of their usage. For many products with relatively short life spans, consumers may fail to replace the product on time because of a tendency to underestimate the length of productive usage.

One strategy to speed up product replacement is to tie the act of replacing the product to a certain holiday, event, or time of year.

Identifying New and Completely Different Ways to use the brand: The second approach for increasing the frequency of use for a brand is to identify completely new and different usage applications. For example, food product companies have long advertised new recipes that use their branded products in entirely different ways.

Improving Brand Image

A new marketing program may be necessary to improve the strength, favourability and uniqueness of brand associations making up the brand image.

Repositioning the Brand: Repositioning the brand requires establishing more compelling points of difference. It requires reminding consumers of the virtues of a brand that they have begun to take for granted. Other times a brand needs to be repositioned to establish a point of parity on some key image dimension.

A common problem for established, mature brands is that they must be made more contemporary by creating relevant usage situations. Updating a brand may involve some combination of new products, new advertising, new promotions, new packaging and so forth.

Changing Brand Elements: Often one or more brand elements must be changed to either convey new information or to signal that the brand has taken on new meaning because the product or some other aspect of the marketing program has changed.

Entering New Markets

Positioning decisions require a specification of the target market and the nature of competition to set the competitive frame of reference. The target market or markets for a brand typically do not constitute all possible segments that make up the entire market.

In some cases, the firm may have other brands that target these remaining market segments. In other cases, however, these market segments represent potential growth targets for the brand. Effectively targeting these other segments requires some changes in the marketing program, especially in advertising and other communications.

To grow the brand franchise, many firms have reached out to new customer groups to build brand equity. Example: Procter & Gamble promotes its ivory soap for adults instead of just for babies. Segmenting based on demographic variables and identifying neglected segments is thus one viable brand revitalization option.

In some cases, just retaining the existing customers who might move away from the brand or recapturing lost customers who no longer use the brand can be a means to increase sales. Brands such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal, and New Wheel detergent powder run ad campaigns to make consumers to use them.

Attracting a new market segment is a difficult task. Nike, Gillette, and other marketers have struggled for years to find the right blend of products and advertising to make their brands- which have more masculine-oriented images- appear relevant and appealing to women.

Creating marketing programs to appeal to women has become a priority of manufacturers of products from cars to computers. Marketers have also introduced new marketing programs targeted to different racial groups, age groups, and income groups. Attracting emerging new market segments based on cultural dimensions may require different messages, creative strategies and media.

Adjustments to the Brand Portfolio

Managing brand equity and the brand portfolio requires taking a long-term view of the brand. As part of this long-term perspective, it is necessary to carefully consider the role of different brands and the relationships among different brands in the portfolio over time.

In particular, a brand migration strategy needs to be designed and implemented so that consumers understand how various brands in the portfolio can satisfy their needs as they potentially change over time. Managing brand transitions is especially important in rapidly changing, technologically intensive markets.

Migration Strategies

Brands can play special roles that facilitate the migration of customers within the brand portfolio. For example, .entry –level brands are often critical in bringing in new customers and introducing them to the brand offerings.

Ideally, brands would be organized in consumers’ minds so that they at least implicitly know how they can switch among brands within the portfolio as their needs or desires change. For example, a corporate or family branding strategy in which brands are ordered logically could provide the hierarchical structure in consumers’ minds to facilitate brand migration.

Acquiring New Customers

All firms face tradeoffs in their marketing efforts between attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. Firms proactively develop strategies to attract new customers, especially younger ones. The marketing challenge in acquiring new customers lies in making a brand seem relevant to customers from potentially vastly different generations and lifestyles.

Some alternative approaches that attempt to broaden the marketing program and attract new customers as well as retain existing ones are discussed as follows:

  • Multiple Marketing Communication Programmes: One approach to attract a new market segment for a brand and satisfy current segments is to create separate advertising campaigns and communication programs for each segment. The increased effectiveness of targeted media makes multiple targets more and more feasible. The drawbacks of this approach are the expense involved and too much media overlap among target groups.

  • Brand Extension and Sub-brands: Another approach to attract new customers to a brand and keep the brand modern and up-to-date is to introduce a line extension or establish a new sub-brand. These new product offerings for the brand can incorporate new technology, features, and other attributes to satisfy the needs of new customers as well as satisfy the changing desires of existing customers. For example, Lifebuoy introduced Lifebuoy plus for young men and Lifebuoy gold for young women.

  • New Distribution Outlets: Attracting a new market segment becomes simple when we make the product more available to that group. For example, the sale of Nescafe Sunrise is increased by making that product more available to the target group.

Retiring Brands

The adverse changes in the marketing environment may make some brands not worth saving. Their sources of brand equity may have essentially dried up or even worse, damaging and difficult-to-change new associations may have been created. In such a situation, decisive management actions are necessary to properly retire the brand.

Several options are possible to deal with a fading brand. The first step in retrenching a fading brand is to reduce the number of its product types. Such actions reduce the cost of supporting the brand and allow the brand to put its best foot forward.

In some cases, the brand is beyond repair and more drastic measures have to be taken. One possible option for fading brands is to consolidate them into a stronger brand. Finally, a more permanent solution may be to discontinue the product altogether.


Investortonight requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.

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Brand Management Topics

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