Creating a positive brand image takes marketing programs that link strong, favorable and unique brand associations to the brand in a person’s memory. And when measuring customer based brand equity it really doesn’t matter how they are formed; all that matters is their favorability, strength and uniqueness.

Its important to recognize that consumers can form brand associations in a variety of ways other than your marketing activities; from direct experience; through information from other commercial or nonpartisan sources such as Consumer Reports or other media vehicles; word of mouth; and any assumptions made about the brand itself e.g. its name, logo, identification with the company, country, channel of distribution, or person, place or event.

Ultimately you need to recognize the influence that these information sources can have on your brand/s and learn to manage them as well as possible by designing communication strategies which adequately account for them.

Strength of Brand Associations

The more deeply a person thinks about product information and relates it to existing brand knowledge, the stronger the resulting brand associations will be. Two factors which strengthen association to any piece of information are its personal relevance and consistency with which it is presented over time.

Consumers form beliefs about brand attributes in different ways. Brand attributes are those descriptive features that characterize a product or service. Brand benefits are the personal value or meaning that customers attach to the product or service attributes.

In general direct experiences create the strongest brand attribute and benefit associations and are particularly influential in consumer’s decisions. See the table below (fig 1.0) which illustrates how consumers evaluate the importance of different reasons for brand choice.

Fig 1.0

Company influenced sources of information such as advertising are often likely to create the weakest associations and thus may be the most easily changed. To overcome this hurdle, marketing communication programs use creative communications that cause consumers to elaborate on brand related information and relate it appropriately to existing knowledge. They expose consumers to communications repeatedly over time, and ensure that many retrieval cues are present as reminders.

Favorability of Brand Associations

To choose which favorable and unique associations to link to your brand, you will need to carefully analyze the consumer and the competition to determine the best positioning for the brand. You will need to create favorable brand associations by convincing consumers that the brand possesses relevant attributes and benefits that satisfy their needs and wants, such that they form positive overall brand judgments.

Thus, favorable associations are those that are desirable to consumers- convenient, reliable, effective, efficient, colorful- successfully delivered by the product, and conveyed by the supporting marketing program. Desirability depends on three factors: how relevant, how distinctive and how believable consumers find the brand association. Deliverability also depends on three factors: 1) the actual or potential ability of the product to perform, 2) the current or future prospects of communicating that performance, and 3) the sustainability of the actual and communicated performance over time.

Uniqueness of Brand Associations

All brands need a unique selling proposition (USP) which will give consumers a compelling reason why they should buy it. You may base your USP on product-related or non product-related attributes or benefits. In some categories non product-related attributes more easily create unique associations- for example the idea that Heineken is a suave, cool and popular young professional in their latest TV ad- The Entrance.

While strong and unique associations are critical to a brands success, unless the brand faces no competition, it will most likely share some associations with other brands. In actual fact shared associations can help to establish category membership and define the scope of competition with other products and services.

Consumers may consider certain attributes or benefits prototypical and essential to all brands within a category, and a specific brand an exemplar and most representative. For example they may expect a running shoe to provide support and comfort and to be able to withstand repeated wearing, and they believe that Asics, New Balance or some other leading brand best represents a running shoe. Another example is that consumers might expect an online retailer to offer easy navigation, a variety of offerings, reasonable shipping options, secure purchase procedures, responsive customer service and strict privacy guidelines, in which case they may consider Amazon.com to be the best example of an online retailer. Thus in most categories varying degrees of isomorphism can occur.

Thus, in almost all cases, some product category associations will be shared with all brands in the category. Note that the strength of the brand associations to the product category is an important determinant of brand awareness.

To conclude, to create the differential response which leads to customer based brand equity, marketers need to make sure that some strongly held brand associations are not only favorable but also unique and not shared with competing brands. Undoubtedly unique associations help consumers choose brands.

The Four Steps of Brand Building

I have mentioned the four steps to brand building very briefly during my first blog called Fairy Tale Branding. But here the fundamental questions to ask yourself when brand building:

1)      Who are you? (Brand Identity)

2)      What are you? (Brand Meaning)

3)      What do I think or feel about you? (Brand responses)

4)      What kind of association and how much of a connection would I like to have with you? (Brand Relationship)

 

Stay Breezy.

Oliver W

PS I will be discussing the building blocks further in the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled for an article titled The Great Pyramid.  My next few posts will more than likely explore Local and mobile advertising and/or logos.

 

Thanks as always to:

Keller, K L (2001).Strategic Brand Management: Building, measuring, and managing brand equity (3rd ed.).New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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