Examine the concept of brand identify with reference to brand names, symbols and packaging. Students should provide examples and consider brand equity and the relationship between brands and the consumer, how brands are developed and why this is important.
Everything has a brand, whether it is a concept like Gay Rights or an item like a car. A brand is made up of brand identity (name, logo, packaging etc), brand equity (the perceived value by the user and how that value translates into purchases) and brand relationship (how the brand bonds with the consumer.) It is what differentiates a product/service from another and comprises of a combination of name, logo, trademark, consumer relationship and expectation. Creating an effective brand is a difficult but essential task for the success of any product or service. Brands consist of both tangible and intangible components: the tangible ones relate to the consumers’ senses – its looks, performance, size, shape, price etc. The intangible qualities include the sense of value given to the brand, its image in the marketplace, and the perceptions of the consumer. The economic result to a business can be defined by its brand and the ability to have it seen favourably.
A brand is both complex and multi-faceted. Developing a solid brand is crucial and studies have shown that a meaningful name should be chosen (Kohli, Harich & Leuthesser 2005). It is evident that products and services should be named in a descriptive way that is easy to spell and pronounce. For a company brand, however, the name chosen is less significant as an element but the entire brand identity as a whole is vital (De Chernatony, McDonald & Wallace 2003). Consider the companies Toyota, Avon and Adobe. Each of these names on their own, do little to tell you about the company, yet their products (Landcruiser, Skin So Soft Bath Oil and Photoshop Creative Suite) have names that are all highly indicative of their benefits and capabilities. The brand identity of Toyota, Avon and Adobe will already give the purchaser a set of expectations in regard to their products and this will, in turn, affect their response to the items they sell.
Another major element of creating brand identity is the logo and trademarks. These symbols are often able to be recognised even without a company name (Belch et al. 2008). McDonald’s distinctive M shaped golden arches are instantly recognisable around the globe, as is the Nike ‘swoosh’ symbol and the distinctive shape of the KFC bucket. The company logo must work on each and every product and also function with individual trademarks created for specific products (Meenaghan 1995). Skin So Soft has its own unique logo that sits underneath the Avon logo. It originated as a single product but eventually became a range of products and over time the logo has been adjusted to allow for this expansion (Effron n.d.).
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Figure 1: Avon’s Skin So Soft Bath Oil changes its packaging.
Presentation and packaging also help to form brand identity as they are often the first point of interest to a purchaser (Underwood 2003). The location on shelves, the type of stores that sell the product and the appearance of the item all count toward forging a solid brand. Because there are so many products competing against one another in the marketplace, a key to a thriving brand lies in how the consumer sees the product. Generally, selling high priced quality goods in a discount variety store lowers its brand value and decreases its appeal to customers (Belch et al. 2008). Although this tenet tends to ring true, there are some exceptions to this: Stella McCartney has a designer clothing range exclusive to the Target chain of discount department stores, and aged Angus Beef is now available for purchase fresh at supermarkets or cooked in burgers at cheap fast food outlets. The positioning of a product in specific stores and on certain shelves is as important as the packaging and presentation of a good. Packaging directly influences the customer in its shape and design and creates an immediate visual impact for the purchaser (Underwood 2003). Although packaging originally focused on providing a safe mode of transport, for today’s marketers, product presentation can be critical to a sale. Perfume bottles are renowned for their unique shapes and are often collected for their individuality. Apple branded items are commonly considered ‘sexy’ and therefore instantly desirable. Packaging forms visual cues that inform the buyer of size, design and functionality and together with its placement in the marketplace adds additional value to the brand’s identity (Belch et al. 2008).
Brand Equity is the second major element toward an effective hallmark and is an intangible quality that adds value to the brand through consumer attachment (Belch et al. 2008). It allows a company to gain further sales because of the connotation of its name. Brand equity highlights the difference between a product and its nearest rival and accentuates brand-name awareness, association, perceptions and loyalty (Keller & Institute 2001). This equity allows a company to charge a premium for their product even if the quality matches that of their competitor (Belch et al. 2008). Lamborghini has a reputation for high class vehicles and this is matched by the selling price and marketing campaigns of the company. The buyer’s loyalty and attachment to the ‘raging bull’ logo make its brand more valuable. In the 80s, Lamborghini began placing Alpine sound systems in their Countach vehicles, immediately enhancing the brand equity of Alpine.
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Figure 2: The 1982 Alpine sound Advertisement became so popular it was later merchandised as a poster. Source: Flickr – blondygirl
Core to a brand’s success is the relationship it forms with the user. Whilst brand relationship is often considered a component of brand equity, there are some who feel that this segment is so crucial it should be positioned as its own distinct category (Bhimrao 2008). Consumers buy things they like and need. If a product has the capacity to be both appealing and functional, then they are more likely to purchase that product (Tauber 1972). So it is necessary that a brand form its own relationship with the consumer. In traditional mass markets this was not overly possible because marketing a brand has always been ‘broadcast’ rather than interactive. Television and radio commercials, billboards, pamphlets etc are all one-way marketing. They inform an audience about a specific product, service or brand. However, the 21st century has given companies numerous ways to connect with their customer and form unique relationships with them (Belch et al. 2008). Social networking, database mining and Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) all contribute to the personalisation and customisation of products specifically to the user. Cars, running shoes, electronics and even credit cards can all be created on a one-on-one basis, particular to the needs of the individual and this enhances behavioural bonding to a brand.
As a brand becomes more popular, customer loyalty rises. Brands no longer merely identify a product but are also a sign of a user’s status and identity. By aiming for a relationship with their consumers, companies are seeking more than just a single transaction and it has been shown that strengthening the image of a brand is vital to prosperity and expansion (Belch et al. 2008). Purchasers not only form personal attachment to a brand but also assign personality traits to them. Mercedes Benz may seem to be ‘classy’ whereas Toyota is often described as ‘reliable’ and Volvo cars are considered ‘safe’.
Consumers create emotional attachments to brands and are also emotional purchasers – a product will often sell if there exists already a strong tie to a product name or brand (Keller 2003). This can be beneficial because even sub-standard products may do well in the marketplace based solely on a strong brand. The Apple iPhone 4 was initially an inferior product to its predecessors until a firmware upgrade was introduced several weeks after its release (Truta 2010), however demand for the iPhone was outstripped by the company’s ability to supply them despite this issue (Jade 2010), simply because of the appeal of a new Apple product. This strong attachment of customers to the Apple brand is indicative of the power of brand relationships.
As has been shown, creating a brand involves many ingredients including the many facets of brand identity, brand equity and brand relationships. A brand represents the way a company relates and interacts with the consumer and in today’s tight competitive marketplace, a deft, strong company brand along with individual product/service brands are crucial to maintaining and growing any business. By developing each aspect and building on brand knowledge, a company can ensure strong market share and profitability.
Belch, G, Belch, M, Kerr, G & Powell, I 2008, Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communication Perspective, McGraw-Hill Australia.
Bhimrao, MG 2008, ‘Building brand identity in competitive markets: a conceptual model’, Journal of Product & Brand Management, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 4-12.
De Chernatony, L, McDonald, M & Wallace, E 2003, ‘Creating powerful brands’.
Effron, M n.d., ‘Avon Products, INC’, pp. 1-16.
Jade, C 2010, iPhone 4: Big Lines & Short Supply, gigaom, viewed 20 June 2011, <http://gigaom.com/apple/iphone-4-big-lines-short-supply/>.
Keller, KL 2003, ‘Brand synthesis: The multidimensionality of brand knowledge’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 595-600.
Keller, KL & Institute, MS 2001, Building customer-based brand equity: a blueprint for creating strong brands, Marketing Science Institute.
Kohli, CS, Harich, KR & Leuthesser, L 2005, ‘Creating brand identity: a study of evaluation of new brand names’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 58, no. 11, pp. 1506-15.
Meenaghan, T 1995, ‘The role of advertising in brand image development’, Journal of Product & Brand Management, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 23-34.
Tauber, EM 1972, ‘Why do people shop?’, The Journal of Marketing, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 46-9.
Truta, F 2010, Apple Addresses iPhone 4 Antenna Issues, Firmware Fix Coming, Softpedia, viewed 20 June 2011, <http://news.softpedia.com/news/Apple-Addresses-iPhone-4-Antenna-Issues-Firmware-Fix-Coming-146059.shtml>.
Underwood, RL 2003, ‘The communicative power of product packaging: creating brand identity via lived and mediated experience’, Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 62-76.