Your brand is not what you think it is! It’s what your customers think it is; its brand image, personality and its value to them.
I was lecturing at Miami University a few years ago on brand image and personality. These are two vital elements of branding. They need to be clear and consistently represented in all your communications.
If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find the following article both interesting and valuable.
Why We Buy Brands
According to Wikipedia, a brand is:
“a set of marketing and communications methods that help to distinguish a company from competition and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.”
Although this definition in my opinion, is a little sterile for something as exciting as branding, I do appreciate that it mentions customers. However, for me, a brand is created in both the minds and hearts of its customers.
There has been so much said about the importance of emotions and resonating with the customer, that we shouldn’t forget it. But be honest we often do! And this is where image and personality play vital roles. They are both more or less created in the heart, rather than in the mind of the customer.
We usually buy brands without even knowing why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy.We often buy brands without even knowing why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity Click To Tweet
A brand is made up of a number of components, with which people learn to identify and recognise it. These include its logo, colour, pack, shape, taste, aroma, sounds and feel. There may also be other things that are directly associated with the brand, such as a celebrity, an event or a cause it supports.
A brand needs to have a clear image, personality and equity in the minds of its customers. These come not only from these branding elements, but also from the customer’s own personal experience with it.
All these factors must be both respected and complementary in order to build a strong brand with which customers can identify themselves. If they’re not, then the brand is at risk of not developing correctly, or even worse, of becoming just a commodity.
Therefore, It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to its customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. And then, of course, to follow it over time through regular measurement.It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to its customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. #BrandBuilding #Brand #Marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity Click To Tweet
Brand Image Essentials
A brand is associated with many thoughts and ideas, that we translate into statements or attributes for measurement purposes. These are what current and potential customers think or feel about it. They may have developed from exposure to its communications, as well as from their own personal experiences.
These elements are usually grouped into three types: the rational/functional benefits, the subjective/emotional elements and the cultural/relational factors.
The third group was added by David Armano of Edelman Digital almost fifteen years ago. I like his additional idea because the relationships a brand builds with its customers have become vitally important in today’s social-media-dominated world. I have noticed that he recently started referring to these as societal rather than relational, in line with the more usual vocabulary.
- Rational / Functional: benefits include things on which most people would agree and recognise. For example being crunchy, colourful, available everywhere or delivered in a glass bottle. There would be very little discussion or disagreement on these.
- Emotional / Subjective: elements that can vary between customers based upon their own, personal experience and appreciation of the brand. These might include good value for money, better quality, or gives the best service.
- Cultural / Relational (Societal): factors which are associated with a brand’s trust and responsibility. Customers today are increasingly interested in how a brand or corporation addresses its use of resources and whether or not they are sustainable and ecological. Brands also depend on recommendations from others, so word of mouth and opinions, especially online, have become vital additional sourcesof reputation. The attributes measured to cover these sensitivities could include trustworthy, a brand I’d recommend or cares about its customers.
The Power of a Three-legged Brand
David Armano showed that incorporating all three elements into a brand’s image results in a stronger brand. It is much more likely to have a better performance than those brands which don’t include the societal elements.
He reported that it is in recommendations and sharing brand content that the most positive impact can be found today.
Customers are also more likely to share their personal information with the brand and to buy it more often. Both of these actions demonstrate an increase in trust, a precursor to both loyalty and advocacy.
One further impact of trust is that it results in customers defending the brand. This is a wonderful support to have in a world where everything is known at the click of a button. A brand that has the trust of its customers will be more often forgiven for any occasional mishap.
You can read more about Edelman’s Brandshare Study in the slideshow “How brands and people create a value exchange.”It is in brand recommendations and sharing brand content that the most positive impact can be found today. #Brand #BrandBuilding #Marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity Click To Tweet
Global Brand Equity Rankings
The importance of a brand’s equity is clearly indicated by the many different sources of regional and global brand equity rankings published each year.
The two most well known, Interbrand and Millward Brown’s BrandZ, have slightly different algorithms and therefore results, but both include financial as well as consumer metrics.
Interbrand’s model has three key components:
- analysis of its financial performance
- analysis of the role the brand plays in purchase decisions
- analysis of the brand’s competitive strength.
Together with extensive desk research and an expert panel assessment, Interbrand also includes data from Reuters, Datamonitor and media platform Twitter.
Millward Brown’s BrandZ
BrandZ, on the other hand, uses a mixture of financial information and customer surveys. Their proprietary research covers 3mio consumers and 100,000 brands in more than 50 markets. They too measure three things:
- How “meaningful” the brand is, its appeal & ability to generate “love” and meet the consumer’s expectations and needs.
- How “different” it is, what unique features it may have and its ability to “set the trends” for consumers.
- How “salient” the brand is, whether it springs to mind as the consumer’s brand of choice.
BrandZ’s 2016 results showed Google overtaking Apple as the most valuable brand in the world. However, in 2019 Amazon has leapfrogged the competition to be crowned the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand for 2019, breaking Apple and Google’s 12-year hold on the top spot.
So there you have it. All the major points a marketer should know about brand image, equity, personalities and archetypes.
A marketer’s role is primarily to defend and grow its brand’s image and equity through a strong personality and consistent communications. If you are not succeeding in all these areas then you are almost certainly being challenged by weakening sales.
It is an interesting and often overlooked fact that brand image usually declines before sales do, so it is an invaluable indicator of your brand’s health. If you would like to learn more about measuring and analysing brand image, there are several chapters dedicated to the topic in my book “Winning Customer Centricity”.
Don’t forget to add your answers to the couple of questions I asked in the article, in the comments below. Let me know what you think about defending your brand’s image and growing equity. And I’d love to hear about your own brand’s pesonality and archetype, and whether or not you had trouble in defining it.