A brand is defined as a trademark which in the mind of consumers embraces a particular set of values and attributes, both tangible and intangible. Or in the words of David Ogilvy, “a brand is a consumer’s idea of a product”. It is an imprint in their minds.
These descriptions embody two important notions — that the brand is different from a product and that the difference resides in the mind of the consumer. In essence, a brand is the collection of memories, feelings and associations that are linked to it.
Brand image is the consumers’ perception of the brand. Products deliver a set of benefits — functional, rational, emotional, personality, and brand-consumer relationship benefits. The image of a brand relates to how it is perceived on these benefits or attributes.
It is therefore in the interest of marketers to craft a brand’s image in a manner that keeps it in tune with the brand’s marketing strategy. In a nutshell, this entails choosing which segments to target, differentiating the brand to appeal to the segments, and positioning it distinctly in the minds of target consumers.
What distinguishes a brand from the tangible product is referred to as brand equity. The power of the Coca-Cola brand to evoke such an intense response from American consumers in 1985 is a reflection of its extraordinary brand equity. Rated alongside Apple, Google and Microsoft (Exhibit 1.2), by branding consultancies like Interbrand as one of the most valuable brands in the world, Coca-Cola is beyond doubt an exception. For the vast majority of brands, equity tends to be relatively low.
Of relevance too is the notion of brand identity. Unlike brand image, which pertains to the imagery residing in consumers’ minds, brand identity is crafted by the brand’s manager. It is the collection of elements of the brand created by its management, to reflect how it wants the brand to be perceived. And it includes the brand’s tangible form — its name, appearance and packaging, logos and other symbols, all forms of marketing communications and in-store presentation.
Since the brand’s image is authored by many other actors and influencers, including consumers, popular culture, and opinion leaders and experts, brand owners need to exert their influence on these authors. This task is even more important in our social age, and it is referred to as meaning-management.
While branding is popularly associated with consumer marketing, it is of equal importance to business marketing. Top global brands such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Intel, and the big automobile companies, have high proportion of their sales to business markets.
In business marketing, corporate brands position organizations in the minds of their customers. These brands capture intangibles such as integrity, trust, reliability, reputation and professionalism, all of which are of utmost importance in business markets. They are nurtured by delivering value at every customer touch point.
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