How and Why New Brand Identities are Built
What is it that connects most of the companies that first spring to mind when asked, “think of a strong brand?” The answer lies in how companies develop the brand identity. This is a quite distinct and extremely well planned phenomenon, and one essential to the public’s perception of a company and associated brands. The first point of contention to consider, is “what exactly is brand identity?” And, “how is brand identity differentiated from brand image?” Management study guide, an online resource created by marketing professionals, cites brand identity as how the organisation seeks to be perceived, encompassing mental and functional associations that differentiate the brands uniqueness:
“Brand identity is the aggregation of what all you (i.e. an organization) do. It is an organizations mission, personality, promise to the consumers and competitive advantages.”
The resource continues to assert that the brand identity should include, but not be limited to,
“Brand vision, brand culture, positioning, personality, relationships, and presentations.”
Business dictionary, however, cites brand identity as merely,
“The visible elements of a brand (such as colors, design, logotype, name, symbol) that together identify and distinguish the brand in the consumers’ mind.”
However, the question remains, how is brand image distinct from brand image? Management study guide has constructed the following table to highlight the key differences between the two concepts that are so often confused:
These eleven points summarise the differences and cast the two concepts as almost polar opposites on occasion. It is imperative that the difference between the concepts is understood in order that organisations wishing to carve out strong brand identities are successful. The emphasis should be on creating and shaping the brand identity, and from that, the brand image will follow organically.
To further demonstrate the differences, the following graphical representation from sigbop.com highlights the contrasting concepts:
This highlights the concepts from the point of view of a marketing team responsible for branding, and how to strategically plan the branding to bring identity and image to be aligned. Digital marketing agency Zero21 concurs with this understanding of identity versus image, citing that in essence:
Brand Identity is how the company wishes to be publicly perceived
Brand image is the actuality of how the brand is publicly perceived
Having now considered the essence of what brand identity is, it can be further examined i terms of its importance, and analyses with reference to some respected brand identity models. One such example is the Kapferer brand identity prism and several adaptations. This will be considered in more detail later, however, this model asserts that brand identity may be defined as containing the following questions:
– What is the aim and individual vision of a brand?
– What makes a brand distinguished?
– How satisfaction could be achieved?
– What is brand‟s equity?
– What are brand competence, validity and legitimacy?
– What are the features of its recognition
What is the importance of Brand Identity
Let us begin the consideration of the importance of brand identity with a quote from branding consultancy experts Russo Group:
This encapsulates how important the brand identity is as the lifeblood feeding the perception of a brand globally. Digital marketing firm Fathom’s blog (2014) considers why it is so imperative that companies build strong brand identities. The article cites how the brand identity represents everything that the brand is as an organisation, and that it is essential that brands be considered as a promise, and an asset that continually facilitates trust and loyalty. The following figure, from Business 2 Community gives a visual representation of the importance of brand identity:
Brand identity, considered by some as “brand awareness” is everywhere we look, and the associations we automatically and subconsciously make are almost unavoidable. The seeds sown in the mind by the carefully crafted brand identity strategies prompt emotions to be formed, trust and loyalty to be forged, and the success and perpetuation of the brands to be facilitated.
In order to quantify some of the benefits of successfully implemented brand identity, marketing agency AVS Group cites six financial benefits to brand identity. These benefits are referenced from Aaker’s Building Strong Brands book. The importance of these six benefits is cited by AVS in their definition of the Brand Continuum Process, whereby the steps are initially linear, with one facilitating the next, and when all six are achieved, the process forms a continuous loop:
Six financial benefits of strong brand identity AVS Group (2016):
Benefit 1: Brand identity allows a price-premium to be established. For example, Lexus versus Toyota? They are virtually the same product with the exception of some additional options and accessories. “You can also buy exotic cars from Jaguar, Volvo, and Range Rover. And every one of them is made by Ford—and you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that they even share parts.” The difference is the positioning of the BRAND
The value proposition is wrapped around the brand. The Lexus, Jaguar, Volvo, and Range Rover brands are worth more in the minds of consumers regardless of whether the product actually functions better.
Benefit 2: A price premium creates the perception of quality. This follows the age-old axiom of “you get what you pay for.” If a Lexus costs more than a comparable product, it must be because the Lexus provides better quality. Right? Not necessarily. There are plenty of lower-cost, high-quality vehicles available, yet people still pay more for what they perceive to be a better or higher-quality brand. So the axiom lives on, key concept is PERCEPTION (how the brand plants the seeds in the minds of the consumer)
Benefit 3: Perceived quality has been shown to positively affect customer usage. Consumers tend to select brands they perceive to be quality brands. This also connects to repeat buying or brand loyalty. Consumers tend to continue buying brands that reward them with a good experience versus repeating the evaluation process time after time.
Benefit 4: According to Dr. Aaker’s research, perceived quality is the single most-important contributor to a company’s return on investment (ROI), having more impact than market share, R&D, or marketing expenditures. Brand identity perceives quality that contributes to profitability, in part by enhancing prices and market share. Improve perceived quality and the organization’s ROI will improve.3
Benefit 5: Customers relate value with quality. This is closely connected to Benefit 2. If one brand is perceived to be of higher quality than another brand, customers tend to perceive that the higher-quality brand is a better value.
Benefit 6: Perceived quality can be a point of differentiation. Smart companies are continually looking for ways to differentiate their brand’s identity from competing offers. Perceived quality can be used to differentiate, and in doing so, enable the company to loop back to Benefit 1 and charge a price premium for their strong brand. Figure 1 is an illustration of the full Brand Continuum process.
Further to these more quantifiable benefits, Brand Amplitude (2016) cites further benefits of strong brand identity:
Energy – Set a high level of ambition for the brand.
Inspiration – Identify the deep consumer insight or societal tension to be addressed
Passion – Focus the brand on the big ideal or crusade
Consistency – Provide a common creative activation all across the range of portfolio of brands and activities
Delivery – Match products with real needs, with passion and ‘edge’
These considerations clearly demonstrate the importance of brand identity, and how it is a vital part of building a strong brand that fulfills the strategic objectives of an organisation whilst representing the core values of the company.
How is Brand Identity Designed
There have been many attempts to better understand, define, and classify elements of brand identity, with the aim of developing means to enhance how the concept can be implemented. This dates back to Kapferer (1986) introducing the concept to the marketing world. Kapferer’s development of the brand identity prism considered six aspects divided into two dimensions:
Tools for management blog describes and explains each of these elements:
The basic of your brand’s identity will be determined by its “Physique”. The physical characteristics and the primary objective of your product or service create some specific images, ideas and emotions among the consumers.
For example, the physique of products made by Apple is a slim and aesthetic design that gives the brand a unique identification. For another instance, the American express is assembled with a physique of high class and excellent standards.
To understand the physique of your brand, look at them and try to understand what do the products or service under your brand look like? What kind of perception and emotions do they promote for your brand? And, are those portraits and emotions meet the standard that you want for your brand?
These are all about the physique of your product or service within your brand. These are such kinds of features that can mount up your brand value within a very short span of time.
Here the term “personality” stands for the character of the brand. By making contacts with consumers in some specific ways, organizations try to make consumers’ realize that they have actually constituted an individual with a certain character that always speak to them.
However, organizations become enable to do so only when they incorporate a specific style of writing, using specific color and design. For example, if a brand endorsing an ambassador for any product or service, the character of the ambassador must be depicted as familiar with the product or service, so that the endorsement can convey a significant meaning.
The culture of the brand establishes link between brand organizations. Many companies are clearly depicting the country of their origin. For instance, the soft drink giant Coca-Cola always highlights the value of America; the country of its origin. The luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz always appeals to German value and the Citroen highlights the French value.
It has been seen that, several brands are benefited by the fact they are considering as originated in consumer home nation. Professor Kapferer has given an example by saying that, American brand “Mars”, the candy bar manufacturer, makes Dutch people feel that the company is from their home land.
Here the term “Relationship” signifies the relationship between the customers’ and the brand. A brand can symbolize some specific relationship between two people, such as mother and child, bond of two friends, teacher and student, etc. To highlight the aspect, a brand manager is highly required for an organization who can present the idea of depicting a relationship in a well-processed manner.
For example, the luxury carmaker Lexus clearly sets its class apart from MBW by providing its customers a red carpet treatment. The true aspect of relationship is more significant for the service brand than the product brand.
This aspect signifies the reference direct to the stereotypical consumer of the brand. If you think of the term of “Reflection”, you can take the example of Coca-Cola that basically targets the consumer aged between 15 to 18 and they promotes the values such as sporty, fun and friendship, when their actual target is much broader. In his book, professor Kapferer stated that there is no requirement to hire a brand manager to make a significant reflection of the actual group in their advertisement campaign, but rather they should present a group that can appeal to the entire member to the target group.
The term “Self-image” stands for a mirror held by the targeted group itself. For example, a driver who used to drive a Porsche can easily indulge in a thought that he is a rich man, as he can afford such a high-class expensive car. When a company develops its brand identity, the brand manager should take such facts into account. We can take another example of Lacoste, as researchers have found that consumers of the brand always love to consider themselves as members of a sports club.
This concept can be applied to several well known brands to observe how each characteristic is defined:
Role of Visual Identity in Branding
Perhaps the most familiar or readily noticeable aspect of branding it witnessed in the brand logo, including the imagery, font, and colours utilised to invoke a particular response from the target audience. Brands plan the visual details extremely comprehensively as memorable exposure is key to retaining the desired brand identity. Considering the logo of a brand, Creative Market’s feature on slideshare cites five important characteristics, the logo should be:
The feature continues to describe the process of brand identity building:
Digital marketing agency DrimTeam describes the importance of visial identity, and defines some of the benefits that organisations can hope to receive if the concept is implemented effectively:
Awareness: as your identity becomes more developed and thus recognisable, awareness of your business will grow.
Positioning: symbols, values, culture, projects. All of these help to encourage and foster any progressions within your business.
A bond: from the customer’s point of view, a strong identity creates a sense of belonging and reliability.
Staying power: Control over your identity will allow you to respond quickly and effectively to changes, thus ensuring the immortality of your organisation.
Savings: a well-designed early identity will save you lots of money! No need to constantly reinvent graphics, your identity is well-established and solid.
Visual branding also allows companies to invoke emotional responses to assist in the positioning of their brand in terms of making their desired identity align with the actual image globally. The technique of personification is utilised with the concept of “how would this brand be perceived if it happened to be a person? What kind of friends would it attract?” One key element in visual brand identity is the appropriate use of colour to achieve the desired objective based on the emotional reaction that cultures attach to colour. Marketing blog Wpaisle offers an insist to the types of colours chosen and their potential effect on consumer perception:
From a scientific perspective, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science published an article documenting research: Exciting Red and Component Blue: The Importance of Colour in Marketing. The research investigates how likeability, familiarity, purchasing decisions, and brand loyalty may all be strategically affected by colour choices in branding. It is also worthwhile considering how colour is being increasingly used as a marketing strategy to segregate between products targeted at differing gender audiences. Super Money blog also visually represented the importance of colour in marketing with some statistics:
Research by Joe Hallock, investigating colour perception found data useful to marketers in terms of male and female colour preferences:
Colours considered to have “masculine” traits are heavily used in branding products designed for male use, despite the brands or products themselves not being traditionally associated with masculinity. Take for example the growth in cosmetic products specifically designed for the male audience. It is evident how marketers are trying actively to change perception and modify the way we think using colours, and to get men to spend money on such products by raising “acceptability” by association with masculine attributes through colour use. This may be a naive take on public perception, that may eventually need to be adapted, however, for the moment, as this side of the industry grows, a firm precedent is being set on how male products are branded differently from exceptionally similar, and in some cases possibly almost identical products.