Brand Awareness #1 Brand theory
Brands are all around us – no matter where we go, no matter what we do. As consumers, we are bombarded by images of logos and advertising campaigns every day. However, we rarely think about the process by which brands enter our lives. Before any product is ever produced or sold, it must first be branded. Every idea, from initial sketches to patented logos, supports a branding strategy, or the decisions a production team has made about what will drive a consumer to choose their brand over that of their competitors.
A brand is the image of a product or service consumers have in mind (Aaker, 1991). It is a concept that happens in a consumer’s mind. It’s a perception. And branding happens three times. It is also the unique characteristics that have been developed all the time in order to differentiate actual products from the competitors (Murphy, 1990). In addition, The American Association defines a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors. “A brand is thus a product or service that adds dimensions that differentiate it in some way from other products or services designed to satisfy the same need. These differences may be functional, rational, or emotional or intangible related to what the brand represents. Brand concepts must address customer interests and lifestyles. Factors that affect its brand image and brand perception among marketing communication programs that implementing to the public to create brand perception are brand characteristics, brand image, and brand equity.
De Chernatony and McDonald (1992) define a brand as “an identifiable product, service, person or place, augmented in such a way that the buyer or user perceives relevant, unique added values which match their needs most closely”. There have been two basic values identified by de Chernatony (1999) that contribute towards the brand premium. One is the functional value such as the price, technology, design, and store layout. This functional value is a distinct attribute that a customer adds to the brand and distinguishes the brand from the rest. The second form of added value comes from emotional value. This value is derived from notions like advertising, internal branding, translating the retail brand into consumer taste, and even the shopping experience itself at the retail outlet.
Branding #2. Brand Perception
Perception is how we see ourselves and the world we live in. However, what ends up being stored inside us doesn’t always get there in a direct manner. Often our mental makeup results from information that has been consciously or subconsciously filtered as we experience it, a process we refer to as a perceptual filter.
Perception has several steps.
- Exposure – sensing stimuli (e.g. seeing an ad)
- Attention – and effort to recognize the nature of stimuli (e.g. recognizing it is an ad)
- Awareness – assigning meaning to a stimulus (e.g., a humorous ad for a particular product)
- Retention – adding the meaning to one’s internal makeup (i.e., the product has fun ads)
Brand perception is consumers’ ability to identify the brand under different conditions, as reflected by their brand recognition or recall performance (Kotler & Lane, 2006). Brand recall refers to the consumer’s ability to retrieve the brand from memory (Keller, 1993). According to the improvement of measurement for brand equity, consumer-based brand equity was described for four dimensions; brand awareness, brand association, perceived quality, and brand loyalty (Pappu, et al, 2005). Brand awareness was defined as the consumers’ ability to identify or recognize the brand (Rossiter and Percy, 1987). It refers to the strength of a brand presence in the consumer’s minds. Brand awareness has several levels starting from the less recognition of the brand to dominance (Aaker, 1991). Perceived quality was evaluated and decided by consumers. Perceived quality is another valuation of the brand to push the customer to buy products. Brand building has been around for centuries as a means to distinguish the goods of one producer from those of another.
Brand Awareness #3. Branding Equity
Brand equity is the added value endowed to products and services. Aaker (1991) defined brand equity as a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand that adds or detracts the product or service value based on the customer’s perspectives. This value may be reflected in how consumers think, feel, and act with respect to the brand that consumers had to perceive from
marketing programs. Brand equity is an important intangible asset that has psychological and financial value to the firm. The value of brand equity depends on the number of the same people who buy regularly (Aaker, 1996). Brand loyalty, brand awareness, and brand perceived quality are necessary to maintain brand equity (Motameni & Shahrokhi, 1998). There are two different perspectives of brand equity; financial and customer based. The first perspective evaluates the asset value of a brand name that creates the business (Farquhar et al, 1991).
The 3 Stage Theory of Branding
A brand is a concept that happens in a consumer’s mind. It’s a perception. And branding happens three times.
The following is what I think are precursors to branding, but not quite branding yet.
- Value proposition
- Positioning statement
Companies have logos, colors, slogans, catch-phrases, etc. But that isn’t branding. That’s the creation of a heuristic. A shortcut to allow consumers to distinguish different companies, products, or services. Nothing more. It has no value if consumers do not accept it. It is just there as a way for consumers to filter through different logos and colors so they understand that this particular company is not the same as the next one. That’s it.
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What is a value proposition? It’s whatever the company wants to offer. A company has a product or service that they claim adds value to the consumer
A positioning statement is how a company wants its products or services to be perceived in the consumer’s mind. Is this branding? It’s getting very close, but not yet.
So what is branding? It’s a perception that the consumer makes of a company, product, or service, based on the communication they receive from different sources, and the experience they receive from the offer – Daniel Hebert in Business DEC 2011
branding happens three times in the consumer buying process:
- During the information search,
- During the evaluation of alternatives, and
- During the post-purchase evaluation
Branding: Information search
So how does a consumer formulate their first impression of brands? Through the communications model. Communication is extremely important (in my opinion) when it comes to branding, whether it is the word of mouth, advertising, social media, PR, etc.
So what happens is the consumer recognizes s/he has a problem. Then starts looking for solutions. This is where information search happens, and where perceptions of brands are formulated. Companies send out messages that include all of their designs and value propositions. The consumer tries to decode the message and forms an initial perception. That’s branding #1.
Branding: Evaluation of alternatives
This is where the second impression on branding happens. So now that consumers are done with their information search, and formulated a first perception of the brands, they will start weighing their alternatives. This is where the personality of the company, product, or service is important. Again, through different means of communication, the company must convince that its offering will ‘fit’ with the consumer.
Here, the consumer starts thinking ‘does this offer reflect my self-concept or my ideal self?‘ Since consumers buy products that reflect their personalities, it is important for companies at this point to not just show their heuristic designs and value proposition, but give the consumer a bit more. Try to create an emotional attachment with the consumer. Shape their perception. At this point, the consumer makes a purchase decision based on what THEY PERCEIVED as being the best brand, whether it is or not. Branding #2.
This is the final stage of branding. This is where the consumer starts thinking ‘did the company actually deliver on its offer?‘. After the purchase, the consumer starts evaluating if they are satisfied or not with what the company was offering. They start thinking if the product or service actually reflects their self or ideal-self concept. This is where the communication model stops, and the genuineness of the company starts.
If you are a company, ask yourself: ‘Did I promise something I can’t deliver? Am I genuine and authentic? Is my service actually what it’s supposed to be?’. If the customer is satisfied after his/her purchase, they will form another brand impression. They might even develop brand loyalty. Now if the customer is not satisfied, whether the product wasn’t what they perceived it to be, or they had bad interactions with employees, horrible customer service, etc., this will cause another brand impression. However, this time it will change the brand perception, in a negative way.
So, to sum up, branding is a concept in the consumer’s mind. Branding happens 3 times; the first two are influenced by the communications model, and the last impression is formed by the experience (Daniel Hebert in Business DEC 2011).