Oxford Learning Lab - Brand Management: Strategic Brand Management

Strategic Brand Management

In this topic

Effective brand strategy necessitates taking a pan-company perspective to understand the organisation's competencies, identify new opportunities and leverage the advantage of corporate culture to deliver the brand promise. Brand success does not result just from focusing on customers, but rather from adopting a more balanced perspective by addressing stakeholders. In an era when it is easy to copy what a brand can deliver (functional values) it is more difficult to copy how the brand is delivered (emotional values). This session will address how by looking inside and outside an organisation brands can grow and be sustained. It will open by presenting a model to strategically grow and sustain brands, "From brand vision to brand evaluation". After explaining the model, the different elements of the model will be explored to show how the model can be used to develop valuable brands

Course expert

Leslie de Chernatony

Professor - Brand Management


Comparing to brand management principles, strategic brand management brings a wider and more complex pan company perspective. Many companies now use this strategic perspective to build their brands and the presentations which follow will present a strategic brand management model, its detailed components and how brands have evolved due of this approach. The model is referred to as from brand vision to brand evaluation, it has been based on years of research, was tested on different organizations and it is used in both consumer and BTB markets.

The strategic brand building model will be analyzed in further detail starting with a very important element which is brand vision. If we take a look at brand history we can notice that the brands which succeed have a sense of direction and a long term vision of what they are trying to achieve, they do not depend on opportunity, therefore brand vision represents the starting point for the brand building process. A powerful brand should have three components: future- a view about an environment that it is trying to bring about for at least 5 years ahead, purpose- how will the brand make a better place for the customer, values-how will the brand grow. These 3 components reinforce each other. Vision then leads to an organizational culture which will facilitate the brand to manifest, but it is important to envision results on a 5 years scale rather than the immediate ones visible in the first 2 years.

This video presents a short summary of the strategic brand building model and all its components. In order to further develop and grow brands a brand equivalent of the SWOT analysis called brandsphere audit is proposed. Through this model, managers are encouraged first of all to differentiate the environment forces that help or hinder the brand and set objectives regarding the promise, essence and trajectory of the brand. Once a strategy regarding these brand elements is put into place, we need a system and structures that are going to deliver the brand. Organizational culture is also part of the internal implementation stage and is related to staff recruitment and performance. The last step of the growing brands’ process is the evaluation of the brand performance. Hence we have a panoramic vision on brand architecture.

This material develops the idea of a brand having a vision. Vision is a three component entity, the first one being envisioned future. This element illustrates the product or service as a mean to experience the joy of the environment rather than focusing on functional and technical aspects. Another problem concerning vision is how we are going to design it on a five years period of time taking into account there are certain factors that are going to have an impact on the brand starting with social and economic changes for example. The first step for managers is to identify these factors and establish which of them are likely to affect in a favorable or unfavorable way the brand 5 years ahead. We can afterwards focus on the factors that are most likely to affect our envisioned future in a favorable way and think of means of further development.

How can the brand make a difference in the world where it manifests? Brand purpose is all about finding that element related to the product which brings inspiration, which makes life more enjoyable and rewarding for its users. To reach such a purpose we can use a few techniques such as the 5 whys, we can try market researches done by agencies in order to better understand customer needs and the final test consists in matching the envisioned future with the purpose in order to obtain a visionary approach.

The third component of brand vision is brand value. This is related to the qualities of the product or service but it is very important to differentiate qualities from attributes. A definition of brand values is offered-an enduring belief that a specific conduct or end state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end state of existence. To put it simply, value represents a belief that stands the test of time and which makes us decide whether a behavior or a goal or outcome is good or not. Nevertheless there are different types of values. There are core values shared by all members of the organization that determines a distinctive type of behavior which expresses the brand identity. Aspirational values on the other hand refer to an ideal type of behavior which is not delivered for the moment but it is something the organization aspires to. Two other categories include permission to play values which represent basic simple standards that do not vary too much from one organization to another and accidental values which arise without the direct intervention of management. These last three must not be confused with the core values otherwise the organization might have difficulties in expressing its defining characteristics.

As we have seen, choosing the right values is a challenging process so a few techniques to differentiate core values might prove handy. A useful technique consists in using learning history, in other words, learning from the past experience. An example is provided by organizing a debate with members from different departments of an organization regarding the main crisis faced by the brand. The discussion was focused on the actions taken by the organization when confronted with the crisis. If we further analyze actions we can depict behaviors and ultimately values because these are the main drivers of behavior and action. After a period of time, this group will be again reunited in order to test the relevance of these values, if they provide clear guidance for behavior, communication and development, if they are credible or achievable and ultimately if they set the organization apart from competitors.

Following the structure of the model from brand vision to brand evaluation, the next important element after vision is the organizational culture that can support this vision. First of all we need to understand what culture represents starting with its definition as a collective set of mental models, expectations, values, artefacts and activities that reflect the explicit and implicit rules determining how people behave. This material provides many examples that show how this definition reflects and is applied in the organizational field.

The competing values framework is a diagram which helps individuals within an organization understand the type of culture that reflects their organization. This diagram uses two dimensions to summarize an organization’s culture. The first dimension reflects how the company is structured, the way the departments exist, whether this structure is flexible or a very stable one. The second dimension represents the extent of outward looking of the organization which reflects how it looks for new opportunities or the extent to which the organization is rather bureaucratic. By combining these two dimensions we obtain four different types of culture. We have organizations which are highly flexible, externally oriented and belong to the so-called adhocracy culture which is concerned with creating new idea, new brands and finding new opportunities. Market culture on the other hand is externally oriented, driven by competition but it is more stable. Hierarchy culture is more control based and focused on doing things right whereas clan culture is focused on collaboration and on long term development. Having this theoretical background, companies can understand better what type of culture they belong to and what further changes they should make in terms of acquisition or merging in order to better support the brand vision.

Are people in your organization brand champions or brand saboteurs? Are they actively promoting the brand idea or are they working against it? Find out how you can spot these persons and their behavioral patterns. There are also other categories like brand agnostics, interested but not committed and brand cynics who are not involved in the brand idea, are very skeptic to changes or efforts to further develop. Although all organizations expect their staff to act as brand builders, we can easily find a representation of all these four groups within their structure.

Numerous examples provided in this video try to answer the question what type of organizational culture would be most appropriate for brand growing bearing in mind its vision, what we need to change or add especially in terms of staff training. A starting point would be a wise approach on recruitment which consists in getting the staff to live the brand and therefore actively support it. Although culture is not imposed by management, its direction is certainly influenced by it and one of the action points is aligning staff values with brand vision.

Having explored two important elements of strategic brand management: brand vision and organizational culture we can move on to brand objectives. Due to its responsibility to create a better environment for the brand to operate in, the organization develops short and long term objectives. Long term goals may consist in establishing a worldwide recognized and respected brand but these can only be achieved by being sectioned into more precise short term goals. The concept of need states is also mentioned. When people buy a brand this reflects a certain need they have and how the brand choice implicitly fulfills this need state on both functional and psychological levels.

The concept of need state is further presented using different yoghurt brands as examples to reflect the connection between the need states of an individual and the brand choices that he makes. Another important concept beside need states is represented by catalytic mechanisms. These instruments, designed by professor Jim Collins, can be used by managers to turn abstract ambitious goals into real, tangible performance and moreover, they keep managers focused on visionary long term objectives rather than on opportunistic short term actions with rapid endorsement that could dilute the representation of the brand on a long term. The catalytic mechanisms technique ensures that managers follow brand vision in a disciplined way by applying different type of rules, the so-called “teeth” which affect the members of the organization whenever they are broken or eluded thus creating psychological bonds and increasing intrinsic motivation.

A new model is proposed as a basis in brandsphere audit to show the extent to which the brand can be badly affected or on the contrary, reinforced by environmental forces. This five component model presents the five forces that could build and sustain or impede brand success. One of the main components is represented by the corporation and this video offers a brief description of its main components: values, history, competences and most important, its view.

Brands exist on the market place also due to the interaction with other organizations which represent the distributors. This interaction though is a very dynamic process because distributors expect a share of the value for their contribution. Taking into account some of their other advantages such as image and geographical coverage, managers should check if the distributors’ objectives are aligned with the company’s objectives. This material provides some examples to show how the power increase of the distributors can affect the balance of brand management and also offers strategies on how to control the power of distributors.

What role does the buyer want the brand to perform? How can we motivate consumers who are not very involved in the process of choosing the brand to make a certain choice? This particular chapter of brandsphere audit deals with mechanisms that could transform customers into more aware decision makers through fear and respect. Knowing the role of the brand and the details of the buying process we can understand whether our actions are the right ones or not.

This material emphasizes the importance of choosing your competition. Managers see themselves as competing against key players; on the other hand, customers see markets in terms of substitutability related to the offers they have. Consumers are aware of far less competitors on the market than managers are and this fact also applies to companies from BTB field. If we take a look at competitors from brand managers’ point of view we can narrow them down to two categories: newcomers and the leaders of the market. Newcomers usually have limited resources and develop fast while market leaders have very powerful resources. By examining their strengths and weaknesses but also their objectives and strategies managers should appreciate the strength of the competing brands and also estimate their impact over their own brand.

The final element with an impact on brand management is the marketing environment where we can find threats and opportunities expressed through political, economical, social and technological factors. Consequently, the brand management team should decide if these five forces are likely to enhance or impede brand’s success. Audit brandsphere can thus replace SWOT analysis when it comes to understanding forces that work for or against the brand and also helps managers design strategies to achieve objectives and ultimately reconsider brand vision and objectives.

  19.  Brand essence

As a result of having a vision, considering the brand culture and objectives and following brand audit we can summarize how we want the brand to be. Understanding our competence our and strong and weak points comparing with competitors, we can develop some strong attributes that must reach customers in terms of benefits on functional and emotional levels. Brand essence is thus visually represented as a pyramid that presents brand promise developing on many levels. Therefore we have core attributes at the base and as we move higher, we find these attributes transformed into benefits, emotional rewards, values and ultimately personality traits. This model helps organizations deliver a solid brand promise.

After establishing the brand essence we need to find out how we can resource, enact and put the brand into play. We will use another model called the atomic brand to discover the right resources in order to reflect the desired brand essence. Similar to the structure of an atom, the nucleus of the model is represented by brand essence while the electrons are represented by 8 components determined by the brand essence. These components refer to distinctive name and sign of ownership to identify the brand, functional capabilities to position the brand, service component and risk reducing to increase reliability of the brand, legal protection, shorthand notation and symbolic feature to communicate into a clear and concise manner. All in all, these 8 components of the brand atomic model represent useful resources to support the brand promise.

After designing, marketing and finally selling the product, what the organization needs to do is to monitor the market’s response to the way it has delivered and enacted the brand promise. One of the brand evaluation techniques consists in administrating stakeholders a questionnaire regarding what the brand wanted to achieve and further analyzing the data. Other technique refers to brand equity which represents a set of associations and behaviors on the part of brand’s customers and channel members that allows the brand to earn greater volume and margins than it could without the brand name. In order to measure brand equity, we need to consider some components like loyalty and satisfaction which are strongly interconnected because people are loyal to a brand if they are satisfied. Other components are the quality, the status and the associations of the brand perceived by customers.

A short session of questions and answers. The importance of social media, how online communities approach brands, the concept of prosumers, online strategies used by companies to increase the value of their brand, all these topics are approached through a series of examples and short debates.

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