Principles of Brand Management
To manage brands in the best possible way we have to be extremely conscious of the nature of the brands we are looking at. Their character needs to be analysed or the viewpoint to support the brand may appear incongruent and unstable.
A brand is a mix of functional and emotional values and the combination of the two together can deliver an exclusive product with which the customers identify themselves.
One of the Principles of Brand Management is nurturing brands. To do that there are a few steps which need to be taken:
1. clarification of the definition of brand;
2. analysis of the balance between reason and emotions;
3. description of the tangible (symbol, name, package, advertising) and intangible (core competence, positioning, culture and personality) aspects.
The clever combination of these elements gives the brand a cluster of functional and emotional values which allow the company to be easily recognisable. Furthermore, they grant high quality to their customers who will always experience gratification every time they interact with the company, thus coming back.
We sometimes underestimate the importance of brands. Research shows the idea of values that a brand can bring. This is achieved by measuring the impact of investments in businesses that are among the top 100s and others that are not.
Additionally the fact that, because of their emotional content, brands matter in the B2B sector as well as in the consumer sector has to be highlighted. Top companies are excellent in building a promise with the emotional needs of their customers which are not necessarily associated with the product or service itself. To deliver the expected promises and to create the brand identity, some recommended strategies need to be followed.
The promise should, therefore:
1. be new;
2. be different from any previous one;
3. have a personal value to create an emotional bond;
4. be continuously delivered;
5. keep its high standards at all times.
The brand promise has a pyramid structure in which the base must be rational and functional. The second level is expressed by the emotional values which are a high point and give brands their unique identity hence creating sustainability and the third which is experimental.
To devote some more emotions to brands, the four component model called Brand Pleasures has to be studied.
This model seeks the ideological, personal, group and cultural dimension of pleasure.
The first combines the brand with a system of beliefs and ideas;
The second blends the brand with our personal achievements;
The third (group) identifies the emotions when we belong to a group where the connection between individuals is eased by the brand promised experience;
The fourth and last (cultural) gives a brand its iconic dimension.
People are very emotional about products and services and everything concerned with them. There are some essential tools which are fundamental in Brand Management and among these 360° Brand Experience is one. 360° Brand Experience means taking the brand promise and enact the promise 360°. The customer should thus encounter what the organisation has pledged.
Communication is also fundamental. The customer's journey is analysed from the pre-purchase phase up to the final post-purchase one, considering all those factors that can influence his/her satisfaction and full appreciation of the product.
From the concept of 360° Experience, we move to what is called Memorable Experience which consists in combining the functional values to the emotional ones. There are a few steps in memorable experience and they are:
1. choose a theme for the experience;
2. add positive ideas;
3. eliminate negative ideas;
4. memorabilia i.e. all those factors that trigger our senses and make the experience arduous to forget.
The next crucial concept is called Evolutionary Interpretation which can be considered the brand development over time. This concept stresses the compelling connection between the surface elements (logo, names, symbols) to the core promise.
Product Positioning is next, expressed through competence. Once the emotional level is fully exploited personality and visionary components are brought in, giving more value to the goods and services. Customers also become more loyal to the brands and are willing to pay more for it.
How are brands, products and services positioned on the market? First of all the brand has to own an incredibly compelling functional base in the form of a guaranty of quality and excellent benefits. Second, the brand has to maintain its position in the category of the clients it addresses to, the field the brands is used in, and the elements that compose the nature of the brand itself. The third point is the pricing strategy which depends on the image and recognition that companies and customers together have of the brand itself.
Another important element in Brand Management is what is called Brand Architecture. It involves the concept the brand's portfolios and hierarchy make sense because a high number of companies have different brands which address to various customer segments.
To develop brands for different segments, coordinated support is essential. This covers research and development, selling activity, distribution channels, understanding the clients' needs and delivering those personal and intimate benefits they may expect.
The last suggestion of "how to develop a successful brand" is given by continually monitoring the source of brand equity, analysing brand drivers like awareness, beliefs, relationships and intention to repurchase.
To stand out as a unique and exclusive name in its gender, a brand has to retain some particular features that can easily make the customer think about it, recognising it among many others. There are two theories on how to do it.
The first has been formulated by David Archer and states that there are three potential ways to stand out among competitors:
1. the organisation must have a substantial impact on customers due to its logo, package and design;
2. the organisation has to be focused on who buys and uses the brand;
3. the organisation has to be focused on how its customers interact with their peer group.
The second model presented was designed by Jean-Noel Kapferer and has a different approach. It introduces a new concept of brand identity. Its concept can be used as a creativity tool to better differentiate brands. The notion of "physique" is introduced referring to function, form and personality which are at the base of differentiation. When the brand identity grows and develops, staff and customers start building a relationship between them which will end in an internal and external reflection showing what customers assume and expect by a brand and vice-versa.
Another vital element in Brand Management is Added Value. The added values are the resources a company decides to invest in a particular brand which on a long term will bring back profit. Finished products can be sold at a higher price than the cost of their single components. If new benefits are discovered, they can add value to the primary product. These advantages are not always planned: positive perceptions driven by the creative use of added value devices can be seen by clients as proper benefits. Moreover, if a company develops a product or a service it gains popularity and experience. This will inevitably lead to higher sales and lower costs.
Environment too is considered an added value in Brand Management with 20% of the total cost of the product holding 80% of customers impact. Strategies involving low pricing, tilting quality-price balance and the analysis of the benefit-sacrifice balance are part of the core strategies involved.
One of the last but relevant concepts is the Service Mapping, very much tied in with added value and with the way the brands are delivered thanks to a smart organisation with their partners. Service mapping is fundamental to map the customers' experience when receiving a service and to check how help is given when requested. New and creative ways of pleasing the customers are key points to reward clients and assure more benefits.
The very last concept introduced is Co-creation. Added value is not a frozen idea, is dynamic as old ideas are eventually taken for granted. The process by which the company produces can be shared with customers. By doing that, the customers become involved in the process and can tailor the product for their personal needs. On the other end, the company is happy too as it reduces their core structure.
Other examples of added values are represented by rituals and events to which the brand is attached to. These are:
Rituals (can we attach and event to a brand);
Symbols (logos signify products that are globally available);
Heritage of goods (they stood the test of time);
Aloofness (making the brand difficult to buy);
Belonging (adding value because a brand is about belonging);
Legend (the way brands become legends).