Updated: Dec 15, 2020
As I always say, a brand is the most valuable intangible asset of a company and not only influences a product/service price, but also generates intense consumer loyalty.
In this article, you will learn how to leverage strategic brand management to acquire high-end consumers, integrate it in your #MarketingPlan and maximize brand equity.
Table of contents
THE IMPORTANCE OF BRAND IDENTITY
AND BRAND EQUITY
After deciding the most profitable brand positioning strategy, a business should consider work on its image and the mental structures that enable consumers to organize their knowledge in a way that can influence their purchasing decisions. In fact, a brand determines consumer’s preferences and loyalty.
Defining the scope of branding
A brand is “the promise”: what it must be and do for customers. When consumers willingly choose the same product/service multiple times, a business can predict the demand and secure its market with higher barriers to entry: it’s always difficult for the competition entering an industry controlled by already established brands. Marketers should create meaningful associations in the minds of their consumers which differentiate their product/service from another. Virtually, everything can be branded: a physical product, a service, a store, a person, a place, an organization or even an idea!
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as:
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
Differences between brand identity and brand equity
In brief, I can state that a brand is determined by the interaction of two fundamental elements: brand identity and brand equity.
While brand identity represents the perception of a brand in consumers’ minds and generates sales (or it should be), brand equity is the monetary value of the brand itself. In other words, brand equity represents the commercial value of consumers’ perception of the brand rather than the actual value of the product or service sold.
For this reason, brand equity is strictly related to customers and can be positive or negative. A positive customer-based brand equity is when the audience responses favorably to a product/service and its marketing. In an opposite scenario, you have a negative customer-based brand equity.
There are three pillars which define customer-based brand equity:
Brand equity is built by differences in consumers’ response. If they equally react to a brand, it is a commodity and competition will be based on price;
These differences are made out of consumers’ brand knowledge: their opinion, experiences, emotions and beliefs related with the brand. For example, when you think of FedEx it pops the word "speed", Mailchimp "fun", Nike "motivation", Amazon "convenience" and so on;
Brand equity permeates all aspects of marketing and the greater its power is, the more revenues it leads. Being more practical, the American storyteller, author, designer and entrepreneur, Jonah Sachs, has condensed this point in a simple concept:
Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.
How to measure brand equity
Measuring the value of a brand is not an exact science and there are many models and methods to do it. One of them was explored by Marketing and management of Kotler and Keller and is called BrandAsset Valuator (BAV). This model, developed by the advertising agency Young and Rubicam (Y&R), is research-based and compares the brand equity of thousands companies with as many categories.
According to the BrandAsset Valuator, brand equity lays on four main factors:
Energized differentiation considers how different a company is perceived by consumers, its capability to move forward in the market and leadership;
Relevance tracks the degree of suitability and brand’s attractiveness;
Esteem measures how people consider and respect the brand. In other words, its quality and loyalty level;
Knowledge keeps track of consumers’ awareness and familiarity with a brand.
Energized differentiation and relevance are a future projection of a company’s growth and value. Together, they represent a brand strength. Esteem and knowledge indicate the past performance and the present value. Together, they represent a brand stature.
Usually, strong new brands have a higher level of energized differentiation, industry leaders are great on all four dimensions, instead declining brands have a higher knowledge, proof of past performance.
HOW TO BUILD A BRAND WITH
KAPFERER’S BRAND IDENTITY PRISM
How can you build a strong brand? How can you communicate its elements to consumers in a way that you become memorable and recognizable among the competition?
When it comes to building a brand, I suggest to my clients two types of exercises: Kapferer's Brand Identity Prism or Brand Archetypes.
Let’s start with Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism.
How to interpret the prism
First mentioned in 1986 and later furthered in Strategic brand management: new approaches to creating and evaluating brand equity (1992), the prism of the Ph.D. Jean-Noël Kapferer represents a tool to define brand identity and align marketing communication and message accordingly.
In his work, the professor stated:
Strong brands are capable of weaving all aspects [of the prism] into an effective whole in order to create a concise, clear and appealing brand identity.
As you can see from this image, this six sided prism represents the key factors of brand identity: physical facet (or physique), personality, culture (or values), relationship, reflected consumer (or reflection) and self-image.
Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism visualizes a brand like a person, because the only way for businesses to catch consumers’ minds is to communicate with them as peers.
Like a person, a brand should be able to “receive and send messages” and this is the objective of the strips at the top and bottom of the scheme.
The constructed source (or picture of sender), physical facet and personality, includes the communicative traits of a brand. The constructed receiver (or picture of receiver), reflected consumer and self-image, describes a brand in terms of the stereotype user: what digital marketers nowadays call buyer persona.
The second dimension of the prism is represented by externalization versus internalization. The first represents social aspects (physical facet, relationship and reflected consumer) that a brand should be capable of externalize. The second defines the internal characteristics of the brand (personality, culture and self-image).
Download my Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism worksheet and assess your brand elements like a boss!
What does the brand actually look like? How can it be recognized? The physical facet includes all the physical characteristics that consumers recall when it is mentioned. They can be: logos, packaging, geometrical lines, colors, shapes, smells, patterns…
The brand becomes a character with its unique traits and characteristics. It determines the perception of communicating with an actual person instead of an abstract entity. For example, you can make a brand’s personality by using a specific tone of voice, writing style, colors or design.
What are the beliefs on which a brand is founded? A system of values guides the behavior of employees and partners across all customer touch points and results in a coordinated internal and external communication.
A brand must decide the degree of “attention” or commitment to dedicate to its customers. How do you treat them? How do you help them in terms of customer service? Is the brand close to its customers or wants to maintain a certain distance?
This element is more important for services than products, because a service is a relationship by definition.
It describes the characteristics of the target audience, or more precisely, the typical user. As I already mentioned before, HubSpot would call it buyer persona.
Nevertheless, Kapferer suggests a slightly different interpretation. He says that the reflected consumer shouldn’t represent the actual target group of consumers, but it should portray a stereotype that makes the target audience feel attracted.
It is how customers see themselves while using that brand. How do they feel when they are trying out the product or service? Where are they and in which occasion are they using the brand?
For example, studies have shown how Lacoste customers see themselves as members of a sports club even if they don't actually play a sport at all!
Ferrari brand identity prism example
Missoni brand identity prism example
L’Oréal Paris brand identity prism example
An additional use of Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism
The scope of Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism is broader than what you imagine. The first purpose is obviously pave the way for brand identity, but what if the perception of the real consumer doesn’t match the prism?
When a business builds its brand identity it should always validate and verify that its message is read unequivocally. In fact, a second use for the prism is to survey groups of consumers for getting intel on their perception.
You can make many different questions to understand if your brand identity is aligned with reality, for example:
Physical facet: if I mention this brand, what is the first thing that pops in your mind?;
Relationship: how is this brand related to you? What is its role in your life? How do you feel when you enter our stores?;
Reflected consumer: How old are you? What’s your job? How do you spend your free time? Consider all the questions that allow your business to identify a specific group of consumers;
Personality: let the consumer read a piece from your blog or website and guess the personality of your character. If this character was real, how would it be described?
Culture: are the brand’s values disclosed enough? Can you list them?
Self-image: if this brand were a person, how would you describe them?
HOW TO BUILD A BRAND WITH ARCHETYPES
The Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, founder of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, first mentioned archetypes in his essay called Instinct and the unconscious in 1919. Archetypes are recurring symbols, motifs, ideas, images or pattern of thoughts that are collectively-inherited and unconsciously and universally present in people's psyche.
They are founded in decades of psychological research and rooted in Greek mythology. In fact, the word "archetype" comes from the Greek and according to a modern interpretation of Anthony Stevens in Archetype revisited: an updated natural history of the self, published in 2003:
An archetype is a pattern underlying form or primordial form.
Archetypes represent a school of thought opposite of the tabula rasa theory of human psychological development which describes people’s minds like a blank sheet without built-in mental concepts: all knowledge comes from experience and perception.
All the following images are a reworked version of the creative work of the Australian branding agency Iconic Fox.
How to use brand archetypes to make emotive connections with customers
Despite the transactional relationship with companies (people get products or services in exchange of money), consumers have developed a strong bond with certain brands and became loyal to them.
The reason why a brand is able to build deep connections with customers is because people and the business resonate together in an archetype. If we apply Jung's work to branding, we obtain 12 brand archetypes divided in three macro-categories:
The ego types: the innocent, the everyman (or also called the orphan or regular guy/gal), the hero and the caregiver;
The soul types: the explorer, the outlaw (or rebel), the lover and the creator;
The self types: the jester, the sage, the magician and the ruler;
According to the brand archetypes model, human beings hold natural desires that affect their instinct and influences their behavior. Every primitive human desire corresponds with an archetype and, in the images above, it is disclosed after the heart icon:
Belonging - The Everyman;
Control - The Ruler;
Enjoyment - The Jester;
Freedom - The Explorer;
Innovation - The Creator;
Intimacy - The Lover;
Liberation - The Outlaw;
Mastery - The Hero;
Power - The Magician;
Safety - The innocent;
Service - The Caregiver;
Understanding - The Sage.
This list of basic human desires is aligned with the hierarchy of needs theory of the American psychologist Abraham Maslow, published in his paper A theory of human motivation in Psychological Review in 1943.
They were still confirmed in 2000 by Who Am I? The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities: a theory of an American psychologist, Steven Reiss, who answered the question “what makes people tick” with his Intrinsic motivation model. He assessed more than 6,000 people from four continents and came to the conclusion that individuals are driven by 16 basic desires: everyone has them, but people assign them different priorities.
If you consider that certain behaviors or personalities enhance distinct desires, you understand why each brand archetype appeals to consumers differently.
An alternative way to interpret the 12 brand archetypes would be dividing them into four groups according to their specific focus: ego-fulfillment, freedom, socialness and order.
In this way, it appears clear that people are driven by different sources, but they have the same motivating orientation. For instance, the caregiver fulfills ego by helping other people and this is a social orientation. On the contrary, the hero is also motivated by the need of self-fulfillment, but he does so through brave actions that prove self-worth.
According to the Harvard Business School professor, Gerald Zaltman, interviewed by Manda Mahoney in 2003 and featured in The subconscious mind of the consumer (and how to reach it), the 95% of consumers’ purchasing decisions happen in their mind’s subconscious. In fact he said:
Observations of consumers often reveal that they don't even look at alternatives to the chosen brand. [...] What consumers actually believe or think, as measured by unconscious physical reactions, contradicts what they say when asked directly.
It means brands that are able to build a strong archetypal personality will overpass the competition thanks to the deep emotional link with their audience.
Try to use Kapferer’s brand prism synergically with the 12 brand archetypes, I’m curious to find out your results! Describe what your brand sells and what it does in the comments below and let’s see if I’m able to catch your archetype!