Concepts of brand image

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Part 1: Introduction

Sherry (1987) has described that we are living in a 'brandscape' to emphasis the ubiquitous nature of brands in the current society. A brand is the name, design, sign, symbol or term (or combination of them) that identifies the products or services of the company that makes them distinct from their competitors (Hansen & Christensen, 2003). The importance of a successful brand cannot be underestimated, with many believing that brand success corresponds to business success; necessary for providing a company with a competitive advantage over their rivals (Haig, 2004). In addition to increasing company profits through attracting consumers to continually buy their products, successful brands can also safeguard and strengthen companies by providing a base for them to improve and develop their products or services (McDonald & Christopher, 2003).

With such a large influx of companies thriving for success in selling their products and services, consumers' are spoilt for choice with regards to purchasing through different channels. Thus, the need for a company to construct a winning brand has never been more enforced in order to survive in the current fierce market. In the modern society, brand has become an essential criterion for consumers in the selection of products in which to buy.

Brand image is one of the elements of brand and also one of the most important factors that can influence company success. It is based on the qualities that consumers associate with a given brand that are expressed in terms of human behaviors and desires, but is also related to quality, price and situational use of the brand (Holt, 2004). It is worth noting that brand image is not inherent in the brand name but is created and influenced by advertising (Isnerr, 2003). A brand image can be positive or negative, with opposing effects on the success of a company.

There have been many companies that have unfortunately received a negative brand image. The consequences of brand negativity are highly damaging to company success and can result in reduced sales and profits. Hence, the prompt recovery of brand image is mandatory to reverse the detrimental effects of negative brand image; effective advertising is one of the methods that can help companies to achieve this.

Advertising is a communication tool used to persuade prospective consumers to purchase or consume from a particular brand. It is claimed that "advertising plays a key role in positioning and repositioning brands to relevant consumers to help meet brand objectives" (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006). Advertising is one of the vital business strategies to enhance or to recover brand image. Aaker & Biel (1993) stated that effective advertisement can influence consumers' perceived quality, brand attitude and perceived value; factors that affect brand image. Improving image through advertising can be seen as an investment towards future increase in sales and improved company reputation (Jefkins., 2000). However, launching an effective advertising campaign requires careful planning and deriving of a strategy to influence the audience in the correct way to the benefit of the organization. Ineffective advertisement not only fails to enhance brand image, but can also create a negative image and represent a waste of time, effort and money (Isnerr, 2003).

The aim of this project is to discuss the concepts of brand image and how it may be directly or indirectly influenced by advertising. Also, by using McDonald's as an example, this project will discuss how to create an effective advertisement to recover a negative brand image.

Part 2: Literature Review

Brand Image

As described by Riezebos (2003), a brand image is a subjective mental picture of a brand shared by a group of consumers. It is formed by a series of pictures and ideas in the consumers' mind which sums up their knowledge of a brand, even if they have never purchased from, or have been in touch with the company in the past (Levy, 1978). Importantly, this subjective mental picture can be manipulated by various external influences such as marketing communication, experience through consumption and social influence. Marketing communication, especially advertising, are commonly used methods to sway a target audiences' opinion regarding a product in favour of the company. Advertisement is at its most effective if used to steer brand image towards consumers' before they have had the chance to be influenced by consumption experiences or social influences (Riezebos, 2003). However, aforementioned, an effective advertisement campaign can also be used to recover from and reverse a bad brand image.

While a positive brand image is likely attract consumers towards buying the company's products and hence, increase profits, a negative brand image can have the opposite effect. A negative brand image could result in consumers losing confidence in the organization and subsequently having a preference to buy elsewhere. Hence, the effects of negative brand image on the company can be two-fold; firstly, the loss of customers can result in decreased sales and profits, and secondly, customers preferring to purchase elsewhere gives rival companies a competitive advantage.

Although the importance of creating and then maintaining a good brand image is well documented, it is not always easy to do so because of the fickle nature of this aspect of brand. Simply put, opinions on a brand can change very rapidly due to a wide range of possible influences (i.e. consumption experience) and a positive image can essentially turn bad overnight. Furthermore, even the most successful companies and organizations in the world are not immune to the problems of negative brand image. For example, McDonald's was badly affected by image problems as a result of constant criticisms of their unhealthy foods on the menu since 2003. Hence, the following year in 2004, McDonald's suffered its first major losses in profit in the company's recent history (Goldie, 2006). Since then, McDonald's has launched an advertising campaign to promote healthy eating in a bid to improve image.

The impact of advertising on brand image

Based on the proposed model by Aaker and Biel (1993), brand image is dependent on a number of factors including perceived quality, perceived value, brand attitude and intrinsic / extrinsic cues. The most important influence of brand image is perceived quality so any advertising strategy should be aimed at enhancing this aspect to improve brand image.

Perceived quality, as defined by Zeithami (1988), is an individual's judgment regarding how good a product or brand is, which can be highly subjective and perceptual, rather than being a concrete attribute. Perceived quality is able to affect brand image directly, for instance, if the majority of people feel that a given product is good, then that is likely to result in a positive brand image and vice versa. Effective advertising can be used to affect consumers' quality perception by boldly mentioning quality of the products in the adverts, which can have a direct effect on brand image. For example, this strategy has been deployed by the car company 'Ford' who uses the slogan "Quality is job 1" in their adverts to tell consumers that the company makes quality products although the effectiveness of this strategy is debatable (Ford, Smith and Swasy, 1990). With the term 'quality' being thrown around in adverts so often and the fact that any company can claim their product to be quality without documentation, consumers may feel skeptical towards the actual quality of the product. The effectiveness is likely to be dependent on the type of consumer as studies have shown. It was found that this form of advertising was more effective towards those that have a low familiarity with the product (i.e. cars), who might find specific information (i.e. engine size, horsepower) meaningless as they don't know anything about it, so more abstract level information may be more useful to them (Alba & Hutchinson, 1987). On the contrary, consumers with knowledge of the product type may demand more specific information in order to be convinced. Nonetheless, many companies prefer to use more subtle means to portray quality in their products.

Perceived quality can be indirectly influenced through perceived value and brand attitude, which can also be targeted by advertising and providing an indirect way to change brand image. With regards to perceived value, it is a customers' assessment of a product based on how much was paid and what was received (Zeithaml, 1988). Perceived value varies between different individuals but can influence brand image. A product that isn't 'top of the range' can still gain a positive brand image if customers feel that it is good value for money. The "makes it seem like you have spent a fortune on your hair" slogan used by the cheap Tesco shampoo product can help to raise brand image by making consumers think they are paying a low price for a high quality product. However, enhancing brand image through increasing perceived value does not necessarily have to be limited to low priced products. For example, the higher priced L'Oreal shampoo uses the slogan "I'm worth it" to attract consumers to purchasing. Although admitting to its high price, the slogan gives the impression that it is worth it because of the benefits gained through using the product (i.e. shiny and soft hair). This can help to raise brand image for the respective companies.

It is believed that perceived quality is one of the factors that affect brand attitude (Aaker & Biel, 1993). Brand attitude involves the feelings that an individual has towards a brand or product (such as appeal or like/dislike). Brand attitude is distinct to perceived quality, in that it is possible for an individual to appreciate that a product is of high quality even though it doesn't necessarily appeal to them. However, a positive brand attitude (i.e. if it appeals) plus high perceived quality towards a product can enhance brand image. McDonald's frequently try to target consumer attitude in its adverts to great effect. For example, its TV commercials commonly show happy families enjoying a meal in the restaurant which gives viewers an impression of 'warmth' and 'happiness'. Therefore, consumers may associate these feelings with McDonalds having watched the advert. In another example, the mobile phone company Nokia uses the slogan "Reach out and touch someone close" can also have the same effect. Whenever consumers see the slogan, they might think about the loved ones that they want to talk to, so hence automatically drawing them towards the mobile brand.

Extrinsic and intrinsic cues are classed as lower level attributes that can affect a consumer's perceived quality of a product. Intrinsic cues are the physical properties of a product (i.e. size and color), while extrinsic properties, although product related are not part of the product itself (i.e. price and brand name) (Olson & Jacoby, 1972). For example, regarding how extrinsic cues may affect perceived quality, a product with a high warranty (high extrinsic cue) can make people assume the product is expensive and of high quality (i.e. may seem illogical for a low value product to have a high warranty). A product with high extrinsic and intrinsic cues is likely to receive the highest perceived quality value (Kirmani, 1990). Extrinsic and intrinsic values can also be targeted through advertising to enhance brand image. For example, the computer brand IBM uses high intrinsic cues in its adverts by providing detailed information about their products. This advertising strategy is likely to be more effective to consumers that have knowledge of the product type (i.e. computers), so if a company includes impressive facts about their products, the perceived quality (hence, brand image) can be enhanced. Extrinsic cues are also important in advertising as studies have shown. Freiden (1982) found that an advert containing a celebrity enhanced perceived quality and value of the product. For example, NIKE's adverts commonly include celebrity footballers in the promotion of their products. Furthermore, an advert placed in a prestigious magazine also had a similar effect with increasing perceived quality as shown by Aaker (1972).

Although there are many routes in which advertising can be used to influence brand image, an effective strategy is essential to ensure that brand image is enhanced. The possible risks associated with ineffective advertising (i.e. conveying the wrong message etc) which can result in negative brand image are well documented. The next part of this project focuses on how to create an effective advertisement to recover brand image.

The stage of producing effective advertising

An effective advertisement implies that the company could transmit the right message to their right audience through the right media (Hearne, 2010). Tom Brannan (1993) claimed that there are four stages to produce effective advertisement; objective, target audiences, message strategy and media strategy.

Objective

As stated by Lee & Johnson (2005), any organization should have a clear, realistic and measurable objective in order to generate an effective advertisement campaign. "Advertising objectives act as a guide for decision making" and is a very important first stage to create effective advertising (Fill, 2002). The failure of advertisement campaigns could simply be a direct consequence of failure to derive an appropriate objective. For example, the clothes retailers GAP has announced losses of £127 million due to a failed advertising campaign, with retail analysts claiming "wrong decisions and losing track of company aims" as the main reason for the poor result (Westall, 2001).

Part of the advertising objective to improve brand image can be focused on sales orientation or communication orientation. If it is based on sales orientation, it means that a company aims to increase their sales directly through the advertising. On the other hand, a company could choose to focus their objective around communication orientation, a strategy which aims to influence the target audiences' attitude towards the product or brand. Communication orientation could work in favor of the company by increasing public awareness and knowledge of the product or brand (Lee & Johnson, 2005). Therefore, a company must first decide their advertising strategy with clear objectives in which they hope to accomplish. This is important in the development stage of the adverts in the future.

It is mandatory that before any advertising plans are carried out, a company must analyze their current situations Belch & Belch (2009). This includes determining what the company hopes to accomplish through advertising and the message that they aim to send out to perspective consumers. For example, McDonald's current situation in which they feel, is to reverse a negative brand image due to constant widespread criticism of their unhealthy food choices on the menu (i.e. Big Macs and super-sized French fries) that has contributed to rising obesity levels (MSN Money, 2004). As discussed later, the fast food restaurant hopes that effective advertisement could be adopted to improve their somewhat tarnished image which has resulted in a fall in profits (especially in America) in recent times (Edinburgh Evening News, 2008).

Target audiences

Target audiences are the individuals, groups, communities and bodies of decision makers, whom your advertising is aimed at appealing to. It can be people of a certain age group, gender, marital status, or even a combination of features (i.e. men from aged 18-25). Although selecting the appropriate target audience is not an easy task, it represents an important part of a successful advertising strategy to promote a product or brand once objectives have been set. Having the appropriate target audience is one of factors to produce effective advertising as different people are influenced by messages in different ways (Brannan, 1993). Hence, it is essential to plan an advertising strategy accordingly to ensure that the right message is broadcasted to consumers and that they are influenced in the right way. This includes selecting a group of people that are most likely to respond positively to the message a firm is trying to confer, which is likely to be more efficient (i.e. in promotion cost) than attempting to promote a brand to everyone on the market. Therefore, a firm would be required to consider certain issues such as where the majority of sales or usage is most likely to come from so that an advertisement campaign could be tailored to reach these participants.

The process of target audience selection is a consequence of category and brand attitude and begins with understanding the target group (Belch & Belch, 2009). Failure to understand the targeting audience could have negative consequences on company sales. For example, the cornflake giants Kelloggs have failed miserably in selling their products in India (their geographic target audience), achieving less than 20% of its initial sales target since its introduction in 1995. The reason for this was simply due to failure to realize beforehand that the majority of Indians preferred hot milk in their cereal (rather than cold milk in the adverts) and have a tradition of cooking their own breakfast (Kannan, 2005).

With a huge variety of different people in any given setting, it is difficult to understand and describe each individual on a personal level. Hence, 'general-level' characteristics can be used to profile an audience and is one way to help firms in the selection and understanding of their target audience (Antonides and W. Fred van Raaij, 1998). General-level characteristics are used to categorize people into groups and can be classified as either objective or subjective. Objective characteristics can be divided into two main groups; Demographics (which also include social-economic as a subcategory) and Geographics, while subjective characteristics are known as Psychographics (Percy, Rossiter & Elliott, 2001).

Demographics

A demographic group is an audience that shares a common characteristic or trait and is probably the most well-known of all target audience descriptions. Examples of such traits include age, gender and income, with the latter commonly referred to as socio-economic demographics (Percy, Rossiter & Elliott, 2001). Although demographic selection is very widely used, caution is encouraged since individuals' beliefs and attitudes are likely to vary immensely between one another even if they share a common characteristic (i.e. gender). Robert East (1997) claimed that "Demographic factors are only loosely connected to the attitudes and beliefs that more directly control behaviour."

Geographics

Geographics can help organizations to narrow down their search for a target audience by selecting based on their location. This can include geographic location (i.e. North East Europe), population size (i.e. above 500,000) or where they are located within a city (i.e. rural and suburban area). However, as with demographics, geographics can't be used as the primary selection criteria for a target audience due to a high diversity of consumers' attitudes and beliefs even in those living within the same area (Percy, Rossiter & Elliott, 2001). Hence, many organizations choose to combine both demographic and geographic information in selecting their target audience (demo-geographics) (i.e. individuals aged 20-30 in North East Europe), or they select based on a combination of multiple characteristics (i.e. Single men aged 20-30 from North East Europe). This could potentially reduce the level of diversity within the target audience.

Psychographics

Psychographics are related to personality, attitudes, values, lifestyles or interests and are sometimes referred to as IAO variables (for Interests, Activities and Opinions). The retrieval of psychographic information is particularly important to understand more of their target audience so that organizations can develop their message strategy and select the right media tools to maximize the effect of advertisement (Percy, Rossiter & Elliott, 2001). Psychographic selection should not be confused with behavioural variables such as the usage rate or loyalty of an individual towards a product or service. An example of psychographics is the selection of a group of individuals that enjoys playing computer games.

Message strategy

Upon selection of an appropriate target audience, a company must derive a message that they wish to portray to their perspective consumers which is an essential stage in effective advertising. The importance of a suitable message stimuli has been described by Jefkin (2000), who stated that an advertising campaign is a 'waste' of time and money if readers, listeners or viewers misunderstand the message or even ignores it completely (i.e. is unable to attract attention). Hence, this stage in advertisement requires careful consideration, research and planning.

Advertising essentially involves the presentation of a series of messages that are repeated to a sufficient degree to meet the desired objectives (Solomon, 2009). The message formulation is dependent on a clear advertising objective. For example, one of McDonald's objectives is to promote awareness of its healthy eating and lifestyle campaign, therefore the ideal message to pass on to consumers should provide clear information that it is offering healthier food choices and that it is transforming into a healthy food restaurant (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006).

Once the company has considered the content of their message, they would then need to decide on an advertising appeal to attract the attention of the audience to the message. Regarding possible appeals, there are various types including emotional and rational ones where an accurate choice of appeal could enhance brand or product promotion. A rational appeal targets an individual's practical or functional needs for particular services or products, while an emotional appeal focuses on an individual's social or psychological needs for purchasing a product (Ambekar, 2009). It is essential that an organization chooses the right appeal to maximize the effect of advertisement based on the target audience. For example, young children represent a major target audience for Burger King, so it may be deemed unsuitable to use a sex appeal in the adverts aimed at this group category. The following are some common types of appeals used:

Fear appeals

Fear appeals target an individual emotionally by highlighting the negative consequences if they choose not to purchase or use their products or services. This particular strategy has been demonstrated to great effect by the life insurance company AIA who uses the message "If you were taken seriously ill or died, what would happen to your lovers?" in their adverts to shock customers to buying life insurance from them (Solomon, 2009).

Sex appeals

Adverts that use sex appeals rely on an individual's curiosity about sex to attract attention. As explained by Levit (2010), a pair of long legs in a poster is more likely to attract a male's attention than a puppy regardless of how cute it might be. Sex appeals have regularly been used in adverts generated by Dolce and Gabbana involving topless male or female models in the promotion of their products. It is possible that viewers of these adverts are subconsciously drawn to buying the products due to their inner desire to be as attractive as the models in the images (Solomon, 2009). However, using sex appears can be a risky strategy if misused, as demonstrated by the brand Aberchrombie & Fitch. The release of the "XXX Wet, Hot summer fun" catalogue in 2002 was deemed too offensive which affected sales and damaged brand reputation (Levit, 2010).

Slogans and jingles

The main function of a slogan or jingle is to create or enhance the identity for a brand. The use of effective slogans (tagline) is an important advertising strategy to increase brand recognition especially if the slogan is 'catchy' and popular. However, for this to work, a slogan must compliment well and be relevant with the product or brand that is being promoted. For example, the mobile phone company Nokia has a slogan "Nokia has everyone talking" which is both easy to remember and relevant to the product (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006).

Media Strategy

"Advertising media are called on to perform the task of delivering the message to the consumer" and plays a major role to produce effective advertising (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006). With fast advances in technology in recent years, companies are now spoilt for choice with regards to the types of media they could use to promote their products through advertisement. It is important for organizations to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different types of media and how effective they are for different audience categories. There are currently four main types of media for advertising; print media, broadcast media, new media and alternative media.

Print media

Magazines and newspapers belong in the print media category which until recently, were the primary media choice for advertisers. The advantages of using print media in advertising is that it can provide detailed information about the products or services to readers, which could be broadcasted to a large variety of people in a short space of time (i.e. adverts in newspapers). Thus, this is often referred to as being a high-involvement media (Krugman, 1966). However, the effectiveness of print media has slowly been decreasing over time, especially since the growth of broadcast media and companies have began shying away from this form of media in favour of more recent methods of advertisement. This could be due to factors such people preferring to access material such as news through the internet rather than buying newspaper, and also busier lifestyles meaning that people are spending less time reading (Belch & Belch, 2009).

Broadcast media

Broadcast media which include television (TV) and radio is an excellent medium to rapidly promote products and services to many people. TV is highly effective not only because many people watch it, but also due to the fact it is possible, through conveying a mood or image and use of appeals, to make even a dull product seem interesting to viewers. Indeed, some companies are so confident with the perceived success of broadcast media that they are willing to use the majority of their media budget on TV advertisement as is the case with General Motors, which is a car company. However, drawbacks with TV commercials include very high costs and also low runtimes which leaves nothing tangible to audiences (Belch & Belch, 2009). Radio is also a high frequency medium which can reach large audiences rapidly and the costs are much lower. However, radio adverts are unable to portray visual images so are generally less effective than TV adverts (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006).

New media

The modern market has provided a large repertoire of possible methods to advertise products such as DVDs, videos, CD-ROMS and the internet. The internet is fast becoming one of the main forms of advertisement. Hairong (2007) stated that advertisers can use internet to target their audiences with unique demographic characteristics or special interests. In addition, the internet can utilise text, graphics, audio and video to broadcast a message and can provide high-impact advertising. Lee & Johnson (2005) claimed that organizations can greatly enhance the potential to build customer relationships and brand awareness if they use internet commercials.

Outdoor media

Billboard, transit shelters, super boards, and other out-of-home media such as blimps and skywriting belong to the outdoor media category (Bhargava & Donthu, 1999). Despite this media type being around for many years, the use of outdoor media to promote products is actually increasing and is being improved to keep up with the ever advancing society. In an example of how technology and outdoor media combined, Yahoo! used a billboard in New York Times Square which features an interactive videogame that viewers could access using their mobile phones. Outdoor media can also be placed in a wide variety of outdoor locations such as buses; train stations, buildings etc and can target individuals in specific geographic and demographic areas (Belch & Belch, 2009).

The type of media that an organisation would choose ultimately depends on their target audience and the budget allocated to advertising. As described by Brassington & Pettitt (2006), the target audience is critical to guiding the detailed media selection and different media types are effective for different audience categories. For example, Grunewald Associates research showed that over 70% of 9-17 year old people use the internet as their main source of information, and regularly watch television, while there is a decline in reading habits in children (Lee & Johnson, 2005). Hence, it would be logical that if a company's target audience is young children, they should focus their marketing strategy around broadcast media (i.e. TV) and new media (i.e. internet) rather than print media.

In addition, the target audience can be international, national or regional; the organization should select the media that can reach dispersed groups within the target audience (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006). Lee and Johnson (2005) claimed that budgeting decision is the most difficult to manage as there is no formula that will deliver the right answer every time. However, the company must spend the advertising cost that they can afford and reasonable.

McDonald's effective advertisement

McDonald's provides a good example on how effective advertising is produced through the four main stages described above. With regards to key objective, McDonald's chose to focus on communication orientation rather than sales orientation. This seems logical because despite a blip regarding sales and profits (Edinburgh Evening News, 2008), it is more important to reverse the negativity towards their brand image. The monetary benefits gained from sales orientation would only be short term and wouldn't address the one of the major factors accounting for the fall in sales. On the other hand, recovering brand image through communication orientation could indirectly improve sales, while restoring confidence towards the McDonald's brand which is more important.

McDonald's analyzed their situation and circumstances before concluding their objective. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that more than two-thirds of Americans were either overweight or obese (David R Donohue, 2010). Indeed, raising public awareness of the consequences associated with obesity (i.e. heart disease) and promotion of healthy lifestyle is likely to have detrimental effects on McDonald's profits especially in America (McDonald's biggest geographic target audience). The government limited fast food restaurant development by imposing a ban on fast food TV advertisement in young children's programmes (BBC News, 2007) and McDonald's brand image has also suffered greatly due to widespread criticism of their unhealthy food choices on the menu and contribution to obesity in children (MSN Money, 2004). Hence, to combat this negativity, McDonald's launched the healthy eating/lifestyle campaign and introduced more healthy food choices on the menu such as salads and fruit (Malkin, 2010). Based on the above information, McDonald's sought to promote their new healthy food menu through advertising. Their two main objectives were clear; firstly, to change their brand image from junk food restaurant to a healthy food restaurant and secondly, to keep up with changing attitudes in favour of healthy living. McDonald's could increase sales and profit by promoting their healthy food choices (Deng, 2009).

In the next stage of the advertisement campaign, McDonald's selected the appropriate target audience based on 'general-level' characteristics. With selection of target audiences, it is generally not recommended to use only one selection criteria (i.e. just demographic based on gender), since even if members of the audience share the similar demographic characteristic, there is still likely to be a huge diversity in opinions, attitudes and behaviors. Hence, there is a risk that any advert aimed at the target audience may not interest everyone. To minimize this risk, McDonald's selected a target audience based on a combination of demographic, socio-economic, geographic and psychographic selection criteria. This ensures there is a maximum chance that any advert would influence the majority of the target audience in a positive manner.

During the selection process, it is possible that more than one potential target audience is identified. It is not always ideal to promote to all potential target audiences due to possible differences in attitudes or beliefs between different audience groups. Hence, a company should select the target audiences that have the most potential for increased sales for the company. To identify which target audience (possibly of many) to select, McDonald's researched where the majority of their sales and profits came from and selected these groups to target since they are most likely to respond positively to the advertisement. For example, three groups with high potential were selected; they were children, young people (i.e. students) and working adults (esp. those that are constantly on the move) that are most likely to visit McDonald's due to varying reasons including leisure, value and convenience. Upon the launch of the healthy eating campaign, McDonald's are also likely to increase their general customer base, since it may attract individuals that build their life around a healthy lifestyle.

The derivation of a massage that a company wishes to broadcast to perspective consumers is an essential part of the advertisement campaign. Such messages can be important in attracting an individual's attention towards the brand or portray information about the brand. One of the messages that McDonald's want to pass out to consumers' is that the fast food restaurant offers healthy food. This is likely to appeal to consumers that desire to eat more healthily, or those that never normally visit McDonald's due to their junk food menu in the past. This is in addition to the regular portraying of messages that include good value, and fast service. Regarding advertising strategy, McDonald's uses emotional appeals in adverts that target an individual's psychological needs for buying its products. For example, McDonald's adverts regularly throw out words such as 'tasty', 'delicious' and 'crispy' in an attempt to make a person crave a McDonald's healthy 'crispy' salad; a highly effective strategy deployed within their healthy eating campaign. Adverts can also come across as humorous and energetic which projects to the viewer so that whenever they think of McDonald's, they naturally feel more happy towards it (Rekom, 2010).

To attract consumers' attention, McDonald's also uses slogans in adverts that can give viewers a long lasting impression of the brand, hence further enhancing recognition of the brand. For example, in the promotion of the healthy eating/lifestyle campaign, McDonald's uses the slogan "It's what I eat and what I do .... I'm 'lovin' it" to attract a person's attention (QSR magazine, 2010). This is a good slogan because it is simple and easy to remember. Also, having a happy healthy looking person in an advert saying those words can emotionally appeal to consumers' especially if they desire to be healthy and happy themselves as well. Moreover, McDonald's have also used a male celebrity singer (Justin Timberlake) to sing out the slogan, which is a clever strategy, since it not only makes the slogan more 'catchy', but also increases the popularity of the brand to young people (esp. if they are fans of the singer).

Finally, in terms of media choices, to ensure that the messages are transmitted to everyone and that public awareness of the campaign is at a maximum level, McDonald's have promoted their new healthy food menu in a wide variety of media such as magazines, newspapers, TV and outdoor posters etc. Broadcasting in a large variety of media is also effective because, as different people respond differently to different stimuli (i.e. some people may respond better to visual stimuli while others may be better responders to writing), this makes sure that there is a type of advert that generates an 'optimal' effect for everyone. Although McDonald selected a wide variety of media, they performed the advertisement campaign within their budget which suggests good planning and ensuring that no further losses were made (Trendhunter 2010).

Overall, the net profits of McDonald's during the last 3 months of 2009 has jumped 23% compared to the previous year (BBC News, 2010) and healthy food sales at the restaurant increased by 50% (Trueman, 2008), which could at least be partially due to the advertisement campaign. Hence, based on these figures, it is possible to conclude that McDonald's have adopted effective advertising strategy. Additionally, such positive figures suggest that there has been a recovery of brand image.

Part 3: Conclusion

Conclusion

Brand image is an essential part of business success. While a positive brand image is important to generate sales, profits and a good company reputation, a negative brand image would result in a decrease in sales and profits and could hinder future company development. Hence the forming and maintenance of a good brand image is highly vital. Effective advertising is one of the methods that can be employed to recover a negative brand image by influencing consumers' perceived quality, brand attitude and perceived value. An effective advertisement campaign requires careful planning and research based on four key stages; derivation of objective, selection of appropriate target audience, choosing the right message strategy, and use of the correct media. However, a failure to produce effective advertising not only means that the company is unable to improve brand image, but also represents a waste of time, money and effort.

McDonald's is an example of a company that has attempted to reverse negative brand image through advertising, leading to an upturn in profits. The McDonald's campaign had all the makings to be successful due to it following the four key advertisement stages well (Objectives, audience, message and media). Notably, regarding the advertising objective, McDonald's had chosen to focus on communication orientation rather than sales orientation which I believe is a logical move. This is because the long-term benefit of restoring consumer confidence towards the McDonald's brand far outweighs the short-term monetary gains through sales orientation. Furthermore, McDonald's decision to broadcast and print their adverts in the vast repertoire of different media may prove to be key to company success. I feel this is the correct decision to make due to the diverse target audience selected by McDonald's (which includes young children, students, adults etc). This is because different individuals respond to advertising stimuli differently. For example, young children with limited reading skills may respond better to visual adverts than those with lots of adverts etc. Hence, using a large variety of different media ensures that there is an optimum advert for everybody. Moreover, publishing in so many different locations ensures that the advertisement reaches the vast majority of the target audience in the minimum time. Hence, based on the decisions made in each of the main advertising stages, I believe that the results will be positive and that this campaign would be effective in recovering McDonald's brand image.

Further Research

An advertising campaign requires the use of copious amounts of money. Hence, it is important for a company to assess whether their advertisements are going to generate the desired effect before they launch the campaign. To make sure, a company should always evaluate the effectiveness of their advertisement through pre- and post-testing. Fill (2002) claimed that the evaluation process is also a key part of advertising and acts as a safety measure and would avoid possible failure, such as costly mistakes, objectives are not achieved etc. Pre-testing is used to check the contents and messages in the adverts before broadcasting or printing. This stage can help identify any problems before large amounts of money are spent in the development of the adverts. Post-testing is used to determine whether the objectives were achieved via the use of a combination of enquire, attitude, sales, recall and recognition tests (Belch & Belch, 2009).

Overall, this project has focused on the use of effective advertisement for influencing brand image. With regards to McDonald's, I believe they have appropriately carried out their advertising campaign which has resulted in recovery of brand image. The fact that they performed the campaign within their advertising budget suggests good planning which deserves praise.

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