This paper focuses on managing brands over a period of time, involving brand reinforcement and revitalisation. It opens up with explaining where it all starts from; i.e., what is brand and brand equity? It then moves onto significance of brand equity followed by how brand equity is created? Next comes the most important part which explains why at all does brands needs to be managed over time, which then leads to explaining what is brand reinforcement and revitalisation and its intricacies; and finally moves on to the conclusion of the paper.
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What is Brand?
“Brand” is a fundamental part of today’s market place. Anywhere we look, there are brands and strong brands are the ones which successfully come across a wide variety of product categories (Campbell, 2002). It has been described as “a name, term, sign, symbol, or design which is intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competitors” by The American Marketing Association (Campbell, 2002; Jevons, 2005; Bellman, 2005). However, the customer point of view of a brand is different from that of a manufacturer and could be defined as “the total accumulation of all his/her experiences, and is built at all points of contact with the customer” (Kapferer, 2004, cited by Vel et al., 2011). The two concepts of consumer knowledge and trust are at the heart of building up a brand.
At present, branding is much more than just giving a brand name. A brand is rather the face of the company and branding is therefore, a part and parcel of marketing function of any organisation now. Branding is a very creative process and as said by Branding pioneer Walter Landor “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mindâ€Ÿ (Vel et al., 2011). Brands, actually, are a result of the strategy of marketing segmentation and product differentiation. Every brand tries to identify itself completely with the category of the product and then tries to have a control over it. In the current world, there are brands of variety of shapes, sizes, texture and other differentiating features based on our choices, tastes and traditions; which is evident from the cars we drive to the food we eat. These brands are meant to arise interests in the minds of the consumers, depending on the personalities they hold. This is how every brand has its own distinct personality that appeals to different consumers in different ways (Sheena and Naresh, 2012). For example, Chanel could be a daily-use brand to one section of the society and an aspirational brand to the others.
Brands have many important functions and the most basic function being to “serve as markers for the offerings of a firm”. Brands help consumers to simplify choice, assure a particular level of quality and also to create trust. Brands are built based on the product, its marketing activity and its consumer behaviour. Thus, brands reveal the total involvement of a customer with a product. It also has an important role to play in measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts like advertising. Last but not the least, brands are an asset to an organisation, in financial terms. Thus, brands has an effect at three primary levels of any organisation – customer market, product market and financial market. All these benefits together creates a value which is often called Brand Equity (Keller and Lehmann, 2006).
What is Brand Equity?
Brand Equity is the main meter to judge the state of a brand’s health (Sinha et. al., 2008). There are numerous definitions of Brand Equity. Sinha et. al. (2008) defines it “as a set of assets, namely brand associations, brand awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality and organizational associations that add or subtract value from a product or service”. Keller (1993, cited by Vel et. al, 2011) has however described brand equity “as the differential effects that brand knowledge has on consumer response to the marketing of that”. So, a brand is perceived subjectively by a consumer and thus, brand equity, for a consumer, is the ability of it to influence his/her behaviour by arousing a particular set of reactions and responses (Vel et. al., 2011). Brand Equity is also defined as the “incremental contribution ($) per year obtained by the brand in comparison to the underlying product (or service) with no brand-building efforts”. It is conceptualized to arise from three direct effects – (i) enhanced brand awareness, (ii) enhanced attribute perceptions, and (iii) enhanced non-attribute preference; along with which the indirect effects of the above three sources on the increased availability of the brand, are also taken into account (Srinivasan et. al., 2005).
Significance of Brand Equity
As discussed earlier, brands play a significant role in creating a competitive edge over competition and in fetching considerable financial values for the organisation (Wang, 2010). “Brand equity provides the leverage option for the organisations which helps in the overall improvement of the performance”. The main elements of Brand Equity are the brand name awareness, level of brand loyalty among existing customer, the level of quality associated with the brand and other various brand associations (Korkofingas and Ang, 2011). Though the concept of brand is mostly product oriented, it also helps in creation of value among customers about the product. The brand value is calculated by adding the cost of brand creation with the associated replacement cost in launching of a fresh new brand (Balbanis and Diamantopoulus, 2011).
Torres and Tribo (2011) found out from their research that a firm’s brand equity mostly depends on the level of customer satisfaction and also its shareholder value. So, a manager who is trying to increase Brand Equity of the firm, should consider both the factors. However, their research result had showed that though customer satisfaction has a direct and positive effect on Brand Equity of a firm, it has an indirect and negative impact on shareholder value, through reductions. This is where a marketing manager is required to step in and play a strategic role of satisfying consumers and at the same time counteracting the actions of unsatisfied shareholders.
How is Brand Equity created?
Brand Equity arises from two major sources – brand awareness and brand knowledge. Customers, usually have a set of associations with a brand of what it means and what it delivers. These associations helps to establish a connection between the customer and the brand, and could include product attributes, brand personality, symbols, organisational associations, etc. Brand loyalty also affects the value of a brand, but it is more of a measure of brand equity than being a part of it. So, building of brand equity could be considered to be a two-fold process – 1. to develop brand awareness in the target market and 2. to develop a “strong, favourable and unique” position in the minds of the customer. The following model could be considered in order to build a strong brand and hence, brand equity (Campbell, 2002).
The right hand rise box lists the benefits of strong brands and that is what needs to be achieved through brand awareness and brand associations (Campbell, 2002). Website urls and jingles should also be considered, while taking brand elements into account (Kellar, 2012).
Why Brands need to be managed over time?
The major challenge faced while managing a brand is the numerous changes occurring in the market environment. The market environment is always evolving and significantly moving like changes in consumer behaviour, competitive strategies, government regulations, etc. Apart from these external factors, there are some internal factors as well, that could affect the brand; like the firm itself getting engaged in a variety of happenings, changing of strategic focus of the firm, etc. That is why, effective brand management is so much required to maintain or enhance brand equity, keeping pace with so many changing forces (Keller, 1999). Recent downfall of HMV was for the same reason (See Appendix 1).
Plummer (1990, cited by Ewing et. al, 2009) said that “onlyâ€¦poorly managed brands have a finite life cycleâ€¦if a brand turns out to have a finite life cycle, it is not the brand that failed but the people who managed it”, which means brands should be considered as immortal and only poor managing of a brand could result in its death. However, Groucutt (2006) has proposed an alternative view and has said that though brand life expectancy can be increased in various ways like innovation and repositioning, organisation should be able to identify when the brand has actually reached an end of its life span. On the other hand, Wansink (1997, cited by Bellman, 2005) says that most marketers believe that brand follow a particular irreversible life cycle: “growth, maturation, decline and inevitable death” and so they neglect to cherish brands back into life, and instead focus on introduction of new brands. But Palmer (1999) claims that a brand could be successfully revitalised, by deeply focussing on target audience and some impactful promotional campaigns, along with improved physical characteristics, for e.g. – smart packaging. The launch of Blackberry 10 this year is a similar attempt by the company, to compete with latest models of Samsung and iPhone (See Appendix 2).
However, Vel et. al. (2011) believes that, unlike before, companies these days cannot just “push” their benefits to their target market. This is due to the increased level of interaction between the consumers and the firm. That is why, it is very important for the firms to build relationship with consumers through providing them with consistency of experience and reassurance and getting lifetime loyalty in return. Vijende et. al (2013) conceptualised Brand Management system to consist of three fundamental dimensions: “brand orientation, internal branding and the strategic management of the brand activities”. Brand management essentially needs a strategic and holistic approach, as it would lead to longevity of the brand (Wood, 2000).
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Actually, effective brand management is a part of long-term marketing decisions. Any decision taken by a firm, as a part of its marketing program, could affect consumer knowledge of the brand, specially the brand awareness or image. Later, these changes in consumer knowledge would lead to changes in consumer behaviour, and thus affect the effectiveness of its future marketing activities. Therefore, before making any marketing decision, it is very important to consider the changes it could bring in brand awareness and image and its subsequent effect on the campaign. In fact, brand equity management is even more than taking a long-term perspective. “Brand equity must be actively managed over time by reinforcing the brand meaning and, if necessary, by revitalizing the brand” (Keller, 1999).
What is Brand Reinforcement and Revitalisation?
Brand Reinforcement is all about maintaining brand equity; in other words, it is about making sure that the consumers do have the desired knowledge structures so that the brands continues having its necessary sources of brand equity. This could be done by marketing activities that would persistently carry the meaning of the brand, to the consumers – which could be in form of brand awareness and brand image. However, sometimes, even a well-designed reinforcement strategy fails for various reasons like emergence of new technology or competitors, change in customers’ taste and preference, etc. In this situation, the brands need to revive their fortune by returning to their roots, in order to recapture the lost sources of equity. This is what is meant by Brand Revitalisation (Keller, 1999).
Important considerations of Brand Reinforcement
Chernatony et al. (2011) says, in order to maintain brand equity, brands need to be managed over their period of life cycle and the marketing activities required for the same, would be different in its different phase; namely the growth phase, the maturity phase and the decline phase. According to Keller (2012), Brand Reinforcement involves the following:
- Maintaining brand consistency – This helps to enhance brand’s positive reputation with customers and without it, the meaning of the brand would vary across its several touch points. Brand consistency leads consumers to get familiarised with the brand and enhance their perception about brand uniqueness, resulting in brand reputation (Miller, 2010). E.g. – Coca Cola’s “open happiness” proposition across the globe (See Appendix 3).
- Protecting sources of brand equity – Though brand should always try to defend the existing sources of brand equity, they should also look for potentially powerful new sources of equity. However, there is very little need to deviate from a successful positioning, unless the current positioning is being affected by some internal or external factor which is making it less powerful (Kellar, 2012).
- Fortifying vs. Leveraging – Fortifying refers to enhancing brand equity in terms of awareness and perception, whereas Leveraging refers to making money from a brand. Failure to fortify a brand might result in brand decay and there would be no leveraging from the brand any more. Therefore, there should be a proper balance between fortifying and leveraging brands.
- Fine-tuning Supporting Marketing Program – This could be done through improving product related performance associations and non-product related imagery associations. This should also be done, only when the current ones are no longer creating the desired results to maintain and strengthen brand equity (Kellar, 2003).
Brand Revitalization strategies for a company
It is very important for a company to know, what marketing or managerial actions possibly will revitalise the brand in the minds of the consumer (Andrews and Kim, 2007). The main key to revive a brand is to increase its differentiation, which could be achieved by asserting the “core relevance though incremental and continuous innovation”. Another element that needs important consideration is the presence of brand’s core image in the minds of consumer, in the revitalisation strategy. When a brand is revitalised, many people will recognise the brand but will however want to know whats “new” in it. So, to support the revival, there must be well planned advertising and promotional campaigns. (Bellman, 2005). Chernatony et al. (2011) suggests the following steps to revitalise a brand :
According to Kapferer (2004), in order to revitalise a brand, it is necessary to redefine its brand essence, which will then be embodied in new product or services, targeting a new set of audience. Therefore, according to him, revitalisation could happen through:
- new uses – to develop new user occasion of the product
- distribution change – to develop newer ways of reaching target audience
- innovations – to technologically advance the product
- segmentation – to segment brands and if necessary, create sub-brands
- opinion leaders – to target the trend-setters
- 360 degree communication – to make use of all marketing communication tools together
- change in business model – to let the brand be handled by new set of people, which usually happens in case of acquisitions or mergers.
However, Kellar (2012) believes there are three main strategies of Brand Revitalisation and they are:
Expanding Brand Awareness through:
- Identifying additional or new usage opportunities – This includes reminding the consumer about the brand usage and trying to increase its frequency of use, and to also create new usage opportunities of the brand for the consumers. E.g. – Neutrogena’s launch of oil-free acne face wash (See Appendix 4).
- Identifying new and different ways to use the brand – This refers to changing the unique selling proposition of the brand by identifying new ways of using the brand. E.g. – Cadbury’s change of USP in India from “Shubh Aarambh” (having something sweet before embarking on something new) to “Khaane Ke Baad Meethe Mein Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye” (positioning Cadbury Dairy Milk as a post dinner dessert) (See Appendix 5).
Improving Brand Image through:
- Repositioning the brand – This refers to establishing more convincing points of difference or to establish a point of parity on some key image dimension. E.g. – Repositioning of Airtel (India’s largest telecom service provider) in 2010 (See Appendix 6).
- Changing brand elements – This refers to changing of one or more brand elements in order to convey that the brand has taken a new meaning because either the product or market campaign, has changed. E.g. – evolution of Starbuck’s logo (See Appendix 7).
- Entering new markets - It refers to identifying growth potential in other target market/s and building a new marketing communications plan to build a position of the brand in the new market segment. E.g. – Horlicks launched “Women’s Horlicks” in India, in 2008, identifying growth potential in that segment (See Appendix 8).
This paper has been initiated with explaining the building block of the topic, i.e., brand and brand equity. Sustaining Brand Equity is the main reason behind managing brands and so to understand it thoroughly, this papers explains its significance and creation, before finally moving into looking at, why at all brands need to be managed over a period of time? Brand Management is all about reinforcing and revitalising brands, and several authors have suggested their own strategies to do the same. However, this paper recognises the fact that there is no one rule of the game. It all depends on the nature and characteristic of the brand and also its marketing environment. There are many brands in the world that do not follow the rules and yet becomes the market leader. For example – Boroline, an antiseptic cream brand in India, owned by GD Pharmaceuticals, has not changed its packaging or logo and has not moved into any brand extensions, in the last 80 years and is still doing very well (barring a few up and downs in between), with huge customer loyalty (See Appendix 9). Similarly, there are also other brands which has challenged the rules and got victory. Vodafone India created a new brand identity, when it was already doing well and took the risk of creating new creatures called ZooZoos (See Appendix 10). The campaign done by O&M India was a huge success and went viral across the country, with each of its series launched. But if some other brand had taken this risk, they could have failed miserably, as there is no one “success mantra” that could suit any brand. Every brand needs to break through the clutter and create its identity, by winning the brand battle, through its own tailor-made rule and that’s the key to success.
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