Building brand equity


Marketers build brand equity by creating the right brand knowledge structures with the right consumers. This process depends on all brands related contacts whether marketer-initiated or not. From a marketing management perspective, however, there are three main sets of brand equity drivers:

1. The initial choices for the brand elements or identities making up the brand (e.g. brand names, URLs, logos, symbols, characters, spokespeople, slogans, jingles, packages, and signage). Old Spice uses bright-red packaging and its familiar ocean schooner to reinforce its nautical theme while also launching deodorant and antiperspirant extensions adding the High Endurance and Red Zone brand names.

2. The product and service and all accompanying marketing activities and supporting marketing programs. Joe Boxer made its name selling colorful underwear with its signature yellow smiley face, Mr. Lucky, in a hip, fun way. The company spent almost zero on advertising; clever stunts and events garnered publicity and word of mouth. An exclusive deal with K mart has generated strong retail support.

3. Other associations indirectly transferred to the brand by linking it to some other entity (e.g. a person, place, or thing). Subaru used the rugged Australian outback and actor Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee movie fame in ads to help craft the brand image of the Subaru Outback line of sports utility wagons.

Choosing Brand Elements:

Brand elements are those trademark able devices that serve to identify and differentiate the brand. Most strong brands employ multiple brand elements. Nike has the distinctive “swoosh� logo, the empowering “Just Do It� slogan, and the mythological “Nike� name based on the winged goddess of victory.

Brand elements can be chosen to build as much brand equity as possible. The test of the brand-building ability of these elements is what consumers would think or feel about the product if they only knew about the brand element. A brand element that provides a positive contribution to brand equity, for example would be one where consumers assume or inferred certain valued associations or responses. Based on its name alone, a consumer might expect Color Stay lipsticks to be long-lasting and Snack Well to be healthful snack foods.

Brand Element Choice Criteria:

There are six criteria in choosing brand elements as well as more specific choice considerations in each case. The first three (memorable, meaningful and likable) can be characterized as “brand building� in terms of how brand equity can be built through the judicious choice of a brand element. The latter three (protect-able, adaptable, and transferable) are more “defensive� and are concerned with how the brand equity contained in a brand element can be leveraged and preserved in the face of different opportunities and constraints.

a) Memorable: How easily is the brand element recalled and recognized? Is this true at both purchase and consumption? Short brand names such as Tide, Crest, and Puffs can help.

b) Meaningful: To what extent is the brand element credible and suggestive of the corresponding category? Does it suggest something about a product ingredient or the type of person who might use the brand? Consider the inherent meaning in names such as Diehard auto batteries, Mop & Glow floor wax, and Lean Cuisine low-calorie frozen entrees.

c) Likeability: How aesthetically appealing consumers find the brand element? Is it inherently likable visually, verbally, and in other ways? Concrete brand names such as Sunkist, Spic and Span, and Firebird evoke much imagery.

d) Transferable: Can the brand element be used to introduce new products in the same or different categories? To what extent does the brand element add to brand equity across geographic boundaries and market segments? Volkswagen chose to name its new SUV, Touareg, after a tribe of colorful Saharan nomads. Unfortunately, historically they were also notorious slave owners, which created a negative press backlash in the United States.

e) Adaptable: How adaptable and updatable is the brand element? Betty Crocker has received over eight makeovers through the years although she is over 75 years old, she doesn’t look a day over 35!

f) Protect-able: How legally protect-able is the brand element? How competitively protect-able? Can it be easily copied? It is important that names that become synonymous with product categories—such as Kleenex, Kitty Litter, Jell-O, Scotch Tape, Xerox, and Fiberglass—retain their trademark rights and not become generic.

Developing Brand Elements:

In creating a brand, marketers have many choices of brand elements to identify their products. Companies before making a final choice select a few brand names by generating a list of possible names, debating their merits, eliminating all but a few brand names, and conducting tests with target consumers.

Today, many companies hire a marketing research firm to develop and test names. These companies use human brain storming sessions and vast computer database, cataloged by association, sounds, and other qualities. Name-research procedures include association tests (What images come to mind?), learning tests (How easily is the name pronounced?), memory tests (How well is the name remembered?), and preference tests (Which names are preferred?) Of course, the firm must also conduct searches to make the chosen name has not already been registered.

Brand elements can play a number of brand–building roles. If consumers do not examine much information in making their product decisions, brand elements should be easily recognized and recalled and inherently descriptive and persuasive. Memorable or meaningful brand elements can reduce the burden on marketing communications to build awareness and link brand associations.

The different associations that arise from the likeability and appeal of brand elements may also play a critical role in the equity of a brand. The Keebler elves reinforce home-style baking quality and a sense of magic and fun for their line of cookies. Ads featuring the Buddy Lee doll character for Lee’s Jeans helped to make the brand popular with a younger audience that had not yet connected to the brand.