Branding, Brand and Brand Management

Branding, Brand and Brand Management

Branding is the process of building a brand. Organizations spend a huge amount of money in planning and implementing brand activities.

The fundamental purpose of branding is differentiation. A brand is a means of differentiating the product of the organization from the other competing products.

Branding means much more than just giving a brand name and signalling to the outside world that such a product or service has been stamped with the mark and imprint of branding means much more than just giving a brand name and signalling to the outside world that such a product or service has been stamped with the mark and imprint of the organization. It needs a corporate long-term involvement, a high level of resources and skills.

Branding is about creating and delivering a promise to the target customers. This promise can be about functional satisfaction, experiential enrichment, or aspirational fulfillment. Increasingly, brands are promising that they care not only about their customers but also about their employees, the environment, and humanity at large.

The objective of branding strategy is to create brands which are differentiated from the competition, hence reducing the number of substitutes in the market-place. When high brand equity is achieved through brand differentiation, the price elasticity of demand becomes low, allowing the organization to increase price and improve profitability. Branding strategies are built on the interdependent frameworks of competitive brand positioning, value chain development, and brand equity management.

At the organizational level, it is necessary to develop a branding strategy, which is essentially a long-term plan for developing a successful brand, with the aim of achieving certain market success. A well-defined and executed branding strategy influences all aspects of the organizational activities to such a level so that it gets directly linked to the customer needs, customer experiences, and the competition. Essentially, it is a marketing strategy which involves creating a differentiated (specific) name and image, most commonly through logos and / or slogans, for the purpose of gaining recognition in customer awareness and attracting and / or retaining customers.

Branding is not just about specifying a target market and selecting a product and / or service which is differentiated from the competition. Branding refers to seeing the product being offered to potential customers as the only provider and the only one offering a quality solution to their needs. The objectives which a good brand needs to achieve are (i) sending a clear message to customers, (ii) authentication, (iii) emotionally connecting the market with a product and / or service, (iv) achieving consumer loyalty, and (v) motivating customers to buy a product and / or service.

In order for a branding strategy to succeed, it is required to start from understanding the needs and wants of its customers. This is achieved by integrating the branding strategy into every form of communication between the organization and the market, since branding is an expression of what the organization offers. Every product and / or service which the organization offers has its own life-time. But the brand is something which goes beyond the product. The brand is the value which stays alive despite the product. Hence it is important to build a branding strategy.

The importance of branding is several, but the most important is that it helps in increasing the sales. This means that when needed e.g., increase of the product prices, the target customers accept price increases since the brand is what they value. Branding also develops the uniqueness of a product and / or service and encourages confidence of the customers in a particular product and / or service even in cases where production does not live up to expectations. Branding has emerged as a top management priority in the last decade because of the growing realization that brands are one of the most valuable intangible assets which the organizations have.

Branding is assembling of different marketing mix medium into a whole so as to give the organization or the product an identity. It is nothing but capturing the minds of the customers with the name of the brand. Brand gives an image of an experienced, huge, and reliable organization. It is all about capturing the niche market for the product / service of the organization and about creating a confidence in the minds of the present and prospective customers that the organization or the product is the unique solution to their problem. The aim of branding is to convey brand message brightly, create customer loyalty, persuade the customer for buying the product, and establish an emotional connectivity with the customers. Branding forms customer perceptions about the product and raises customer expectations about the product. The primary aim of branding is to create differentiation with the competition.

Hislop defined branding as ‘the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of generating segregation among competition and building loyalty among customers’.

Kapferer and Keller have defined branding as a fulfillment in customer expectations and consistent customer satisfaction.

Branding can also be defined as ‘a seller’s promise to provide consistently a unique set of characteristics, advantages, and services to the buyers / consumers. It is a name, term, sign, symbol or a combination of all these planned to differentiate the goods / services of one seller or group of sellers from those of the competitors’.

Branding normally precedes and underlies any marketing effort. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of the organization, the product, or the service. It is the communication of characteristics, values, and attributes which clarify what this particular brand is and is not.

If a brand results from a set of associations and perceptions in the mind of the people, then branding is an attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations and perceptions to help the organization to perform better. Branding helps the organization to stand out from its competitors, adds value to its offer and helps it in engaging with its customers.

Branding is a way of clearly highlighting what makes the offer of the organization different to, and more desirable than the competitors. Effective branding elevates the level of the product or the organization amongst its rival products or organizations. Effective branding makes the product or the organization unique to the customer. Branding helps the organization to get benefitted enormously by making the product or the organization as distinctive, trusted, exciting and reliable in the eyes of the customer. By branding the organization makes a promise that the product is going to perform as per the expectations of the customer. It shapes the expectations of the customer about the product.

Branding makes customers committed to the business of organizations. A strong brand differentiates the products of the organization from the competitors. It gives a quality image to the business of the organization. Fig 1 shows certain aspects of branding.

Fig 1 Certain aspects of branding

Steps in branding – There are a number of steps involved on how to build a brand. There are several branding strategies, However, the organization moves to the brand in the following steps.

Designing a brand strategy for an organization, a product, or a service – A brand strategy is made after a detailed analysis of the product itself, customer analysis for which it is intended (their lifestyle, habits, and attitudes etc.), competition and market analysis, market position analysis of competing brands and their communications with customers and the general public. During this process, the brand strategist seeks to find the specific benefits which the new brand is going to provide to the customer as well as the range of values which the new brand is going to represent. Based on this, the brand image of the product is built and its unique position is found in the market and in the minds of the customers.

Designing a visual identity for a brand – A new brand has its uniqueness and character which is needed to be developed in the years to come. The name of the brand is required to match the character of the organization and faithfully portray it, as well as the visual identity of the organization. The unique name and unusual and striking design draw the attention of the potential customers to the brand and influence their decision to opt for it.

Designing a communication strategy – A brand is built by communication and in order for the communication to succeed, the organization is required to know the market. The message which reaches the customers is to be unambiguously clear and is to come at the moment when they are in the mood to receive it. Organization can send a message through the print or electronic media, in virtually any place. Modern information and communication technologies (ICT) provides several opportunities for the organization to get in touch with the customers and only the creativity of the communication team depends on the choice of channels of communication which leads to the shortest path.

Choosing of the idea – The present-day customer is constantly bombarded with an abundance of information coming from different media. In this regard, it is of high importance to find out how the organization can influence the customers to remember the message the organization is sending to them. Each message is to be based on an original idea which induces a positive emotion in the customers.

Choice of communication channels – The success of the promotional activities of the organization depends on the proper choice of media, places, and situations in which the organization desires to promote the brand, but also on the budget which the organization has set aside for their realization. Traditional media such as television, billboards, and print media cover the widest target customers but are very expensive to implement. Internet campaigns are different promotional campaigns which cost much less and can have a very good effect.

Monitoring the effects of communication – The effects of communication can be measured against the increase in demand and sales of the product itself. Equally important are the effects which the communication has on the attitudes and behaviours of the customers. Regular customer surveys are necessary for the determination of the brand recognition, discovering of the customer attitudes towards a brand, their emotions towards a particular brand, how frequently, when and how they use the brand, and how they are willing to pay for a particular brand etc.

Adaptation to the present market situation – Sometimes the present market situation threatens to jeopardize considerably the position of a brand relative to its competition. The organization is to be aware of the changes in the market caused by the global economic crisis, the appearance of a pandemic such as COVID which causes some products or services to decrease demand and for others to increase demand. Sometimes one of the competitors makes a marketing move which can suddenly jeopardize the status of other players in the market. This is why, it is important to constantly monitor the market situation and act in a timely manner for avoiding adverse situations or minimizing their impact if they are unavoidable.

‘Face lifting’ of the brand – It occurs when market research and the attitudes of the customers indicate that the modernization of the product / service and / or its image is necessary. This is frequently the case with products which have been present in the market for a long time or with products which do not have a well-developed branding strategy from the very beginning but have still managed to impose their quality on the customers, hence now, in order to survive and continue to advance in the market, face-lifting becomes necessary to be complete in a communicative sense.

Brand repositioning – Once established in the market, the brand begins its own life. During its growth and development period, it is subject to different changes which are affected by market development, social and cultural changes in society, and different economic and technological factors etc. Sometimes changes are big and need the brand to change or modify its position in the market. The brand can change its purpose, its target group, and the territory where the product / service is distributed. All these factors can influence the change of a branding strategy of a product and the need to build a new position in the market and in the minds of customers.


Brand is a name which influences the customers in buying the product. The source of its influence is a set of mental associations and relationships built up over time among customers. Brand tracking is required to aim at measuring these sources of brand power. The role of managers is to build the brand and the organization.

Brands are a means of differentiating the products and services of the organization from those of its competitors. There is plenty of evidence to prove that customers pay a substantial price premium for a good brand and remain loyal to that brand. Hence, it is important to understand what brands are and why they are important.

Brands serve several valuable functions. At their most basic level, brands serve as indicators for the offerings of the organization. For customers, brands can be simplification of choice, promise for a particular quality level, reduction of risk, and / or production of trust. Brands are built on the product itself, the accompanying marketing activity, and the use (or non-use) by customers as well as others. Hence brands reflect the complete experience which customers have with the products. Brands also play an important role in determining the effectiveness of marketing efforts such as advertising and channel placement. Brands are also an asset in the financial sense. Hence, brands manifest their impact at three primary levels namely (i) customer-market, (ii) product-market, and (iii) financial-market. The value accrued by these various benefits is frequently called ‘brand equity’.

There is no universally accepted definition of the brand. Brand can be defined from the perspective of the brand owner or the perspective of the customer. A brand can be defined as a set of tangible and intangible attributes designed to create awareness and identity, and to build the reputation of a product, service, person, place, or organization. The holistic perspective of branding as a long-term strategy includes a wide set of activities ranging from product innovation to marketing communications.

The American Marketing Association’s (AMA) 1960 definition of the brand as ‘a name, term, sign, symbol, or design or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors’ is widely used. As per AMA, the 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. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name’.

The more recent, shorter but conceptually equivalent version of the definition of brand which is presently found in the online ‘Dictionary of Marketing Terms’ available on the AMA website 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’. There are several other popular definitions of the brand. Some of these are given below.

Brand is ‘A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name’. – Oxford English dictionary

Brand is ‘A name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of these used to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors’. – A product-oriented definition

Brand is ‘The promise of the bundles of attributes that someone buys and provide satisfaction . . .’ – A customer-oriented definition

A brand is a concept, idea, perception, expectation and belief which arises in the minds of the customers (existing or potential), or any individual who can influence the competence of the organization.

A brand is a mechanism for achieving competitive advantage for the organization, through differentiation. The attributes which differentiate a brand provide the customer with satisfaction and benefits them for which they are willing to pay.

Brands are different from products in a way that brands are ‘what the customers buy’, while products are ‘what the organizations make’. Brand is an accumulation of emotional and functional associations.

A brand connects four crucial elements in an organization. These are customers, employees, management, and shareholders. Brand is nothing but an assortment of memories in the minds of the customers. Brand represents values, ideas and even personality. It is a set of functional, emotional and rational associations and benefits which have occupied the mind of the target market. Associations are nothing but the images and symbols associated with the brand or brand benefits. Benefits are the basis for purchase decision.

Brand means and signifies several things to the customers which include (i) quality symbol, (ii) less search cost, (iii) source of product, (iv) delegating responsibility to the manufacturer of the product, (v) lower risk, (vi) deal or pact with the product manufacture, and (vii) symbolic device. Brand also means and signifies several things to the seller which include (i) basis of competitive advantage, (ii) sign of quality to the satisfied customer, (iii) way of bestowing products with unique associations, (iv) way of identification to easy handling, (v) way of legal protection of unique traits / features of the products, and (vi) means of financial returns.

Beyond mental associations, the power of a name is also because of the specific nature of the emotional relationships it develops. It can be said that a brand is an attitude of non-indifference knitted into the hearts of the customers. This attitude goes from emotional resonance to liking, belonging to the evoked set or consideration set, preference, attachment, advocacy, to fanaticism. Finally, designs, patents and rights are of course key assets. They provide a competitive advantage over a period of time.

In short, a brand exists when it has acquired power to influence the market. This acquisition takes time. The time span tends to be short in the case of on-line brands, fashion brands and brands for teenagers, but longer for, for example, corporate brands. This power can be lost, if the brand has been mis-managed in comparison with the competition. Even though the brand still going to have brand awareness, image and market shares, it does not influence the market any more. People and distributors can buy because of price only, not because they are conscious of any exclusive benefit from the brand.

What makes a name acquire the power of a brand is the product or service, together with the people at points of contact with the market, the price, the places, and the communication, i.e., all the sources of cumulative brand experience. This is why people speak of brands as living systems made up of three poles namely products or services, brand name, and brand concept. Fig 2 shows three poles of a brand system.

Fig 2 Three poles of a brand system

Brand name is one of the brand elements which help the customers to identify and differentiate one product from another. It is to be chosen very carefully since it captures the key theme of a product in an efficient and economical manner. It can easily be noticed and its meaning can be stored and triggered in the memory instantly. Choice of a brand name needs a lot of study. Brand names are not necessarily associated with the product. In some cases, the organization name is used for all its products. The attributes associated with a strong brand are given below.

Relevancy – A strong brand is required to be relevant. It is to meet the expectations of the customers and is required to perform the way they want it to. A good job is to be done for persuading the customers to buy the product, otherwise in spite of the organization manufacturing the product being unique still the customer is not likely to buy it.

Consistency – A consistent brand signifies what the brand stands for and what builds the trust of the customers in the brand. A consistent brand is where the organization communicates message in a way which does not deviate from the core brand proposition.

Proper positioning – A strong brand is required to be positioned so that it makes a place in the minds of the target customers and the target customers prefer it over other brands.

Sustainable – A strong brand makes the organization competitive. A sustainable brand drives the organization towards innovation and success.

Credibility – A strong brand is required to do what it promises. The way the organization communicate its brand to the customers is to be realistic. It is not to exaggerate as customers want to believe in the promises made to them.

Inspirational – A strong brand is required to inspire the category it is famous for.

Uniqueness – A strong brand is required to be different and unique. It is to set the organization apart from other competitors in market.

Appealing – A strong brand is required to be attractive. Customers need to be attracted by the promises made by the organization and also by the value the brand delivers.

Competitive brand positioning needs the identification of a distinct market space and a cognitive location as perceived by the customers. Effective brand positioning helps strategists in determining what the brand stands for, its unique selling points, how it overlaps with competing brands, and the value derived from the usage of the brand. A competitive position is achieved through strong brand recognition, which can be developed by differentiating product attributes such as product features, quality, selection, price, and availability. Competitive brand positioning can be developed by addressing each stage in the value chain from production to the point of sale.

The identity of a brand is an important aspect of a brand. For brand identity the organization is required to create a distinguished product with unique characteristics. This is the way the organization identifies itself with the product. It represents how the organization wants to be perceived in the market. The identity of the organization to the customers is through its branding and marketing strategies. A brand is unique because of its identity. Brand identity includes several elements such as brand vision, brand culture, positioning, personality, relationships, and presentations.

In order to create a distinctive place in the market for the brand, a niche market is to be carefully chosen and a differential advantage is to be created in the mind of the customer. Brand positioning is a medium through which the organization can portray what the customers wants it to achieve for them. Brand positioning forms the views and opinions of the customers. Brand positioning refers to ‘target reasons of the customers’ to buy the brand in preference to others. Brand positioning can be defined as an activity of creating a brand offer in such a manner that it occupies a distinctive place and value in the minds of the target customers.

Brand building is a lengthy process which needs the teamwork of the people in-charge of creating a product or service, the people in charge of marketing, and the team of professionals in charge of communicating and building the brand image of a product or service of the organization. When creating a brand, people are required to follow the steps, from the idea itself, to the positioning of the brand. Brand building is a process which needs constant investment over the years, since the brand gets more and more fans, returns repeatedly.

A brand gives particular information about the organization, product or service, differentiating it from others in market-place. Brand carries an assurance about the characteristics which make the product or service unique. A strong brand is a means of making people aware of what the organization represents and what it is offering.

Brands have become a major player in the modern society. In fact, they are everywhere. They penetrate all spheres of our life, i.e., economic, social, cultural, sporting, even religion. Because of this pervasiveness, they have come under growing criticism. As a major symbol of the economies and post-modern societies, they can and are to be analyzed through a number of perspectives namely macro-economics, micro-economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, semiotics, philosophy and so on.

Psychologists have also identified the halo effect as a major source of value created by the brand, the fact that knowing the name of the brand does influence customer’s perception of the product advantages beyond what the visible signals have themselves indicated, not to speak of the invisible advantages. Further, attached to the brand there are pure intangible associations, which stem from the brand’s values, vision, philosophy, its typical buyer, its brand personality and so on. These associations are the source of emotional ties, beyond product satisfaction.

Major brands can be compared to a pyramid (Fig 3). The top states the vision and purpose of the brand, i.e., its conception of the products, its idea of the types of the products it wants, and has always wanted, to create, as well as its very own values which either can or cannot be expressed by a slogan. This level leads to the next one down, which shows the general brand style of communication. Indeed, brand personality and style are conveyed less by words than by a way of being and communicating. These codes are not to be exclusively submitted to the fluctuating inspiration of the creative team. They are to be defined so as to reflect the unique character of the brand. The next level presents the strategic image features of the brand, amounting to four or five, they result from the overall vision and materialize in the products, communication and actions of the brand. This refers, for example, to the positioning of a particular product as a secure, reliable and robust brand, or of another product as a dynamic, classy prestigious one. Lastly, the product level, at the bottom of the pyramid, consists of positioning of each product in its respective segment.

Fig 3 The brand system

The problem is that customers look at the pyramid from the bottom up. They start with what is real and tangible. The wider the pyramid base is, the more the customers doubt that all these products do indeed emanate from the same product concept, that they carry the same brand essence and bear the stamp of the same product project. Brand management consists, for its part, in starting from the top and defining the way the product is conceived by the brand, in order to determine exactly when a product is deserving of the brand name and when it no longer is, in which case, the product logically no longer bears the brand name, as it then slips out of its brand territory.

Brand management

Since a brand is a name with the power to influence the market, its power increases as more people know it, are convinced by it, and trust it. Brand management is about gaining power, by making the brand concept more known, more bought, more shared.

Brands operate in a market environment where differentiation is crucially important. In the product marketing, brands frequently provide the primary points of differentiation between competitive offerings, and as such they can be critical to the success of the organization. Hence, it is important that the brand management is approached strategically. Brand management aims to create an emotional connection between products, organization and its customers, and constituents.

Brand management includes developing a promise, making that promise and maintaining it. It means defining the brand, positioning the brand, and delivering the brand. Branding makes customers committed to the organization. A strong brand differentiates the products of the organization from the products of the competitors. It gives a quality image to the organizational operations.

Brand management begins with having a thorough knowledge of the term ‘brand’. It is a communication function which includes defining of the brand, analysis and planning on how the brand is positioned in the market, which target customers the brand is targeted at, and maintaining a desired reputation of the brand. It is developing a good relationship with the target customers. Brand management is nothing but an art of creating and sustaining the brand.

Brand management includes managing the tangible and intangible characteristics of the brand. Tangible elements of brand management include the product itself, its look, price, and the packaging etc. In case of service brands, the tangibles include the experience of the customers. The intangible elements are the experience which the customers take away from the brand, and also the relationship which they have with the brand. This also includes the emotional connections with the product or service.

Brand management is a function of marketing department, which uses techniques to increase the perceived value of a product line or brand over time. Effective brand management enables the price of products to go up and builds loyal customers through positive brand associations and images or a strong awareness of the brand.

Brand management is the development and execution of strategy to strengthen brand perception in the market. The brand of the organization is only as strong as its perception, and resultant sales, so it is imperative for the organization to have a brand management strategy. This strategy allows the organization to inform and influence the target market, building strong relationships with potential customers and partners. Brand management enables the organization to position each interaction and communication piece, in the right way for the customers, i.e., to build a meaningful understanding of what the organization does and how the organization makes a difference to the customers.

Brand management traditionally encompasses (i) brand architecture or hierarchy, (ii) visual identity, (iii) messaging and communication, (iv) product, positioning, and price, (v) brand experience, (vi) customer relationship to the brand, and (vii) other users of the brand. Development of a strategic plan for maintaining brand equity or gaining brand value needs a comprehensive understanding of the brand, its target market, and the overall vision of the organization.

A brand manager is normally tasked with the managing of the tangible and intangible properties of the brand. The tangible aspects of the organizational brand include the price and the packaging of the product, logo, associated colours, and lettering format. The role of the brand manager is to analyze how a brand is perceived in the market by taking the intangible elements of a brand into account. Intangible elements include the experience which the customers have with the brand and their emotional connection with the product or service. The intangible characteristics of a brand build brand equity.

Brand equity is the price above the value of the product which the customers are willing to pay to acquire the branded product. Brand equity is an internally generated intangible asset in which its value is ultimately decided by the perception of the brand by the customers. If the customers are willing to pay more for a branded product than a generic product which performs the same functions, the brand equity is going to increase in value. On the other hand, the value of brand equity falls when customers rather purchase a similar product which costs less than the branded product.

Principles of brand management – The principles of the brand management are described below.

Differentiation – A successful brand stands up for something unique in the mind of the customers.

Focus – The more focused is a brand, the more it breaks through the mess. A brand which wants to be too many things ends up being nothing, and give specialized competitors the opportunity to claim a slice of the market. Loss of focus leads to the failure of the brand.

Simplicity – Simplicity means focusing on the essentials and leaving the rest out. In terms of product, simplicity can mean ‘easy to use’. In marketing communications, it means using plain language and getting to the point quickly, i.e., less is more.

Visual appeal – Between two products with the same features, customers normally choose the one which looks more attractive to the eye. This is since visual appeal is normally associated with a better user experience and functionality.

Consistency – Consistency means having a simple and clear core message and using a smart strategy of communication to reinforce it over and over again.

Defining of the brand – It all begins with authenticity, the key purpose, mission, vision, position, character, and value.

Staying flexible and relevant – A brand which is well managed, always remains open to adjustments. It has to adapt to the changing market conditions. It is always to try to reinvent itself by being flexible.

Measuring the effectiveness – Focus on the return on investment (ROI) is needed since it is a key indicator to measure the effectiveness of the brand management strategies of the organization.

Traditionally, brand management offers an introduction to main concepts and the wide collection of theories, but frequently fail to discriminate between how different approaches result in very different outcomes and why. Brand management draws on several different scientific traditions such as economics, strategic management, organizational behaviour, customer study, psychology, and anthropology just to mention a few. A complete overview of brand management hence needs multi-dimensional thinking. Fig 4 shows strategic brand management process.

Fig 4 Strategic brand management process

Two brand management paradigms – Perhaps because of the elusive nature of the brand, the term ‘brand-paradigm’ is frequently being used at random in the branding discipline. The analysis of brand management which has provided the seven approach-framework or categorization of brand management is based on the philosophy of science by Thomas Kuhn, who is one of the most influential contributors to the ‘paradigms’ related knowledge. The paradigmatic development of brand management is given below.

From 1985 to 2006, two overriding paradigms have been present in the world of brand management: one with a positivistic point of departure and one of a constructivist or interpretive nature. The positivistic stance implies a notion of the brand being ‘owned’ by the marketing personnel, who control the communication to a passive recipient / customer. Brand equity is perceived to be created by the marketing personnel and the brand is seen as ‘a manipulable lifeless artefact (product plus which is fashioned by its owners / managers and which can be positioned, segmented, and used to create an image)’. The interpretive paradigm reflects on the nature of the brand and the value of brand equity as something created in the interaction between the marketing personnel and an active customer such as ‘as holistic entities with several of the characteristics of living beings’, and ‘as a living entity (with a personality with which people can form a relationship and which can change and evolve over time)’.

A paradigm shift has taken place in the brand management over the course of the 1990s. It has not happened overnight but is an incremental process changing the discipline. The birth of the relational approach is an important indicator of the shift from a positivist paradigm with the more functionalistic brand perspective to an interpretive paradigm with a constructivist perspective on the brand and how it is to be managed.

Seven approaches of brand management – An approach is not a paradigm in itself (at least not in the original Kuhnian sense of the word) but a particular ‘school of thought’ governing the global understanding of the nature of the brand, the customer perspective and the methods associated with the scientific tradition behind the approach. Under the umbrella of a paradigm, different approaches are able to coexist.

The seven approaches for brand management are (i) the economic approach, i.e., the brand is part of the traditional marketing mix, (ii) the identity approach, i.e., the brand is linked to the identity of the organization, (iii) the customer-based approach, i.e., the brand is linked to the associations of the customers, (iv) the personality approach, i.e., the brand is a human-like character, (v) the relational approach, i.e., the brand is a viable relationship partner, (vi) the community approach, i.e., the brand is the pivotal point of social interaction, and (vii) the cultural approach, i.e., the brand is a part of the broader cultural fabric.

The seven approaches can be divided into three periods. The first period of time is 1985 to 1992, the second period is 1993 to 1999, and the last one begins from 2000 and onwards. In the first period, brand management is focused on the organization behind the brand and the actions which the organization takes for influencing the customer. In the second period of time, the receiver of brand communication is the main point of interest and brand management has adopted a human perspective on the nature of the brand. In the third period, it is the contextual and cultural forces behind the consumption choices and brand loyalty which have influenced the brand management. The three periods are described below, explaining how the seven approaches are anchored in them, and touching upon the dynamic development leading from one period to the next.

The first period (1985 to 1992) has organization / sender focus. It is the period of the infancy of brand management, when there has been a focus on the organization as sender of brand communication. This focus has formed the background of the two first approaches in brand management, i.e., the economic approach, and the identity approach.

The economic approach is centered on the possibilities of the organization to manage the brand through the marketing mix elements i.e., product, placement, price and promotion, and how these factors can be manipulated to affect the brand choice of the customer. Quantitative data are the principal rule in this period. People frequently use either data from the market scanner systems or laboratory experiments as the empirical basis of data.

In the economic approach, the brand is part of the traditional marketing mix. The point of departure for brand management is that it is a break-away discipline from the broad scope of marketing. Hence, the discipline starts out with a study environment marked by traditional marketing mix theory (the four Ps, i.e., product, price, place, and promotion). The creation of brand value is examined as influenced by changes in e.g., distribution channels, price modifications, and promotions. A functionalistic brand perspective applies, as does a customer perspective based on the notion of the ‘economic person’. The economic customer bases consumption decisions on rational considerations and the exchange between the brand and the customer is assumed to be isolated tangible transactions. Laboratory settings and scanner data are illustrative of the methodologies and (always quantitative) data. The organization is definitely in charge of brand value creation, and hence customers are believed to ‘receive’ and understand the messages ‘sent’ to them from the organization exactly as intended.

The identity approach focuses on how the identity of the organization as whole can shape a coherent brand message which is communicated to all the stakeholders. It is assumed that the brand is ‘owned’ by the organization and that the brand is communicated in a linear fashion from the organization to the customer.

In the identity approach, the brand is linked to the organizational identity. Focusing on organizational identity, the brand is also primarily perceived as an entity ‘owned’ by the organization (even though that perception has changed in recent years). Integration of the brand on all organizational levels is key in the management of the brand. The organization is in charge of brand value creation. Processes of organizational culture and corporate construction of identity are key influencers.

Brand identity has internal elements consisting of organizational identity and corporate identity and external elements consisting of image and reputation. Fig 5 shows elements of brand identity.

Fig 5 Elements of brand identity

The second period (1993 to 1999) has human / receiver focus. The shift in attention towards the receiver of brand communication instigates a new period of time entirely different from the period 1985 to 1993. During this period, the receiver of communication has been on focus, and knowledge from different veins of human psychology are adapted to brand management. The human perspective is two-sided, in the first the customer is examined closely and in the second different human brand perspectives are coming into play. The humanistic and individualistic approaches, namely the customer-based approach, the personality approach, and the relational approach have been under focus during these years.

In the customer-based approach, the brand is linked with the customer associations. In 1993 Kevin Lane Keller founded a completely new approach to brand management. The brand is perceived as a mental understanding in the mind of the customer. It is assumed that a strong brand holds strong, unique, and favourable associations in the minds of the customers. In this fashion, attention shifts from the sender towards the receiving end of brand communication. The customer is the ‘owner’ of the brand in this approach, but still an assumption of linear communication applies. The customer perspective of this approach is rooted in cognitive psychology, and in this tradition the computer is the main metaphor for man as a customer. This customer perspective implies linear communication since the organization is perceived to be able to ‘programme’ the customer into intended action. This school of thought has since become the most dominant one in brand management.

The personality approach considers the brand as a human-like character. Another mountain top in brand management was established in 1997 when a study into brand personality was published. This study shows that the customers have a tendency to endow brands with human-like personalities. It is the ‘human’ brand perspective and the symbol-consuming customer which are in the spotlight in this approach. Customers endow brands with personalities and use these personalities in a dialogue-based exchange of symbolic value for their individual identity construction and expression. The personality approach is rooted in the human personality psychology and uses of quantitative scaling techniques in a combination with more explorative methods to identify and measure brand personality. The personality approach is a pre-requisite for and very much associated with the relational approach.

The relational approach considers the brand as a viable relationship partner. The idea of a dyadic relationship between brand and customer profoundly changed the discipline of brand management. The notion of the brand being a viable relationship partner builds on the same human brand metaphor as the personality-approach. The approach has extended the dialogue-based approach to brand management as instigated in the personality approach. The relational approach is rooted in the philosophical tradition of existentialism and the methods are of a phenomenological nature. These roots imply that a paradigm shift has taken place since they are so fundamentally different from the roots of the methods used in the first approaches to brand management.

The period between 2000 to 2006 has cultural / context focus. Profound theoretical changes have emerged from significant environmental changes which have affected how humans consume brands. Environmental changes frequently imply a development of the theoretical frameworks since new phenomena arise which cannot be explained by means of the existing theories. A need for new theoretical tools to explain new phenomena is very much the driver behind the two newest approaches. Technological and cultural changes have profoundly changed the rules of the game in brand management in the last period of time.

The new phenomena calling for new theories are phenomena like autonomous customers, brand icons, anti-branding movements and internet-based brand communities. The most novel and innovative brand management has looked at these new consumption patterns through new lenses trying to explain the context of brand consumption.

Two approaches can be identified in this period of time namely the community approach and the cultural approach. The community approach brings influences from anthropological consumption studies, socio-cultural influences and consumer empowerment. The cultural approach explores how brands are an inherent part of the organizational culture and explains how playing an active role in mainstream culture can turn a brand into an icon. Hence, cultural and contextual influences add new perspectives to the discipline of brand management from 2000 to 2006.

In the community approach, the brand is the pivotal point of social interaction. The community approach is based on anthropological study into so-called brand communities. Brand value is created in these communities where a brand serves as the pivotal point of social interaction among customers. This approach hence adds an understanding of the social context of consumption to the overall picture of brand management. This understanding has become a prerequisite for managing several brands, especially after the internet has profoundly changed the market place. In the community approach, the marketing organization deals with ‘autonomous’ groups of customers who are able to collectively influence marketing actions and potentially ‘take over’ the brand and take it into a direction not at all intended by the organization. The field of brand management has come a long way from the assumptions of linear communication behind the earlier approaches to accepting the chaotic autonomous customer forces in this approach.

In the cultural approach, the brand is part of the broader cultural fabric. The cultural approach is the last approach in this context. Just like the community approach, the cultural approach originates around the millennium. The brand is seen as a cultural artefact in this approach, giving life to both a fierce anti-branding discourse and a theory of how to build an iconic brand. The approach borrows from the scientific tradition of cultural studies and makes use of a wide variety of qualitative methods. The attention has shifted from the transaction between the organization and the customer (or groups of customers) to a macro perspective. The approach both explains what branding does to macro-level culture and how embedding the brand in cultural forces can be used strategically to build an iconic brand.

Strong brands reduce perceived monetary of customers, social and safety risks in buying goods / services. The customers can better imagine the intangible goods with the help of brand name. Organizations having strong brand have a high market share. The brand is given good support so that it can sustain itself in the long run. It is necessary to manage all brands and build brand equity over a period of time. Here comes importance and usefulness of brand management. Brand management helps in building a corporate image. A brand manager has to oversee overall brand performance. A successful brand can only be created if the brand management system is competent. The key words frequently used in brand management are described below.

Brand – The brand is and has been defined in several different ways over the years, depending on the perspective from which the brand is perceived. This frequently depends on the background of the author / originator of the different definitions. In the classical definition, the brand is linked to the identification of a product and the differentiation from its competitors, through the use of a certain name, logo, design or other visual signs and symbols. The more recent definitions of branding also include internal organizational processes.

Brand architecture – Brand architecture is the structure which organizes the brand portfolio. It defines brand roles and relationships among the brands of the organization. Some organizations choose to communicate the corporate brand to the market while others choose to market product brands to specific segments and keep the corporate brand in the background. As per Olins, a brand architecture can be structured in three main ways. Monolithic brand structure equals a structure where the organization relies solely on a corporate brand, at the other end of the spectrum there are the individually branded products and finally the brand architecture can consist of endorsed brands, which are a hybrid, where a corporate brand is used to endorse the organizational brands in the portfolio.

Brand assets – These are the sources of influence of the brand (awareness / saliency, image, type of relationship with customers), and patents.

Brand audit – A brand audit assesses the health of a brand. Typically, it consists of a brand inventory and a brand exploratory. The brand inventory is a detailed internal description of exactly how the brand has been marketed. The brand exploratory is an external investigation of what the brand means to the customers (through focus groups and other market study techniques). Brand audits are most useful when conducted on a regular basis.

Brand community – A brand community is a social entity where customers interact socially with a brand as the pivotal point of their interaction. Brand communities take place in internet-based settings, in geographically bound clubs, and at so-called brand fests (social gatherings arranged by the organization). The emergence of brand communities implies a shift in negotiation power between the organization and the customer since customers claim more power when acting in groups.

Brand culture – Brand culture is a term which has been increasingly used over the last few years. It refers sometimes to the organizational culture of the brand and sometimes to the brand as part of the broader cultural landscape.

Brand equity – Fundamentally, the goal for any brand manager is to endow products and / or services with brand equity. Brand equity defines the value of the brand and can refer to two understandings of brand value, namely (i) a strategic, subjective understanding, or (ii) brand equity as a financial, objective expression of the value of the brand.

In the financial understanding of brand equity, the concept is a way to account for how much value a brand holds. Brand equity is one of the intangible entries on the balance sheet (like goodwill and know-how). Being able to account for how much the brand holds is extremely important, both in relation to the financial statements, mergers, acquisitions, and as a tool for brand managers to argue their case.

The subjective understanding of brand equity refers to the customers’ perception of the brand and is strategically valuable for brand management. Customers are the ones who experience the brand, and their perception of brand equity can be defined as ‘a consumer perceives a brand’s equity as the value added to the functional product or service by associating it with the brand name’.

Creation of brand equity is at the heart of brand management and the seven brand approaches feature seven varied perspectives on how to work strategically with brand equity optimization.

Brand equity model – This model is developed by Kelvin Lane Keller. It is based on the idea that the power of a brand lies in what the customer has heard, learnt, felt, and seen as a brand over time. Hence this model is also termed as ‘customer-based brand equity’ (CBBE) model. The CBBE model is based on four basic things namely (i) brand identity, (ii) brand meaning, (iii) brand responses, and (iv) brand relationships. Fig 6 shows brand equity model.

Fig 6 Brand equity model

Brand essence – Every brand has an identity and every brand identity contains an essence, which is the very core of the brand. The brand essence is very frequently an abstract idea or sentence summarizing what is the heart and soul of the brand. In order for the brand not to become compromised, the brand essence is required to stay the same over the course of time and no marketing actions which are going to compromise the brand essence are to be allowed. Finding of the right brand essence needs insight into as many facets of the brand as the seven approaches provide.

Brand extensions – A brand can be extended into new product categories. Brand extensions are frequently necessary when adapting to changes in the environment or in order to reap the full benefits of a strong brand. Extensions have several benefits. In the beginning, brand extensions have been used as a strategic tool mainly to enter new markets. Today, brand extensions are also being used to underpin and develop the brand to meet market changes.

A successful brand extension is required to respect the brand essence and thereby be based on the core of the brand and be true to the brand vision. If a brand is extended to a product category or to customers in a way which does not at all consider the core of the original brand, both brands risk dilution.

Brand genealogy – A genealogist goes back in history, uncovers family histories and constructs family trees. Brand genealogy is a managerial mindset introduced in the cultural branding model where the brand manager goes back and uncovers the history of the brand. In the cultural approach, it is assumed that brands play important roles in mainstream culture and that the ways they play these roles determine their level of success.

Brand icon – An exclusive elite of valuable brands can claim icon status, which is considered the holy treasure of the brand management. An iconic brand holds references which majority of the people agree upon and it gets that status by playing an active role in contemporary culture.

Brand identity – Brand identity refers to the identity of the brand. There are several different perceptions of what the brand identity consists of. But the more common definition of the brand identity is that it is ‘a set of associations the brand strategist seeks to create or maintain’. The brand identity is hence something which the   organization ‘has’ as well as something it tries to create through the right brand strategy. The brand identity is required to express the particular vision and uniqueness of the brand i.e., what the brand basically stands for, and the brand identity is to be of a long-lasting or permanent nature. If the brand identity is both unique, distinct, and a clear expression of what the brand is all about as well as long-lasting, then it can create the basis of a solid, coherent and long-lasting brand and be the driver of all brand-related activities.

Brand image – The image of the brand is the perception of the brand by the customers. The goal of working strategically with brand image is to ensure that customers hold strong and favourable associations of the brand in their minds. The brand image typically consists of multiple concepts, such as, (i) perception, since the brand is perceived, (ii) cognition, since the brand is cognitively evaluated, and (iii) attitude, since customers continuously after perceiving and evaluating what they perceive form attitudes about the brand. Brand image is the pivotal point of the customer-based approach.

Brand loyalty – Achieving a high degree of loyalty is an important goal in the branding process. Loyal customers are valuable customers since it is much more expensive to recruit new customers than nursing and keeping existing ones. Brands are important vehicles when building customer loyalty as they provide recognizable fix points in the purchasing experience. The concept of brand loyalty is part of the relational approach which seeks to answer how and why loyal brand customers use the brand of their choice.

Brand names – Brand names are important in capturing and in conveying the key associations and the central theme of a product in an effective and concise manner. Since brand names become shorthand for the product and its characteristics, they are also the most difficult element for the brand managers to change. Hence, choosing an effective brand name is considered as an important decision and a complex process of identifying and screening alternatives is normally undertaken, frequently with the help of specialized consultancies. The brand is important because of the shorthand of meaning and there are phonetic, cultural, and semantic considerations necessary when choosing a name for a new product.

Brand personality – Customers display a tendency to endow brands with human-like personalities. Working strategically with brand personalities has been a widespread practice for several years. The ‘big five’ of human personality psychology and Jungian archetypes are frameworks frequently implied to deepen the symbolic exchange between brands and customers. Brand personality is part of the majority of the identity systems.

Brand portfolio – A brand portfolio is the range of brands which the organization has in the market. How the brand portfolio is managed relates to the strategic issues of brand architecture, market segmentation and product versus corporate branding. New theories suggest that a brand portfolio is to be analyzed in three-dimensional molecule systems, including those of competitors.

Brand positioning – The idea of brand positioning is based on the assumption that the customers have limited mind space for commercial messages and that the most successful brands hence are the ones which are able to position themselves in the minds of the customers by adapting the most congruent and consistent commercial message. The idea is linked to the information-processing theory of customer choice which is the basis of the customer-based approach.

Brand relation – The relationship metaphor has been added to the general vocabulary of brand management after having been associated with business-to-business marketing for a number of years. Customers can perceive certain brands as viable relationship partners and achieving that position can be an important goal in the brand management process. Brand relation (like brand personality) is also part of the traditional brand identity models. Understanding brand relationships implies a deeper understanding of brand loyalty since the brand relation provides an understanding of how and why the brand is used by the customers, where brand loyalty answers if the brand is being used.

Brand revitalization – A brand sometimes ages and declines in strength since as time goes by it loses its relevance and attractiveness for the customers. There can be different reasons for that ageing or decline in brand relevance, e.g. the brand does not have adapted to changes in the environment or to changes in customer preferences. Sometimes the situation occurs where the brand simply ages along with the ageing of its core customers. The solution for an ageing brand or a brand in decline can be revitalization. The key for brand management when revitalizing a brand is always to start the process by identifying or reviving an existing brand vision and finding new and innovative ways of making that brand vision relevant once again for existing or new customers.

The majority of brand management specialists suggest generic ‘one size fits all’ guidelines for building a brand strategy. It is the conviction that every brand is unique and needs its own unique recipe for success. The aim of a brand strategy is to improve the internal and external opportunities of the brand. The brand strategy is required to be strategic, visionary, and proactive rather than tactical and reactive. Each brand is required to find its own holy path to success i.e., in the shape of a unique and relevant brand identity and brand vision, which are the first elements that are to be in place when developing a brand strategy.

The brand vision is brought to life through a customized brand strategy which is able to release the full potential of the brand. Brand managers are required to have long-term rather than a short-term focus. If the performance of the brand is based on quarterly sales figures, chances are that the brand strategy ends up being much more tactical than strategic, without enough visionary thinking to drive the growth and the strength of the brand in the future.

A pre-requisite for making the brand strategy work is that it is closely linked to the marketing strategy. This means that the brand and the brand strategy are not to be perceived as something other than or as an addition to the marketing strategy developed at late stages in a product launch for example. In an ideal world, marketing strategy and brand strategy are to be developed simultaneously and support each other. The brand vision is also to resonate with the customers and differentiate the brand from the competitors. Once the brand vision has been established, a customized range of elements which comprise the brand strategy are to be prioritized and developed. The brand strategy typically consists of a customized range of elements from the seven brand approaches. Each of the seven brand approaches has certain strengths and weaknesses, which is why a customized combination of elements from the relevant approaches which matches the specific challenges and opportunities the brand faces provide a foundation for the right brand strategy.

Several guidelines for the implementation of the brand strategy are normally found in the managerial implications of each approach. Here, it is possible to evaluate which managerial steps are in line with the approaches on which the brand identity and brand vision are based.

Brand strength – Brand strength at a specific point in time is as a result of these assets within a specific market and competitive environment. They are the ‘brand equity outcomes’ if one restricts the use of the phrase ‘brand equity’ to brand assets alone. Brand strength is captured by behavioural competitive indicators such as market share, market leadership, loyalty rates and price premium (if one follows a price premium strategy).

Brand stretch – It is assumed that all brands have a core which is to stay the same over the course of time. When a brand is extended into new product categories, or joins co-branding ventures, its identity is stretched. The trick is to stretch it enough to be able to go in new directions, but never to stretch it to such an extent that the essence is diluted.

Brand value – It is the ability of brands to deliver profits. A brand has no financial value unless it can deliver profits. To say that lack of profit is not a brand problem but an organizational problem is to separate the brand from the organization, an intellectual temptation. Certainly, brands can be analyzed from the standpoint of sociology, psychology, semiotics, anthropology, philosophy and so on, but historically they were created for organizational purposes and are managed with a view to producing profit.

Co-branding – Co-branding occurs when two or more brands are combined in a joint product or brand. This phenomenon is also called brand alliances or brand bundling. The two organizations are to consider carefully what their strategic alliance means for their respective brand portfolios, as their brands are to become more associated in the future through the new product.

Corporate brand – When the organization is branded instead of the individual products, a corporate brand is the case. In corporate branding, it is assumed that the energy and inspiration of the brand stem from within the organization and that a branding strategy, in order to be successful, needs the engagement of the whole organization.

Employee branding – Employee branding is defined as ‘the process by which employees internalize the desired brand image and are motivated to project the image to customers and other constituents of the organization’. It is a notion resembling the ‘living the brand’ concept a lot.

Employer branding – The term ‘employer branding’ relates to strategies for communicating about the organization as an attractive employer to both the present and the potential employees. It is a hot management topic. Employer branding emphasizes the inter-relationship between human resource, communication, and top management. There are the emotive and tangible benefits of employer branding for both the potential and the present employees.

Living the brand – Employees are important bearers of the brand, especially when it comes to service brands. ‘Living the brand’ is an end-goal in the process of engaging employees in the process of branding. Making employees live the brand mean that employees incorporate and live brand values and thereby deliver the brand promise fully to the customers.

Product brand – A product brand is a brand linked to the product and not to the organization and describes a situation where each individual product has its own brand. Choosing to brand the organization or the product is a question of brand architecture. Marketing a product brand holds several advantages, such as the liberty to market to different segments, the ability to close unsuccessful brands without harming the mother organization etc.

Service brand – Service brand is a brand which sell service instead of product. This means that the brand is experienced in the process of consuming the service and that the employee delivering the service becomes a central communicator of the brand. Service brand can benefit from all the same insights as product brand, but as the service encounter needs dedicated employees and human interaction, service brand manager can benefit more from the identity approach and the relational approach.

Viral branding – The term covers mechanisms where customers help or in some cases take over the marketing of the brand. Marketing personnel who apply a certain quantity of ‘coolness’ to the brand frequently initiates viral branding, the coolness starts a process where customers spread the brand like a virus. Having customers support the marketing process, and by their autonomy giving the brand a higher level of authenticity, can be beneficial for the organization. Still, viral branding implies a risk of a contrary marketing effort, where the brand is ‘hijacked’ and taken in unintended directions through autonomous meaning-making among the customers. Even though a brand community is a narrower concept than viral branding, the mechanisms behind the two concepts are comparable.

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