Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Carefully Crafted Identity Can Build Brand Equity

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Carefully Crafted Identity Can Build Brand Equity

Article excerpt

Brands today are under pressure. Marketers need every advantage to compete against new entries, extensions and that exploding category called private labels. One strategy that marketers frequently overlook involves the use of imagery and creative design to enhance the equity of a brand name.

Brand equity occurs when the "cluster of values" or characteristics surrounding a brand build over time to create a memorable, desirable experience for consumers. Equity is the total experience that customers take away from using a product--the sum total of their good and positive feelings. This "cluster of values" differs from brand to brand. The characteristics of a brand's personality are far-ranging and include tangible and intangible elements.

Take Coca-Cola's brand equity, for instance.

* The name and logotype have been upgraded over decades, but perceptually the brand image is unchanged.

* Its distinctive use of red and white colors in product advertising and packaging has been a constant.

* The taste and flavor of original Coke has been carefully controlled for consistency. The same formula is used worldwide.

* The distinctive shape of the trademarked original bottle has been maintained for its nostalgia value and positive association with a refreshing, vintage soft drink.

* Coke continues to satisfy consumers with taste and quality over the years.

Brand values are truly assets, and there is much that can and should be done to nurture and maintain their market presence. Conversely, if not nurtured, a brand's value and equity erode and become obsolete. As a first step in maintaining brand equity, marketers may have to change the way they think.

Many marketers today actually believe that their company owns the brands they sell. In reality, the consumers of a brand are its true owners. Why? Because the image of the brand resides in the minds of consumers. Consumer loyalty is critical to maintaining a brand's equity.

Al Zeien, the chairman and CEO of Gillette, understands this notion very well. As he puts it, "We don't sell products. We capture customers."

The marketing challenge is to present the brand in such a way as to capture the consumer by creating strong brand awareness and brand loyalty. The bond between brand and consumer begins with identity. Identity encompasses every aspect of the brand--its flavor, texture, performance and especially its "look." Communications and design aspects of identity are the core elements--the visual and verbal components--that help consumers visualize the essence or personality of a brand.

When managed properly, the core elements of identity arm the brand to compete. They are the basic components of the "equity artillery" a brand needs to hold its own in the marketplace. Brand equity develops from a carefully crafted and managed brand identity. That identity will ultimately take hold and create value in the consumer's mind.

Define core elements

To create a brand's profile and communicate its attributes, a marketer must first fully explore and understand the brand. What is its desired positioning? What are the product benefits? How does it stack up against competition? What differentiates it? What are the product's goals and objectives? Who are its audiences?

With this knowledge, one can create and shape a brand's "look" and then apply it to a vast array of supporting media. These elements form a brand's comprehensive visual and verbal vocabulary and project a unique brand character to its customers.

These are the core elements:

(1) A distinctive name that immediately conjures up a mental picture of a product benefit, like Ivory for soap.

(2) A logotype that is a memorable treatment of the name, such as Kellogg's big K.

(3) Graphic design, typography, color, and other visual signals, such as Coca-Cola's flowing, graphic wave device on its newer brands. …

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