Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

The Incorporation of Brand Versatility in the Assessment of Brand Value: Gender and Brand Category Extension Considerations

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

The Incorporation of Brand Versatility in the Assessment of Brand Value: Gender and Brand Category Extension Considerations

Article excerpt


Launched as a brand in the musical instruments category, Yamaha today is a well-known and a respected brand name for motorcycles, All Terrain Vehicles, portable power generators, watercrafts and propellers. Yamaha is as successfully positioned in the sensitive musical instrument product category comprising of pianos and electronics as it is in the rugged category comprising of ATVs. Kleenex, on the other hand has had to remain relatively closer to its primary product category of facial tissues. Kleenex is the "tissue" - that everyone uses; so much so, that almost all tissues are referred to as "Kleenex" even when it's a different brand altogether. Even a minor change in what constitutes its brand world could irreparably alienate the brand from its core consumer. Despite being the world's #1facial tissue brand, Kleenex has zero degrees of freedom to leverage its brand strength in extending into even adjacent paper categories like diapers or hygiene. Kimberley Clark, the parent company, has instead developed new brands to accommodate those categories. Contrast this with Yamaha which straddles categories as widely separated as delicate classical music and rugged motorcycles. Yamaha is able to thrive in disparate contexts and generate consumer traction.

The brand characteristics of Yamaha render it versatile which according to Merriam Webster's dictionary, is the capacity "to embrace a variety of subjects, fields, or skills and the ability to turn with ease from one thing to another." Along these lines we define brand versatility as a brand's fluid capacity to appeal with ease to new demographic segments and enter new product categories.

The conventional branding sequence-segmenting the market, targeting a segment and sharply positioning the brand on the targeted segment-is based on the idea that human minds are limited and easily confused (Trout, 2012) and, therefore a sharply positioned brand is likely to be perceived as the specialist and picked ahead of competition. It is likely to be readily associated with the product category and will enjoy prime mindshare which in turn translates into market share. Well-positioned brands usurp the generic category position and become prototypical brands so that consumers "Google" - not search online and read a book on a "Kindle" - not on an e-reader. In summary, exact positioning yields favorable response in the market place.

However, there is a dark side to this exactness. The spotlight incessantly shines on the prototypical brand that is boxed in squarely in its category with no wiggle room and no escape route. Certainly, the brand enjoys a position of pride within its category - the more narrowly defined the category the more favorable the position within the category. Nevertheless, sharply positioned brands are difficult to retool. How difficult is it for Facebook to succeed in the search engine market or conversely for Google+ to challenge Facebook's position in the social media domain? Both these brands have their feet anchored in concrete, rendered immobile in their respective and exacting positions.

Yet the market reality is that brands are required more and more to translate their earned equities across category boundaries not the least because disruptive innovations have the potential to wipeout entire categories. The relentless onward march of the smartphones is wiping out the 'dumb" phones category with NOKIA right in the middle. The digital cameras stamped out the camera film obliterating KODAK. The digital cameras themselves face extinction with smartphones taking over the category threatening Nikon and Canon and with much bleaker prospects for Olympus. How is DELL, strongly positioned in the PC (desktop/laptops) market, to translate its enormous equity to the mobile devices category? Clearly this need is not limited to technology products. The focally positioned news magazine Newsweek ran its last print edition on December 31, 2012. …

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