A Case for Customer Based Brand Equity Conceptualization within Motivational Perspective
Ponnam, Abhilash, Academy of Marketing Studies Journal
Strategic importance of branding is duly recognized in marketing literature. A strong brand is described as a platform for new products, an entry barrier, bulwark against shifts in consumer behavior (Farquhar, 1990), source of (sustainable) competitive advantage (Aaker, 1991), a precursor of success of future marketing activities (Keller, 1993) a source of future profits (Crimmins, 2000), a key organizational asset, the primary capital (Guzman et al, 2006) and as an instrument of competitive superiority (Kepferer, 2000). Value added by a brand to the product is termed as brand equity (Farquhar, 1990). A strong brand is one which possesses high brand equity (Kepferer, 2000, Aaker, 1996). To this extent, it has been empirically proved that high brand equity could result in increase in consumer preferences, purchase intentions (Cobb- Walgreen et al, 1995), brand loyalty intentions (Johnson et al, 2006) and stock returns (Aaker & Jacobson, 1994). Hence brand equity formation, measurement and management deserves key focus both at theoretical and managerial domains.
Brand equity has been the subject of academic inquiry since past decade (Atilgan et al., 2005). Brand equity was initially conceptualized as "added value" which the brand endows the product (Leuthesser, 1988). This "added value" could be discussed from the perspective of the firm or consumer (Farquhar, 1990). From firm's perspective, value added by the brand is discussed under brand valuation (Wood, 2000); whereas from consumers' perspective, value added is discussed under customer based brand equity construct (CBBE) (Keller, 1993). It is suggested that financial perspective of brand equity is only an outcome of consumer perspective of brand equity since customer based brand equity is the driving force for incremental financial gains to the firm (Lassar et al., 1995) which in turn determines brand value. In spite of diverse research on CBBE there exists no consensus with respect to conceptualization and operationalization of this construct (Winter, 1991; Punj & Hillyer, 2004). Given the importance attributed to CBBE, it is necessary to conceptualize and operationalize this construct in manner which is worthy of pragmatic managerial applicability.
CONCEPTUALIZATION OF CBBE
Aaker (1991, p.15) defined customer based brand equity as "a set of brand assets and brand liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol, that add or subtract the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or to that firm's customers". This conceptualization is based on both cognitive and behavioral underpinnings. This definition is regarded as most comprehensive definition of customer based brand equity (Motameni & Shahrokhi, 1998). Aaker (1996) conceptualized brand equity as consisting of four dimensions namely brand awareness, brand associations, perceived quality, and brand loyalty. Aaker's (1996) operationalization of brand equity has been widely used in universal customer based brand equity scale developments (Yo & Donthu, 2001; Washburn & Plank, 2002; Pappu et al, 2005). No theoretical rationale is offered as to how brand associations are formed and elicited in this framework. Keller's (1993) framework offers more insight in this regard.
Keller's (1993, p.2) conceptualization of customer based brand equity is based upon cognitive psychological underpinnings. Accordingly, CBBE is defined as "differential effect of brand knowledge on consumer response to marketing of a brand" and differential response is measured as "consumer's reactions to an element of marketing mix, in comparison with reaction to the same marketing mix element attributed to the fictitiously named or unnamed version of product or service". Brand knowledge is conceptualized as brand node in human memory to which variety of associations are linked. Term "node" is consistent with associative network theory (ANT) while referring to a packet of information (Anderson, 1983). …