The importance of branding


BRAND changes are related to the expertise of management, the firm’s strategic goals and market targeting activities, the branding activities of other firms, the sophistication of consumers, the level of involvement in the product category, the stage of the product life cycle and the development of branding in the relevant product category.  

Stage 1: Unbranded goods 

Unbranded goods are generally treated as commodities, usually characterised by an excess of demand over supply. It is most closely approximated by developing Asian economies and is rarely seen in developed economies. 

Producers make little effort to distinguish/brand their goods, with the result that the consumer’s perception of goods is utilitarian. Most resort to pricing strategy as a means of competitive advantage, which leads to thinner margins.  

Stage 2: Brand as reference 

Competitive pressures stimulate producers to differentiate their goods from other manufacturers. This is achieved primarily through changes in physical product attributes (e.g. higher grade rubber). 

Consumers’ memory networks expand beyond recognition of the basic product category to include other product information in order to evaluate goods on the bases of consistency and quality. They begin to use brand names based on their image of the brand as a heuristic device in decision-making. 

An example is Zaitun products. By creating the concept of Tanpa Was Was, the marketer injects emotion into the consumer’s learning and valuing process. Doing so brings the brand closer to the Muslim consumer through an emotional bond as a halal product. 

Stage 3: Brand as a personality 

As most manufacturers make the same claims, comparing the functional attributes of a certain product becomes very difficult. Therefore, marketers begin to give their brands personalities. 

In the previous two stages, there was a distinction between the consumer and the brand. The brand was an object at some distance and was removed from the consumer. Incorporation of personal characteristics into the brand makes it more appealing. 

As consumers, individuals within a social group interpret marketer-sponsored information such as advertising and use brands to send signals to others about themselves. 

Stage 4: Brand as icon 

In this stage, the brand is “owned by consumers”. They have extensive knowledge about the brand – frequently worldwide – and use it to create their self-identity. 

An example is the Marlboro cowboy who is recognised around the world. The cowboy is rugged, a man against the odds, but he is not crude or lacking in sophistication. 

Consumers who want to be perceived as strong, rugged or loners might smoke Marlboro cigarettes. The cowboy is a symbol or icon of a set of values. 

Other international examples are Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders from KFC, and even Nokia, which began as a business making quality rubber boots. 

For an icon to be entrenched in the consumer’s mind, it must have many associations – both primary (about the product) and secondary. 

Stage 5: Brand as a company 

This stage marks the change to post-modern marketing. Here, the brand has a complex identity and there are many points of contact between the consumer and the brand. 

Because the brand equals the company, all stakeholders must perceive the brand (company) in the same fashion. 

Communications from the firm must be integrated throughout all of their operations. It flows from the consumer to the firm as well as from the firm to the consumer so that a mutually rich dialogue is established between the two.  

In stage five, consumers become more actively involved in the brand-creation process. They are willing to interact with the product or service in order to create additional value. 

Stage 6: Brand as policy 

Few companies to date have entered this stage, which is distinguished by an alignment of the company with ethical, social and even political causes. 

A prime example is Body Shop. Consumers indirectly support the causes favoured by the company by purchasing its products. Through their commitment, consumers are said to own the brand. 

Before leaping into this stage, firms have to consider both the risks and their credibility as branding the company. The primary risk is alienating consumers who might not like the firm’s stance.  

In stages 5 and 6, the value of brands changes. While brand values in stages 1-4 were instrumental because they helped consumers achieve certain ends, brands in stages 5 and 6 exemplify terminal values, which are culminations of consumers’ desire. 

For most firms, stages 3 or 4 will probably be the apex of their brand development. 

Stages 5 and 6 may be perceived as too costly to invest and risky to the stakeholders as well.  

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