To paraphrase a definition by Aaker (1991), a brand is a name, term, or symbol intended to identify the products or services of the seller and to differentiate them from those of competitors.
The definition of brand provided earlier contains the phrase “differentiate them from those of competitors.” More is meant by “differentiation” than simply preventing shoppers from mistaking the product of one company for that of another. A brand also gives the consumer a reason to buy one product instead of another. It does this by adding something intangible
to the purchase, ownership, or use of the product. That “something” may be perceptions about broad functional benefits of the product, such as overall quality, or it may be emotional benefits (for example, security, increased status, or meeting the need to nurture).
These benefits are conveyed by brand image. Brand image has traditionally been thought of as a method for acquiring customers, but it also influences current customers. Consider the following:
- An image of overall quality will make an owner more satisfied with a product. This effect is even greater if the product is such that its quality cannot be fully evaluated, even by the user. Home heating equipment is one example of this.
- If a food brand has an image of being healthful, the satisfaction of health-conscious consumers will be increased.
- In some product categories, if a product has an image of being for a certain type of person(for example, sophisticated or successful people), customers who want to be members of that group will increase their self-esteem by owning that brand.
- If a restaurant has an image of being family oriented, the satisfaction of some patrons will be increased.
- In business markets, purchase of a name brand provides the emotional benefit of security, as illustrated by the advertising statement, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”
- In business markets, an image of being technologically advanced is important for industries in which the pace of technological change is rapid.
Traditionally, companies in most product categories have relied primarily on advertising to establish brand images. In the case of an emotional benefit, a common strategy is to have advertisements consistently depict a certain type of person (for example, a financially successful person) enjoying a commensurate lifestyle and using the brand. Because of those advertisements, a person who wants to be a member of this group (financially successful people, in this example) will mentally associate the brand with the group, and owning or using a product of that brand will increase his or her self-esteem.
A company decides which images it should associate with its brand on the basis of a brand positioning study. Formally stated, the purpose of a brand positioning study is to identify a distinct and valued place in the consumer’s mind that is not currently occupied by a brand. After this place and the brand images defining it have been identified, the company designs
its advertising to convey those images, and it designs new products or modifies existing ones so that they are consistent with those images.