The bottom line is that unless the role of a brand is simply to support other brands by providing credibility, the brand identity needs to provide a value proposition to the customer.
What is a brand value proposition?
Brand value proposition is a statement of functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits delivered by the brand that provide value to the customer. An effective brand value proposition should lead to a brand—customer relationship and drive purchase decisions.
The central concepts of functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits of brand value proposition are explained below.
1. Functional Benefits
The most visible and common basis for a brand value proposition is a functional benefit—that is, a benefit based on a product attribute that provides functional utility to the customer. Such a benefit will usually relate directly to the functions performed by the product or service for the customer. For laser printers, functional benefits might be their speed, resolution, quality, paper capacity, or lack of downtime. Other examples are as follows:
- Volvo is a safe, durable car because of its weight and design.
- Quaker Oats provides a hot, nutritious breakfast cereal.
- A BMW car handles well, even on ice.
- A 7-Eleven store means convenience.
- Coke provides refreshment and taste.
Functional benefits, especially those based upon attributes, have | direct links to customer decisions and use experiences. If a brand can 4 dominate a key functional benefit, it can dominate a category. Crest, for example, led the toothpaste category for decades with a cavity- I reducing claim supported by the endorsement of the American Dental Association (originally obtained in the 1950s). Competitors were forced to position their brands along inferior dimensions such as fresh breath and white teeth.
The challenge is to select functional benefits that will “ring the bell” with customers and that will support a strong position relative to competitors. The latter task involves not only creating a product or service that delivers but also communicating that capability to customers. Communication, of course, is always a nontrivial task; sometimes, it may be extremely difficult.
Functional benefits have some limitations—they often fail to differentiate, can be easy to copy, assume a rational decision-maker, can reduce strategic flexibility, and inhibit brand extensions. One way to overcome these limitations, already explored, is to expand the brand identity perspective beyond product attributes by considering the brand-as-organization, person, and symbol. Another is to expand the value proposition to include emotional and self-expressive benefits as well as functional benefits.
2. Emotional Benefits
When the purchase or use of a particular brand gives the customer a positive feeling, that brand is providing an emotional benefit. The strongest brand identities often include emotional benefits. Thus a customer can feel any of the following:
- Safe in a Volvo
- Excited in a BMW or while watching MTV
- Energetic and vibrant when drinking Coke
- In control of the aging process with Oil of Olay
- Strong and rugged when wearing Levi’s
Emotional benefits add richness and depth to the experience of owning and using the brand. Without the memories that Sun-Maid raisins evoke, that brand would border on commodity status. The familiar red package, though, links many users to happy days of helping Mom in the kitchen (or to an idealized childhood, for some who wish that they had such experiences). The result can be a different use experience — one with feelings—and a stronger brand. To discover what emotional benefits are or could be associated with a brand, the focus of research needs to be on feelings. How do customers feel when they are buying or using the brand? What feelings are engendered by the achievement of a functional benefit? Most functional benefits will have a corresponding feeling or set of feelings.
Fusing Functional and Emotional Benefits
The strongest brand identities have both functional and emotional benefits. A study by Stuart Agres supports this assertion. A laboratory experiment involving shampoo showed that the addition of emotional benefits (“You will look and feel terrific”) to functional benefits (“Your hair will be thick and full of body”) enhanced the appeal. A follow-up study found that 47 TV commercials that included an emotional benefit had a substantially higher effectiveness score (using a standardized commercial laboratory testing procedure) than 121 commercials that had only a functional benefit.
Scott Talgo of the St. James Group talks of fusing functional and emotional benefits in order to create a composite. For example, Quaker Oats could combine the functional benefit of a nutritious, warm breakfast with the feelings that accompany serving (or being served) such a breakfast to create a fused “nurturing” brand image. Similarly, Rice-A-Roni’s “the San Francisco treat” slogan combines the functional benefit of adding flavor to rice with the excitement and romantic feelings associated with San Francisco.
3. Self-Expressive Benefits
Russell Belk, a prominent consumer behavior researcher, once wrote, “That we are what we have is perhaps the most basic and powerful fact of consumer behavior.” What Belk meant was that brands and products can become symbols of a person ‘s self-concept. A brand can thus provide a self-expressive benefit by providing a way for a person to communicate his or her self-image. Of course, each person has multiple roles—for example, a woman may be a wife, mother, writer, tennis player, music buff, and hiker. For each role, the person will have an associated self-concept and a need to express that self-concept. The purchase and use of brands is one way to fulfill this need for self-expression. For instance, a person may define himself or herself as any of the following:
- Hip by buying fashions from the Gap
- Sophisticated by using Ralph Lauren perfume
- Successful and powerful by driving a Lincoln
- A nurturing parent by serving Quaker Oats hot cereal
Self-Expressive Versus Emotional Benefits
Sometimes there is a close relationship between emotional and self-expressive benefits. For example, there is only a subtle difference between feeling rugged when wearing Levi’s jeans or expressing the strong, rugged side of yourself by wearing them. The differences between the two perspectives, however, can be important. Proving one’s success by driving a Lincoln might be significant, whereas “feeling important” may be too mild an emotion to surface in a brand identity analysis or in its execution. Thus it is helpful to consider self-expressive benefits separately.
In general, in comparison to emotional benefits, self-expressive benefits focus on the following:
- Self rather than feelings
- Public settings and products (for instance, wine and cars) rather than private ones (such as books and TV shows)
- Aspiration and the future rather than memories of the past
- The permanent (something linked to the person’s personality) rather than the transitory
- The act of using the product (wearing a cooking apron confirms oneself as a gourmet cook) rather than a consequence of using the I product (feeling proud and satisfied because of the appearance of a well-appointed meal)