What is Brand Equity?
There is no universally accepted definition of brand equity. The term means different things for different companies and products. However, there are several common characteristics of the many definitions that are used today. From the following examples it is clear that brand equity is multi-dimensional. There are several stakeholders concerned with brand equity, including the firm, the consumer, the channel, and some would even argue the financial markets. But ultimately, it is the consumer that is the most critical component in defining brand equity. Some researchers in the field of marketing have defined brand equity as follows:
- Lance Leuthesser (1995) writes that “… brand equity represents the value (to a consumer) of a product, above that which would result for an otherwise identical product without the brand’s name. In other words, brand equity represents the degree to which a brand’s name alone contributes value to the offering (again, from the perspective of the consumer).”
- The Marketing Science Institute (1988) defines brand equity as, “The set of associations and behaviors on the part of the brand’s customers, channel members, and parent corporations that permit the brand to earn greater volume or greater margins than it could without the brand name and that gives the brand a strong, sustainable, and differentiated advantage over competitors.”
Brand equity can be defined as three distinct elements:
- The total value of a brand as a separable asset – when it is sold or included on a balance sheet.
- A measure of the strength of consumers’ attachment to a brand.
- A description of the associations and beliefs the consumer has about the brand.
Of those three concepts, the first can be classified as “brand valuation,” the second “brand loyalty,” and the third “brand description.” Brand loyalty will be a factor that affects the overall brand value, and brand description will usually affect or explain some of the brand loyalty. Because of the importance of each of these elements of brand equity, they will each be briefly explained.
Brand Equity as Brand Value
Brand value involves actually placing a dollar or rupee value on a brand name. The reasons for doing this are usually to set a price when the brand is sold and also to include the brand as an intangible asset on a balance sheet (a practice which is not used in some countries). While there are many methods for making this measurement, some of which will be described shortly, it is important to note that there is a significant difference between an “objective” valuation created for balance sheet purposes, and the actual price that a brand may get when sold?
A brand is likely to have a much greater value to one purchaser than another depending on the synergy that exists. For acquisitions, the value of a brand to a certain purchaser is often estimated through scenario planning. This involves determining what future cash flows the company could achieve if it owned and took advantage of the brand.
What this means is that there is no such thing as an absolute value for a brand, and brand value needs to be considered as only one component of the overall equity of a brand.
Brand Equity as Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is a core dimension of brand equity and is a way to gauge the strength of a brand. It represents a barrier to entry, a basis for a price premium, and time to respond to competitive innovations. The variety of measures used for brand loyalty usually is a combination of one or more of the following:
- Price/demand measures – focus on a brand’s ability to command a higher price or make consumers less sensitive to price increases than price increases for competing brands.
- Behavioral measures – focus on consumers’ behavior.
- Attitudinal measures – focus on general evaluative measures such as ‘liking’ or ‘disliking.’
- Awareness measures – focus on identifying a brand as being associated with a product category.
- Brand Loyalty and Equity refer to the notion that some brands are “stronger” or better than others.
Brand Equity as Brand Description
Brand description, the final component of brand equity, concerns the actual attributes of the brand. These attributes or associations are major creators of brand loyalty. A wide variety of techniques exist for matching consumer associations with perceptions of a brand. These techniques can be both qualitative and quantitative. They work by getting the respondent to link each brand with pictures or words. These attributes then can be measured with multi-dimensional scaling to position the attributes relative to one another.