Elements of Brand Identity

There are many elements/characteristics associated with a brand, which need to be understood to facilitate brand creation and brand management. These include brand identity, image, positioning, personality, culture and architecture, as well as brand components such as the text, visual images, and sounds.

Elements of Brand Identity

The brand identity is the way in which a brand/product is portrayed by the firm, with the aim of differentiating the brand from competitors while concurrently creating familiarity between the target market and the brand. This is achieved using a range of tools, which will include the brand image, positioning, personality, culture and architecture. The brand image uses these tools in a combined manner to create or embody a unique set of representative associations which helps to establish a relationship between the customer and the brand/product. The brand identity should create immediate recognition not only for the underlying product/service, but the values, positioning, and general benefits associated with that product or service as well as for example, Apple’s logo of a part bitten apple logo is immediately associated with the high-tech lifestyle products of the firm, likewise, Mercedes is associated with high quality vehicles, and the Nike swoosh logo is associated with sports apparel.

The brand identity is a convergence of the various brand elements, such as the brand image, positioning, personality, culture, and architecture. The brand identity will be heavily influenced by the brand image.

1. Brand Image

Brand image is intangible element; it is the ideas and associations that are linked to that brand in the minds of the potential purchasers. The image is the dimension indicating what the customer can, or will, expect from that brand, but unlike the identity, this is based purely on perceptions of the potential customers, and is not under the control of the firm, being influenced by third party messages and personal experiences or ideas as well as the messages which originate with the firm. Many brand images may reflect the desired brand identity; for example, the Rolls-Royce brand of cars have an image of luxury status, whereas Skoda cars have an image associated with low cost and value. However, perceptions of consumer may not always be those desired by the firm; for example, Mont Blanc pens had a prestigious image, but when a marketing campaign publicized the ability of consumers to purchase a Mont Blanc pen for under £200, the image was tarnished; the aspect of exclusivity was diminished as the marketing message emphasizing lower cost pens led to consumer perceiving the firm had shifted its positioning to appeal to a less affluent market. Mont Blanc made no changes to their product range but suffered as a result of the brand image changing.

2. Brand Positioning

The positioning of a brand refers to the way the brand is placed by the firm within the broader marketplace, particularly against competing or substitute products. Effective brand positioning will involve a firm identifying and then managing the characteristics of the brand to create a unique place within the competitive environment which will reflect the product or brands differentiating features while concurrently being aligned with the interests, needs, or desires of the target market. Good positioning should place the brand is a position that is sustainable and is aligned with the organizational goals. Good examples of positioning include;

Not all aspects of positioning are unique, for example both Lidl and Aldi in the UK position themselves as low cost value supermarkets. These supermarkets also how how perceptions of consumers regarding positioning may impact on brand images. Prior to the recession Aldi and Lidl were generally perceived as catering for the lower end of the mass market; a target market with low levels of disposable income attracted by cheap products. Following the recession, the value aspect of the brand become kore attractive to the middle and upper mass markets, which facilitated the brands abilities to reposition. Lidl and Aldi started to market to more affluent consumers, which was reflected in its marketing and product mix, selling and advertising products such as champagne and lobster; the brands pursued the value position rather than the former ‘cheap’ position. The positioning needs to be supported by the brand personality.

3. Brand Personality

Brand personality is a of anthropomorphisation. Anthropomorphisation is the attributing of human characteristics to a nonhuman artefact, such as an object, an animal or a plant, in this case a brand. The personality refers to the way in which a brand communicates and is perceived as behaving which will result in the audience associating specific characteristics with the brand. The brand personality may impact on the brand image, and be managed in line with the brand identity, but differs from the former constructs as it focuses in the emotional associations of the brand rather than the tangible benefits which are reflected in the brand image. Brands may be created or interpreted using many different models; a useful framework was developed by Aaker (1997) after examining perceptions of 37 well-known brands. Aaker’s (1997) framework identified five dimensions with their associated values and traits, these are shown in table below.

DimensionTraits
SincerityDomestic, genuine honest, cheerful
ExcitementDaring, imaginative, spirited, up to date
CompetenceDependable, reliable, consistent, efficient, responsible
SophisticationGlamorous, pretentious, romantic, charming
RuggednessTough, strong, outdoorsy, rugged

Using this framework, De Beers would be classified as sophisticated, whereas North Face would be rugged, and Volvo competent. However, other approaches may be used, for example, Dove may be seen as a feminist company with its ‘campaign for real beauty’, while Harley Davidson reflects values including non-conformity and independence which may lead to the brand being seen as a rebel. Brand personality can be useful as a source of differentiation between brands selling otherwise homogenous goods.

4. Brand Culture

Brand culture refers to the normal and values associated with a brand that are reflected in the visual images and symbols as well as the activities and general behavior of the company and the employees and forms part of the brand identity. The culture provides a source of identification for consumers who will usually be attracted to brands which have a similar culture to their own. Where brands are likely to struggle if they have core values which their target market do not identify with. The is believed that brand culture can be highly influential in the consumers purchase decision. An example was the success of Anita Roddick’s ‘The Body Shop’, where the culture of the firm was developed to support and embody ethical and environmental practices before they entered the mainstream. The practices were embodied in the firms’ messages as well as the practices with the company actively encouraging relying as well as supporting non-profit environmental organizations. The culture of the petroleum Royal Dutch Shell was assumed to have profit driven culture when the company clashed with Greenpeace over the disposal of the Brent Spa Oil Rig. Greenpeace argued Shell’s plans to sink the oil rig at sea, Shell suffered a decline in sales as well as facing protests.

However, the influence of culture is complex; the clothing store Primark is for its’ low prices, with a culture of providing value. When Primark was subject of a documentary revealing the firm gained its low costs using firms which exploited child labor there was a public outcry; child labor is not acceptable in the western culture. However, while there were pubic objections, the culture of low costs was more important as the firm did not suffer a decline in sales. Therefore, culture is important, but it has a high level of interferences with other brand elements, and while it may provide a point of differentiation other factors will also be influential.

5. Brand Architecture

Brand architecture may be perceived as the brand ecosystem, the way in which the brand and its own brand categories relate to each other as well as other brands within a firm’s portfolio. There are various models which try to explain how brands may be developed within a broader portfolio. Some architectures are made up of many apparently independent brands, which all come under the umbrella of a single corporate identity, such as the portfolios held by Unilever. Where the corporate identity has also been developed as a brand there may be a ‘Branded House’, this is where there are sub-brands, but the different brands are recognized primarily though the main brand, examples of this include FedEx and PepsiCo. The main brand may also help to sell products, even if the sub-brand is well known, as seen with many automotive companies. Organizations may also choose to have only a single brand image and identity which is proliferated across different products as seen with Apple.

When a firm wishes to increase sales, they may undertake a brand extension strategy; where the brand name is leveraged, usually to support the introduction of a new product category. Examples include the sale of perfumes and watches by luxury fashion houses and the sale of boots by Caterpillar. The new product gains from the core brand values and association, with the potential for the brand expansion to facilitate a product expansion strategy, defined by Ansoff (1965) as selling more products to the same market. The extensions for luxury goods may also open up new markets, where aspirational association sell the extension products to consumers who could not otherwise afford, or need, the core product, as seen with Chanel Perfume and Caterpillar boots.

In each case firms will assess the way in which the product and the brand images may interact with each other, supporting, enhancing, or detracting from sales. Tesco have a diverse brand architecture which includes budget value ranges and premium ranges under the name ‘finest’. This architecture allowed the firm to capitalize on its position as a retailer while meeting the needs of different consumers with brands targeting different consumer segments/needs. In 2016 Tesco launched a new range of products using fictional farm names, such as “Rosedene Farms” for its apples and “Boswell Farms” for its beef, the firm was seeking to create new brands which the consumers would not associate with Tesco; diversifying their own brand architecture by adding a new dimension. These were designed to be freestanding brands. Tesco probably believed that the different associated of a separate brand would help them to maximize sales of their own products. This was an addition to the firms brand architecture extending it. Tesco is not unique, other firms such as Aldi, have also pursued this strategy. Another example of a freestanding brand is Lamborghini which is owned by Volkswagen. Lamborghini is a very exclusive brand selling less than 6,000 cars a year to a very elite clientele. The association with Volkswagen has the potential of undermining the exclusive reputation of the firm, so the is a lack of transparency in the everyday marketing.

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