Managing brand equity involves reinforcing brands or, if necessary, revitalizing brands. Brand equity is reinforced by marketing actions that consistently convey the meaning of the brand to consumers in terms of: 1) What products the brand represents; what core benefits it supplies; and what needs it satisfies; and 2) How the brand makes those products superior and which strong, favorable, and unique brand associations exist in the minds of consumers. The most important consideration in reinforcing brands is the consistency of the marketing support that the brand receives both in terms of the amount and nature of that support. Consistency does not mean that marketers should avoid making any changes in the marketing program — many tactical changes may be necessary to maintain the strategic thrust and direction of the brand. Unless there is some change in the marketing environment, however, there is little need to deviate from a successful positioning. In such cases, the critical brand associations that represent sources of brand equity should be vigorously preserved and defended.
Reinforcing brands depends on the nature of the brand association involved. For brands whose core associations are primarily product-related attributes and/or functional benefits, innovation in product design, manufacturing, and merchandising is especially critical to maintaining or enhancing brand equity. For brands whose core associations are primarily non-product-related attributes and symbolic or experiential benefits, relevance in user and usage imagery is especially critical to maintaining or enhancing brand equity. In managing brand equity, it is important to recognize the trade-offs that exist between those marketing activities that fortify the brand and reinforce its meaning and those that attempt to leverage or borrow from its existing brand equity to reap some financial benefit. At some point, failure to fortify the brand will diminish brand awareness and weaken brand image. Without these sources of brand equity, the brand itself may not continue to yield as valuable benefits.
According to Keller (2012), Brand Reinforcement involves the following:
- Maintaining brand consistency – This helps to enhance brand’s positive reputation with customers and without it, the meaning of the brand would vary across its several touch points. Brand consistency leads consumers to get familiarized with the brand and enhance their perception about brand uniqueness, resulting in brand reputation.
- Protecting sources of brand equity – Though brand should always try to defend the existing sources of brand equity, they should also look for potentially powerful new sources of equity. However, there is very little need to deviate from a successful positioning, unless the current positioning is being affected by some internal or external factor which is making it less powerful.
- Fortifying vs. Leveraging – Fortifying refers to enhancing brand equity in terms of awareness and perception, whereas Leveraging refers to making money from a brand. Failure to fortify a brand might result in brand decay and there would be no leveraging from the brand any more. Therefore, there should be a proper balance between fortifying and leveraging brands.
- Fine-tuning Supporting Marketing Program – This could be done through improving product related performance associations and non-product related imagery associations. This should also be done, only when the current ones are no longer creating the desired results to maintain and strengthen brand equity.
So, Brand Reinforcement is all about maintaining brand equity; in other words, it is about making sure that the consumers do have the desired knowledge structures so that the brands continues having its necessary sources of brand equity. This could be done by marketing activities that would persistently carry the meaning of the brand, to the consumers – which could be in form of brand awareness and brand image.
There are many situations where brand reinforcement strategies are not enough to alter an underperforming brand. A wide spectrum of factors is requiring today’s marketers to rethink their positions. Changes in the customer needs, increased competitive aura caused by the new entrants and product innovations and the proliferation of new channels and promotional campaigns are among many examples. In such cases, revitalization of a brand is required. It includes the efforts to regain the customer equity and generate new sources. It is majorly important to reinforce the breadth and depth of the brand awareness to determine the “strength, favorability and uniqueness” of the brand associations of customers. (Keller, 2001)
Revitalizing a brand requires either that lost sources of brand equity are recaptured or that new sources of brand equity are identified and established. According to the customer-based brand equity framework, two general approaches are possible: 1) Expand the depth and/or breadth of brand awareness by improving brand recall and recognition of consumers during purchase or consumption settings; and 2) Improve the strength, favorability and uniqueness of brand associations making up the brand image. This latter approach may involve programs directed at existing or new brand associations.
With a fading brand, the depth of brand awareness is often not as much of a problem as the breadth — consumer tend to think of the brand in very narrow ways. Strategies to increase usage of and find uses for the brand are necessary. Although changes in brand awareness are probably the easiest means of creating new sources of brand equity, a new marketing program often may have to be implemented to improve the strength, favorability, and uniqueness of brand associations. As part of this re-positioning, new markets may have to be tapped. The challenge in all of these efforts to modify the brand image is to not destroy the equity that already exists.
The brand regeneration takes place in that, the marketing schedule is changed and secondary brand associations are established. This enables to resurface the sources of brand equity. If brand awareness is also lagging behind the characteristics of the brand itself, the company should investigate newer ways to communicate the product with the potential customers and reach out closely to the point of purchase. There are also many cases where the product is under-performing due to multiple problems with the brand image. It might be the lack of strength, favorability over other competitors, uniqueness and brand perceptions. The brand therefore needs to concentrate on the points-of-differences (POD) in order to remove itself from the clutter, differentiate the brand and include itself in the consideration set of consumers.
A number of different possible strategies designed to both acquire new customers and retain existing ones are possible. Different possible strategies are also available to retire those brands whose sources of brand equity have essentially “dried up” or who had acquired damaging and difficult-to-change also must be considered. Enhancing brand equity over time also requires that the branding strategy itself may have to change somewhat. Adjustments in the branding program may involve brand consolidations (where two brands are merged), brand deletion (where brands are dropped), and brand name changes.