What is a Brand? (II)

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By Emmanuel Obeta

A brand according to John Sherry is therefore not a differentiator alone but also a promise, a license to charge a premium, a mental short cut that discourages rational thought, an infusing with the spirit of the maker, a performance, a gathering, an inspiration, a contract, a relationship, a guarantee, an elastic covenant with loose rules of engagement, a hologram of the firm etc.

Brand according to him can also be looked at as a habitat that consumers can be induced to dwell in, domesticate the space, transforming it and themselves, to the extent that the resultant glow emanating from the dwelling place is the brand’s aura. It is also a physical and metaphysical presence, an economic and festive fixture that binds stakeholders in a multifaceted relationship.

Brand definition eventually moved from the tangible towards the intangible for instance David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising”, defined brand as the intangible sum of a product’s attributes. Marty Neumeier on the other hand defined brand by first laying out what a brand is not: “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product. “A brand according to him is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” This feeling or gut feeling is resident within the enclaves of the individual’s mind and is owned by the individual and personal to him or her.

“Ignyte” defined brand as the way a company, organization, or individual is perceived by those who experience it. More than simply a name, term, design, or symbol, a brand is the recognizable feeling a product or business evokes.

Brands, then, live in the mind. They live in the minds of everyone who experiences them: employees, investors, the media, and, perhaps most importantly, customers.

Jerry McLaughlin defined brand as what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual, and emotional. He went further to point out that your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.

These definitions throw up the issue of perception, feelings, emotions, memory, associations, the consumer’s minds – what they think about you, your product, organization etc.

How then does a brand move from being a name, logo etc and transmogrify into something that resides in the mind?

Just as it prevalent in every communication activity the famous SMCR model of communication and the Intervening variables school comes into effect. Some are of the opinion that the process of the brand creation is entirely the resultant effect of the various marketing activities initiated by the marketer or owner of the brand (the SMCR approach), whereas others are of the opinion that certain intervening variables domiciled within the ambit of the consumer and his environment play a vital role in the formation process for the brand.

According Kapferer, although communication is necessary to create a brand, it is far from being sufficient. Certainly a brand encapsulates in its name and its visual symbol all the goodwill created by the positive experiences of clients or prospects with the organization, its products, its channels, its stores, its communication and its people.

Mark Batey is also of the same opinion that a brand is created, not only as a result of a marketer’s activities (the stimulus or “input”) but also, critically, as a result of the consumer’s reading of and reaction to those activities (the “take-out”). For instance, from the marketer’s perspective, a brand is a promise, a covenant however from the consumer’s perspective it is the set of associations, perceptions and expectations existing in his or her mind.

Brand associations are created, sustained and enhanced by every experience and encounter a consumer has with the brand. A TV commercial is an encounter with the brand. So is the act of using or physically consuming it. These experiences and encounters with the brand over time build up into collections of associations, influencing brand perceptions and forming a brand associative network, or brand engram.

Engrams according to Daniel Schachter are “the transient or enduring changes in our brains that result from encoding an experience such that from a neuropsychological perspective, a brand is “the totality of stored synaptic connections. As these connections between brand associations are reinforced over time they effectively come to define the brand in the consumers’ minds.

Following from all these Mark Batey arrived at a definition of brand as a cluster of meanings. These meanings and the nature of it evolve over time such that without brand meanings there is no brand. McCracken also agrees with this position such that according to him “brands are first and foremost a bundle of meanings without which it will not be possible to talk about brand images, brand personalities, or brand positions. Crafting brand experiences are just a means of communicating brand meanings.

Mark batey went further to point out that brands are about relationships also. It therefore follows that since people’s mental associations are the basic foundations of brands, the stronger the consumer’s mental associations with the brands are the stronger the intricate relationship with the brand will be. Brands therefore flourish or die based on the strength of these relationships. This bond of relationship with particular brands is also what leads to consumer’s loyalty. Relationships are also in themselves about trust.

  • Emmanuel Obeta is a Brands & Marketing Consultant with Directorate Level experience across FMCG, Banking and Public Service (eobeta@gmail.com ; +2348139322773)