While many companies now recognize that one of their most valuable assets is their brands, real brand management is still in its infancy. Brand management begins with a consistent strategy which aims to define and manage a brand's identity and, ultimately, guarantee long-term financial gains and competitive advantage. Most marketing books fall short of a strategic approach by taking a narrow view of branding and dealing more with the tactical aspects such as packaging, trademarks, logos and so on. "Strategic Brand Management" deals with the concept and practice of brand management in its totality. The author's account of every aspect of brand management aims to answer such pertinent questions as: how do you define a brand's core identity?; how many brands are enough in a specific market?; how far should a brand be extended?; how do you manage brands over time?; how should a brand's value be measured, tracked and controlled?; how do you manage a vast product range under a limited number of brands?; and how do you move from local to global branding? Packed with examples and case studies of brands throughout the world, the book is written from an international perspective, paying particular attention to the development of global brands. All types of brands are covered: product brands, corporate brands and both consumer and industrial products.
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Jean-Noël Kapferer is an expert on brand management. His book The New Strategic Brand Management (published by Kogan Page) is a key reference work for MBA programs worldwide. He holds the Pernod-Ricard Chair on Prestige and Luxury Management at HEC Paris. Also a consultant, he is a member of the board of a major luxury brand, and he frequently gives executive seminars on luxury in China, the US, Japan, Korea and India.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
What's In a Brand?
The logic of branding
Many corporations have forgotten why they have brands. A great deal of attention is devoted to the branding process per se, bringing in the participation of designers, graphic artists, and advertising agencies. This activity becomes an end in itself, receiving most of the focus of attention. In so doing, we forget that it is only a means to an end. Branding becomes the exclusive prerogative of the marketing and communications staff, thereby undervaluing the importance of other corporate functions to successful brand management.
While branding is an indispensable activity, it is only the last phase in a process that involves the corporation's resources and all of its functions, focusing them on one strategic purpose: creating a difference. Only by mobilizing all of its internal sources of added value can a company set itself apart from its competitors.
WHAT DOES BRANDING MEAN?
Branding is much more than the naming per se or the creation of an external indication that a product or service has received an organization's imprint or its mark.
A Brand Aims to Segment the Market
Brands are part of a strategy aimed at differentiating supply. Companies seek to better fulfill the expectations of specific groups of customers. They do so by consistently and repeatedly providing an ideal combination of attributes -- both tangible and intangible, practical and symbolic, visible and invisible -- under conditions that are economically viable for the company. The company wants to leave its mark on a given field, and set its imprint on a product. It is no coincidence that the word "brand" also means the actual act of burning a mark into the skin of an animal; of designating ownership in this way. When we talk of an Atari computer, it is like saying, "There's something Atari in this computer." Indeed, this is the first task in branding: defining just what the brand infuses into the product or service, and how the brand transforms it:
* What attributes are embodied in the product or service?
* What advantages does it incorporate?
* What benefits does it provide?
* What obsessions does it represent?
This underlying meaning of a brand is often forgotten or wilfully neglected. Some distributors are frequently heard to say, "For us, the brand is secondary. No need to stick something on our products." In so doing, they are reducing brands to their most superficial aspect, the label and the trademark on it.
Branding, however, is not based on what goes on, but on what goes in. The result is an augmented product or service which must be indicated in one way or another if it is to be noticed by potential buyers, and if the company is to reap the fruits of its efforts before they are copied by others.
On this point, it is highly significant that a product which has been "debranded" retains a greater value than a generic product. If it were true that a brand was something purely superficial, just like a label, then such a product would lose its value as soon as it lost its signs of brand identification. Instead, it continues to incarnate the brand: the brand's passing presence has transformed the product. This explains the value of Lacoste shirts without the Lacoste label, or Adidas shoes stripped of the Adidas name. They are worth more than counterfeit imitations, because the brand is present even when it cannot be seen. In contrast, though the brand may appear on an imitation, it is actually missing.
Brands are Built Up by Persistent Difference Over the Long Run
It is often pointed out that products bearing different brand names are identical. Some observers conclude that under these circumstances, a brand is nothing but a bluff, a device used to attempt to set a product apart in markets in which it is hard to differentiate among products.
This attitude neglects the time factor and the concept of competition. Brands become known through the products they create and bring on to the market. Whenever a brand innovates, it generates "me-too-ism." Any progress made quickly becomes a standard to which buyers become accustomed. Competing brands must then follow suit if they do not want to fall beneath market expectations. For a short time, the innovative brand will enjoy a monopoly, but it will be a fragile one unless the innovation is patented or patentable. Simply put, the role of the brand name is to protect the innovation -- it creates a "mental" patent.
Take the example of Kellogg's, who created a new cereal that was natural and rich in fiber, two highly valued aspects of modern nutrition. In the light of its success, other manufacturers produced similar products. If Kellogg's had given its cereal a generic name such as "natural fiber cereal," consumers would soon have discovered that manufacturers such as Quaker and distributors such as Marks & Spencer and Aldi also had their own natural fiber cereal. The chosen name Country Store makes the innovative product specific. Like any proper name, it designates something unique. The product name makes the innovation exclusive and protects it against imitations. This is nothing other than the just reward for innovating, making an effort, and taking risks. And yet, while this corporation innovates by introducing products like Cocopops and Smacks one day and Country Store the next, no capitalization emerges from these efforts alone. These biscuits do not make their creative inventor famous. It takes something more than specific product names to obtain such capitalization: it takes the establishment of a brand name like Kellogg's. By producing such innovations, Kellogg's develops a capital of consumer trust and an image of a playful, high-quality creator. It can then reap the benefits of innovating repeatedly. The brand is what makes it possible to capitalize on innovation, for both the buyer and the seller.
A snapshot of a given market will often show similar products. A dynamic vision, however, reveals who has innovated and pulled the competition along in the wake of its success. A brand protects the innovator, granting momentary exclusiveness and rewarding its willingness to take risks. The meaning and direction of a brand and its economic purpose is revealed in the accumulation over time of such momentary differences.
Brands cannot be reduced to a symbol on a product or a mere graphic and cosmetic exercise. A brand is the signature on a constantly renewed, creative process which yields product A today, products B and C tomorrow, and so on. Products are introduced, they live and disappear, but brands endure. The consistency of this creative action is what gives a brand its meaning, its contents, and its character. Creating a brand requires time and an identity.
A Brand is a Living Memory
The spirit of a brand can only be inferred through its products and its advertising. The content of a brand grows out of the cumulative memory of these acts, provided they are governed by a unifying idea or guideline. Kellogg's, for instance, does not attach its name to any product: Frosties, All Bran, Special K, Rice Krispies all bear the marks of a single intention, marks that display certain values, attributes, and guiding principles. These are original, creative, healthy products for our times, universal products created with great refinement. This is a brand with flair, inventiveness, and a gift for quality.
The importance of memory in comprising a brand explains why its image can vary structurally from generation to generation. People who knew Gillette fifty years ago, when it appeared on the now famous blue blade, necessarily have a different conception of the brand from young fans of the disposable Gillette. The way we are introduced to a brand creates an anchor in our memories that shapes all future perceptions. This is the problem with two-track brands like Citroën cars: the brand image of those who discovered Citroën through the 2CV is diametrically opposed to that of individuals who first encountered it in the forms of the sleek DS or the XM. Then there are drivers who still remember its Traction Avant model, introduced before the Second World War. The memory factor also helps to explain why individual preferences endure. Within a given generation, people continue to prefer the brands they liked between the ages of seven and eighteen, as much as twenty years later (Guest, 1964; Fry et al., 1973; Jacoby and Chestnut, 1978).
A Brand is a Genetic Program
A brand is both the memory and the future of its products. A genetic analogy provides a key to understanding how brands work. The brand memory that develops contains the program for all future developments, the attributes of later models, the characteristics they will have in common, and their family resemblance as well as their individual personalities. By understanding a brand's program, we can trace its legitimate territory and the area in which it can be extended, beyond the products that created it. The brand's implicit program reveals the meaning and direction of both former and future products.
A Brand Gives Products Their Meaning and Direction
The brand tells why products exist, where they come from, and where they are going. It also sets their guidelines. A brand is not a fact set in stone. It must be able to adapt to the times, to changes in buyers and in technology. Through subtle changes in what it produces, both in its products or services, and symbolically in its communication, this is how it stays up-to-date. A brand is built up from day to day; it is never set down once and for all. Of course its past must not determine its future too narrowly. But when a brand moves out in all directions, it can lose its meaning and become void of content.
The major brands have meanings that describe their content and their sense of direction. In the area of household appliances, for example, Siemens means durability, seriousness, and trust; it conjures up an image of careful, meticulous German workmanship. Hotpoint stands for practicality, carefree use, and the familiarity of a close friend who has watched the children grow up. Philips has acquired a reputation for innovating for the general public, putting technology at the service of the general population. It becomes apparent that on every market, each major brand has its own meaning. This meaning is very important, because it tells buyers what direction the brand's research, innovation, and other efforts are taking. One highlights durability, another practicality or innovation. Just as a word cannot have two meanings at once, since one is constantly dominant, no brand would attempt to embody all possible meanings. Each one follows its own path and leaves its own mark.
That similar products exist in the product lines of several brands does not invalidate those brands' existence, provided this similarity stays within limits. It is inevitable that certain models will be duplicated in the product lines of different brands. In the automobile industry, the cost constraints at the low end are such that it is difficult to manufacture a model very different from the competition. For economic reasons, however, a brand may be obliged to have an offering on this type of generally highly disputed market. By the same token, every bank must offer a basic savings account identical to that of all other banks.
These basic products represent only a limited fringe of each brand's offer. Each brand maintains a sense of direction oriented toward its individual type of products, following a specific line of development. Suppose that brand A pursues durability, B practicality, and C innovation. Each product line contains products in which the brand demonstrates its guiding value, its obsession. These products embody the brand's meaning and direction. Citroën, for instance, is best embodied in its top-range cars, Nina Rewake in its fanciful evening gowns, and Sony in its Walkman or its Camcorders. This is why communication about such products is so important to a brand: they embody what the brand is about. Peugeot and Citroën cars, for instance, may have certain identical attributes, but the brands themselves have neither the same meaning nor the same identity.
Products cannot speak for themselves: the brand is what gives them meaning and speaks for them. It creates a resonance with them that builds and reinforces brand identity. The automobile industry is a case in point. Most technical innovations by one firm rapidly spread to the other brands. ABS braking systems are now to be found on both Volvos and BMWs, even though the two manufacturers hardly have the same identity. Is that a case of brand inconsistency? Not at all: ABS represents progress that everyone had to adopt. The brand gives its own identity to innovations.
On the other hand, a brand can only be developed through longterm consistency that is both the source and the proof of its identity. Hence the same ABS (anti-blocking system) has a subtly different meaning for each manufacturer. For Volvo, a firm which preaches total safety, ABS is a necessity that serves the brand's values and obsessions. It embodies the brand's attributes. BMW, a high-performance brand, cannot discuss ABS in these terms -- it would be a betrayal of its ideology and the system of values that galvanizes the whole organization and engenders the models that have made the Munich manufacturer famous. Instead, BMW presents ABS as a way to drive even faster. In the same way, safety-conscious Volvo accounts for its participation in European touring car racing championships by its desire to test its products better so that they last even longer.
A detail is never enough to establish a brand's identity, but the way it is interpreted lends weight to a broader strategy. A detail can only leave its mark on a brand if it resonates with the brand, deepening and amplifying the brand's meaning. This is why weak brands cannot capitalize on their innovations: they cannot manage to put meaning into them and to create that resonance. Though the BX car was a commercial success, it scarcely rubbed off on Citroën's image. Only brands with a strong identity can claim to be innovators.
A Brand is a Contract
A brand becomes credible through endurance and repetition. With time, the brand's program becomes a commitment. By creating satisfaction and loyalty, the brand enters into a virtual contract binding it to the market. In exchange, the brand earns an automatically favorable opinion of any new products it introduces. This reciprocal commitment explains why brands whose products have momentarily declined do not necessarily disappear. A brand is judged over the long term: there is always a margin for failure. Brand loyalty leaves it a respite for recovery. Without this, Jaguar would have vanished long ago: no other brand could have withstood the way its cars diminished in quality during the 1970s. This is one of the benefits a brand brings to its company, in addition to the image capitalization it makes possible and the "mental patent" effect referred to earlier.
The contract a brand establishes is eco...
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