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THE BRANDING : A STUDY OF BRAND IMAGE, BRAND ASSOCIATIONS AND REPUTATION

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THE BRANDING : A STUDY OF BRAND IMAGE, BRAND ASSOCIATIONS AND REPUTATION Asal Mirzai Department of Management and Accounting,College of Humanities, Islamic Azad university of Hamedan Branch,Hamedan,Iran
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THE BRANDING : A STUDY OF BRAND IMAGE, BRAND ASSOCIATIONS AND REPUTATION Asal Mirzai Department of Management and Accounting,College of Humanities, Islamic Azad university of Hamedan Branch,Hamedan,Iran Yaser Sobhani Fard Assistant Professor, University of Imam Sadegh, Tehran, Iran Alireza Slambolchi Faculty Member of Management,Islamic Azad University Hamedan Branch, Hamedan, Iran ABSTRACT 146.) Brands are an increasingly important marketing aspect in today s business and marketing environment, ranging across different industries. Most importantly, the customers perceptions and opinions of brands are crucial and can determine the eventual success or failure of a business. As competition is continuously increasing in the operating environment of businesses, it is even more important for companies to differentiate in the market, gain the customers awareness and sustain their loyalty. This can be achieved with brands, and a brand which is widely recognized and liked in the market and which has a loyal customer base, is a significant financial asset for a company. To be a successful company, a good product or service isn t enough. Differentiation is the key and in order to do that you need a strong reputation. Organizations compete on several levels to maximize profits and diminish future risks. Reputation is one of the key elements in creating differentiation from other companies in uncertain environments and competing for economic resources. (Allen 1984; Horner 2002; according to Rhee & Valdez 2009, This paper examines company image and reputation through theory and research. The theory explains how images are created and managed, how to achieve a strong image and how image affects a company. Also the relation between reputations and images is explained, as well as why they matter and why they should be treated as assets. Keywords: brand, brand image, Reputation, Brand associations INTRODUCTION Nowadays it is not enough to have an awesome product, service and a solid business plan. A company has to have a good image. Every time you hand out a business card, welcome a client to your office or store, send a letter or an , you tell something about the company. (Lesonsky 2007, 258.) You can also express your personal identity through your logos, products, services, buildings, stationery, uniforms, and any other public side of you shown to your constituencies (Argenti& Forman 2002, 70-71). Everything you do and how you look creates an image (Marconi 2002, 70). Your look helps you promote your business by creating a good image (Lesonsky 2007, 258). Advertising and public relations are also greatly involved in creating a company identity and image (Heath 2001, 170). In order to gain a long-term success in the market and a loyal customer base, it is not enough to sell a single product or service. A brand is more than a product as it has more dimensions and elements, including features such as personality, symbols and emotional benefits. A brand is always more desirable and more appealing in the market than an unknown product or service. Also in the long-term perspective, building a brand is more economical and cost-effective for the company. When a brand is widely known in the market, it does not require as much marketing effort to maintain the brand. (Aaker 2002; Rope & Mether 2001) 52 Nowadays competing in the business world can be extremely difficult. Not only do companies have to worry about the efficiency of their operations but with so many companies looking similar, how do they differentiate themselves from the masses? Customers appreciate a good reputation as everything you do and say affect stakeholder opinions. This is why reputations matter. Companies need to stand behind their words and meet the stakeholders needs in order to maintain their reputation, since strong reputation takes years to form yet it can be destroyed in a flash. What makes a reputation or image so fragile that merely a circulating rumor can be the end of it? LITERATURE REVIEW Brand and Branding The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as: A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name. (Marketing Power American Marketing Association 2010) It is not adequate that the brand name is familiar, but it also has to be distinctive. A brand needs to be distinctive in a manner that is beneficial to its customers. A product or a service needs to be characterized by a distinctive attribute in the mind of the consumer, in order to be a brand. Duane E. Knapp has further deepened the concept of a brand to a genuine brand, which he has defined as: The internalized sum of all impressions received by customers and consumers resulting in a distinctive position in their mind s eye based on perceived emotional and functional benefits. Eventually, a brand is only that which is perceived in the mind of the consumer. Thus in order to truly be a brand, the brand has to occupy a distinctive position in the mind of the consumer. The difference between brand names, brands, and genuine brands, can be found in their levels of distinctiveness. From the consumer s perspective, there are no differences between unknown commodities except for price, whereas a brand name may be well known but it still does not differentiate in the mind of the consumer. Further, a brand is distinctive in the mind of the consumer, whereas a genuine brand is perceived by the consumer as unique. Thus the more distinctive a brand becomes in the mind of the consumer, the closer it approaches the definition of a genuine brand.(knapp 2000, 6 8) Brand is The company s promise to deliver a specific set of features, benefits,services, and experiences consistently to the buyers. (Kotler 2005 p. 250). According to Kotler &Armstrong (2004 p.285),a brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of a maker or seller. Consumers perceive the added value from the branded article which most closely meets their needs. These added values maybe good brand s quality, good brand image to consumers, or they may bring easier search behavior to consumers. Brand is successful when it keeps produce these added values to consumers. (Blythe 2008 p.133) Figure 1 shows the relationship between commodity products and branded products in terms of price and image. Commodity products have low price differentiation, low product characteristic differentiation and low brand image differentiation. In contrast, branded products have high differentiation on all three factors. 53 Figure 1.Commodity products v branded products(blythe 2008 p.134) A consumer may recognize the benefits that a product may give him through the brand name. Buyers can know the benefits from a branded article when he always buys it. He knows that he will get the same benefits from this branded article, such as quality and product features.(kotler& Armstrong 2004 p.285) Branding is a big range of activities across the whole marketing mix. It delivers the brand image to consumers. Consumers receive messages and arouse associations about self-image, quality, cost, expected performance, brand features and status. Brand Image Brand image is the current view of the customers about a brand. It can be defined as a unique bundle of associations within the minds of target customers. It signifies what the brand presently stands for. (Management study guide, MSG 2013) A brand image means the public s perceptions about the brand. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand image as: The perception of a brand in the minds of persons. The brand image is a mirror reflection (though perhaps inaccurate) of the brand personality or product being. It is what people believe about a brand their thoughts, feelings, expectations. (Marketing Power American Marketing Association 2010) Brand image is on the side of receiver. Image is how consumers perceive a product, a brand, a politician, a company or a country. Image refers to the way consumers perceive the signals from the products, services and communication of the brand.(kotler 2004 p.174). A brand image is a subjective mental picture of a brand shared by a group of consumers (Riezebos 2003 p.63). The importance of brand image has inspired business scholars to form the concept of brand equity (Aaker 1991). Under this concept, brands are seen as valuable assets, which can help companies generate revenues. Brand equity can be divided into four main categories: brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality, and brand association. (Aaker 1991 p.16) Meanwhile, brand associations are divided into eleven types. They are product attributes, intangibles, customer benefits, relative price, use/application, user/customer, celebrity/person, life style/personality, product class, competitors, and country/geographic area. (Aaker 1991 p.115) Brand associations are shown in Figure 2. 54 Figure 2. Brand associations (Aaker 1991 p.115) Brand image, an essential element in marketing research, is defined as perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer s memory (Keller, 1998 p. 93). Although the term brand image has been broadly defined and used in various ways, one general agreement of the definition is that brand image is a consumer s overall impression of a specific brand through the influence of a consumer s reasoned or emotional perceptions (Dobni & Zinkhan, 1990; Aaker, 1996). Brand image is formed by the combined effect of brand associations; (Biel, 1991; Dohni & Zinkham, 1990; Yoo, Donthu, & Lee, 2000; Keller, 1998, 2003) therefore, brand association is considered an important factor in several brand image studies. Brand association is often based on the associative network model (Farquhar & Herr, 1992), in which a person s memory is made up of links and nodes: links represent relationships (positive or negative, weak or strong), and nodes represent concepts (e.g. brand associations) and objects (e.g. brands). Aaker (1991) refers to brand associations as the category of brand s assets and liabilities that include anything linked in memory to a brand. Similarly, Keller (2003) defines brand association as informational nodes linked to the brand node in memory that contains the meaning of the brand for consumers. Figure 3 shows an example of brand associations of Apple, a computer brand. 55 Associations come in all forms and may reflect characteristics of the product or aspects independent of the product itself (Keller, 2003). Strength, favorability, and uniqueness are three dimensions of brand associations that reflect brand image (Keller, 1998). Figure 3. Brand Associations source: Keller (2003, p. 66) Brand image are networks elements stored in long-term memory. The core of the network is a brand name, which is linked to a number of other knowledge elements or associations. (Riezebos 2003 p.68-69) Brand image has three components. They are content, favorability and strength. Favorability and strength can be combined into a term called reputation. The content of a brand image means the associations a brand name may generate. Associations refer to cognition (knowledge), feeling, smells, sounds, etc. (Riezebos 2003 p.68-69) There are distinction between material and immaterial brand associations. Material brand associations can be associations about the nature of certain material aspects (reliability and durability, function, quality and aesthetics) and associations of the presence or absence of certain attribute. Material brand associations are related to the product itself. Immaterial brand associations can be associations not related to the (physical) product, such as associations of a certain lifestyle and experience. (Riezebos 2003 p.64-65) The favourability of a brand image means the feeling that consumers have about the associations. The feeling can be negative and positive. The strength of a brand image means the extent to which the association is experienced as negative or positive. (Riezebos 2003 p.64-65) The central question of image forming is that how associations can be tied to the brand name. Marketing communication gives content to the brand image. They give consumers the first impression about the brand. Also, the brand images in consumers mind are difficult to change at a later stage. Companies should try to guide the brand image in the direction of the brand identity through the marketing communication. The image called up in marketing communication should not be in conflict with the image called up in consumption experiences. (Riezebos 2003 p.65-66) For example, the effect of advertising is greatest when the product realizes all the benefits promised in the advertisement. The problem of brand associations has also been discussed by Keller (1993). In figure 4, a picture of the components of brand image is presented. 56 brand awareness brand recall brand recognition price packaging brand knowledge attributes non-productrelated user imagery product related usage imagery types of brand associations functional favorability of brand associations benefits experiential brand image strength of brand associations attitudes symbolic uniqueness of brand associations Figure 4. Components of brand image (Keller 1993 p.7) Keller classified the brand associations into three categories: attributes, benefits and attitudes (Keller 1993). Attributes can be either product related or non-product related. The product related attributes are defined as the necessary ingredients for performing the products or services functions. They are related to the physical aspect of a product. The non-product related attributes are defined as the aspects related to purchase and consumption. There are price attribute, packaging attribute, user imagery attribute (a consumer s image of who uses the product) and usage imagery attribute (a consumer s image of when and the situation in which the product is used).user and Usage imagery attributes can produce brand personality attributes (youthful, colorful and gentle).(keller 1993) 20 Benefits are the values that consumers attach to the product attribute (what the consumers think of the product can do for him or her). Benefits can be divided into three categories: functional, experiential and symbolic benefits. Functional benefits are usually corresponding to the product related attributes. They meet the consumer s need to solve their problems. Experiential benefits are about the feelings of using a product. They are corresponding to the 57 product related attributes. Experiential benefits can be such as sensory pleasure, wellbeing, variety and cognitive stimulation. Symbolic benefits are usually corresponding to non-product related attributes. They satisfy the needs of social approval, personal expression, the desire to be seen, to play a social role, outer directed self-esteem, and the needs to belong to a group. (Keller 1993) Brand attitudes are the overall evaluation of the consumer to the product. They form the basis of consumer behavior and brand choice. They have the relation with the products, perceived quality, non-product related attributes, functional benefits, experiential benefits and symbolic benefits. Consumers may use the signals such as the color of the product appearance and the scent to evaluate the brand and the product quality. (Keller 1993) In conclusion, the different types of brand associations build up the brand image. The brand associations includes product and nonproduct related attributes; functional, experiential and symbolic benefits; and overall brand attributes. (Keller 1993) Design as a brand instrument In nowadays environment it s extremely challenging to build brands, and internal and external substantial pressures and barriers may inhibit the brand builder. It s essential to understand these pressures and barriers when making and developing brand strategies.(aaker 1995 pp ) According to Aaker (1995 pp ) there are basically two keys to success when building brands. First of all, it should be understood how to develop brand identities. That is to say, the brand builder should know what the brand stands for, as well as how to express that identity most effectively. The other way is to manage internal forces and pressures. All in all, Aaker states (1995 pp ), The need is to recognize organizational biases against true innovation and towards diversification, short-term results, and frequent changes in brand identity or execution. According to Kotler (2006 p. 148), one of the factors influencing the buying behavior is each person s distinct personality. The personality may be useful when analyzing buying behavior for brand choices or a certain product. Kotler (2006 p. 148) defines personality as the unique psychological characters that lead to relatively consistent and lasting responses to one s own environment. It s suggested that brands also have personalities, and the brand personalities influence the buying behavior when the consumer chooses which brand to use; consumers are often likely to choose the brands whose personalities match to their own personality features. A brand personality is defined as the specific mix of human traits that may be attributed to a particular brand by Kotler (2006 p. 148). It has been identified that there are five different brand personality traits, which include sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness. It s said that many brands tend to be firmly connected with one of these personality traits. (Kotler 2006 p. 148) There are several instruments in brand strategy. Design plays a large role as a brand instrument. Design makes the product s quality, technical performance, reliability, safety or ease of use visible. Design differentiates products, creates a unique selling position and evokes desire and interests. Consumers decisions can be influenced by design. According to Riezebos, there are four important roles of design as a brand instrument. 1. Identification: People can know the owner, producer, or sender of the branded article or advertising message. Recognition and categorization are two functions of design. Better visibility and a strong profiled image can influence the consumers decisions. 2. Differentiation: Through distinctive design, a brand stands out from the competition in the eyes of consumers. 3. Transfer of material brand values. Design contributes to the perceived performance of the brand through the physical aspects. For example shape, size, color, material, structure and image. 4. Transfer of immaterial brand values: Design contributes to the psychosocial meaning of the brand, shows certain character traits being attributed to the brand through the visual expression. (Riezebos 2003 p ) The importance of a Brand s Visual Identity 58 Visual identity of a brand includes its logo, symbol, form and packaging, even includes the environment in which it appearance. It is said that a person dedicates 80 percent of his/her brain to recognize the visual stimulus. A person s first impression to most of the things is visual. A product s visual appearance communicates the product features, benefits, brand s personality, and values of the brand with consumers. Consumers can gain associations about the brand from a product s visual appearance. Visual appearance of a product is a powerful tool to create brand loyalty. A brand s visual identify is very important for brand identification and brand communication. (Hart & Murphy 1998 p ) Communication of Symbolic Meaning A product can communicate symbolic meaning to consumers directly by its appearance. Consumers sometimes may see the symbolic meaning as a critical determinate in t
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