What is a Brand? (III)

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Despite all the above definitions of the brand, Kapferer introduced a new element into the definition of the brand. According to him, Brands are intangible assets, assets that produce added benefits for the business. He pointed out two major paradigms in the various definitions of the brand. The first one that is customer based which focuses exclusively on the customer’s relationship with the brand. This ranges from the point of total indifference to attachment, loyalty, and willingness to buy and rebuy based on beliefs of superiority and evoked emotions. The other paradigm is the one, which aims at producing financial measures in dollars, euros or yen.

The financial approach measures the value of the brand by isolating the net additional cash flows created by the brand. These additional cash flows are the result of customers’ willingness to buy one brand more than its competitors’, even when another brand is cheaper. The customers rationale for wanting to pay more for these particular brands are based on the beliefs and bonds that have been created over time in their minds through the marketing of the brand. In other words, customer equity is the preamble of financial equity. Brands have financial value because they have created assets in the minds and hearts of customers, distributors, prescribers, and opinion leaders.

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These assets according to him are brand awareness, beliefs of exclusivity and superiority of some valued benefits, emotional bonding etc. which are what Keller alluded to in his definition of brand; that ‘a brand is a set of mental associations, held by the consumer, which add to the perceived value of a product or service’. His only problem with the definition being that the product or service which are the prime vector of the perceived value are left out of the scope of the brand definition thereby rendering the function of managing the brand as a purely communication task.

According to him the financial perspective helps us in adequately defining brands and brand equity especially as brands are both intangible and conditioned assets that deliver benefits over a long period of time working in consonance with other material assets like production facilities. The product for him is therefore an embodiment of the brand by which the brand becomes real. The product also is the main source of the brand’s valuation – whether it produces high or low satisfaction. Brand management therefore commences with the creation of products, services and/or places that embody the brand.

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Following from all the above definitions of the brand certain facts become very clear. One is that Brand is a very complex phenomenon with each expert coming up with his or her own definition, understanding or perspective of the concept such that there has not been a commonality or agreement of what the definition of the concept is or should be.

Secondly is that brands are both ubiquitous and omnipresent cutting across every facet of life: economic, social, cultural, religious, sporting etc such that according to Kapferer a good definition or understanding of the concept must come from a multifaceted or multi disciplinary analysis covering both macroeconomics; microeconomics, sociology, anthropology, history, semiotics, philosophy etc.

Chernatony and Riley in their seminal work classified the definitions of brand in to twelve themes, namely; brand as a logo, brand as a legal instrument, brand as a company, brand as a shorthand, brand as a risk reducer, brand as a Identity system, brand as an image in the consumer’s mind, brand as a value system, brand as a personality, brand as relationship, brand as adding value and brand as an evolving entity which in effect represents the entirety of the various definitions of the concept.

In summary after browsing through all the various definitions of brand five key elements that represent or must be present so as to have a composite definition of the concept are as follows.

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Brands encompass some physical or visual elements such as a name, logo, product, service, company or an individual. There is also the mental, cognitive and emotional dimension of the brand that resides in the heart and mind of the consumers (the feelings, perceptions, emotions, attitudes, associations etc). The third dimension is the purpose or objective in seeking to create or give birth to such a brand – the economic and other rationale. The creation process of the brand as initiated by the marketers and the brand owners is the fourth dimension and finally the modification process that is responsible for the final nature of the brand (either intended, deliberate or unintended). This modification process comes as a result of the interaction between the brand and the consumers and the resultant experience.

A composite definition of the brand that is representative of all the essential dimensions of the brand must incorporate all these key elements and not any of these single processes standing alone on its own.

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

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