Branding is a concept, which extends far beyond the marketing of brand name. Brand is used in businesses, marketing of products and the process of advertisements. Branding involves the process of creating a unique name and identity of a product or service in the mind of the customer. Brand management is the continuation of this process, maintaining the brand name. This involves a number of strategic implementation by the company for sustaining the brand image. This study involves the discussion of strategic brand management process for analyzing the brand and an overview of the customer based brand equity model. Later part of the study will involve the brand strategies used by a brand. For getting a better understanding, the researcher has taken Apple Inc. as a case study.
Strategic brand management process involves four steps, which are:
Identifying and establishing of the brand positioning this involves the act of designing the company's offer and image so that it occupies a distinct and value place in the mind of the target customer. The key concepts are the points of difference, which convinces the user about the positive features of the product and how it is superior to the competition product. The mental map that is responsible for the visual depiction of the various associations linked to the brand in the minds of the consumers. The core brand associations is the subset of associations, which are both benefits, and attributes which is characterizes the brand, and the brand mantra, which is the essence of the brand.
Planning and implementation of brand marketing programs with the key concepts of choosing the elements of the brand like the different brand elements logos, images, packaging, symbols, slogans etc. different elements have different advantages. Integration of the brand into the activities of marketing and supporting the marketing program, these make the biggest contribution and can create strong, favourable and unique brand associations in a variety of ways. Leveraging the secondary associations, like when the brands are linked with source such as countries, characters, sporting or the cultural events etc. In essence, leveraging the other associations for the brand for creating some associations of the brand's own equity and some for the marketers as well
Measurement and interpretation of the brand performance, which includes the brand audit, for the assessment of the source of equity of the brand and for suggesting ways to improve and leverage it. The brand value chain helps in the better understanding of the financial impacts of the brand marketing investments and expenditures. Brand equity measuring system includes a set of tools and procedures, which help the marketers in taking any tactical decision for a short rum for on long-term basis (Worm and Stefan, 2012).
Growing and the sustaining of the brand equity defines the brand strategy that captures the branding relationship between the various products or services offered by the firm using the tools of brand-product matrix, brand hierarchy and brand portfolio. Managing of the brand equity over the time requires taking a long-term view as well as a short-term view of the marketing decisions as they will affect the success of future marketing programs. Managing the brand equity over the different geographical boundaries, segments of the market and different cultures, requires the international factors to be taken into account along with different type of the consumers. And the specific knowledge about the experience and the behaviours of the new geographies or market segments when expanding the brand overseas or into new market segments (Uggla and Henrik, 2014).
A customer based equity model includes the establishing of proper brand identity, which is setting up the breadth and the width of brand awareness. This creates an appropriate meaning of the brand with the help of strong, unique and favourable brand associations and also elicits accessible and positive responses for the brand (Starcevic and Sladjana, 2013). Finally, this model forges the brand relationships with the customers that can be characterized by intense and active loyalty.
Figure 1: Customer based brand equity model
(Source: Schmitt, 2012)
Step 1 Salience (who are you) involves the creation of brand awareness, the brands needs to stand out and is recognized by the customers. Brand perceptions needs to be correct in the mind. Step 2 is the brand meaning (what are you). Here identification of the brand and communicating it is done. What the brand is all about. Performance and imagery are the building blocks. Step 3 (what do I think or feel about you) is the response from the customers after they have made a perception about the brand. The response will be based on judgements and feelings. As per (Schmidt et al. 2014), the response can be bad and can be good as well. Customers judge the brand on the quality, credibility, consideration and superiority of the brand. How the brand makes them feel is another crucial factor. Whether they feel warmth, fun, secure, excited, all of it varies. Step 4 includes the brand resonance (how much connection would I like to have with you). It is the most difficult and the most desirable level. Brand resonance is achieved when the customer feel a deep psychological bonding with the brand.
The strong brand have rich consumer awareness, the users are well aware of the brand, and keep themselves updated about it in contrast to the weak brands which have poor consumer awareness (Ren et al.2013). Proper brand awareness opens up more scope of expansion and maximizes brand equity, which is important for the financial benefit of the company. The brand Apple leverages its brand equity for charging premium charges for its products. Products of Apple like the iPhone, iPad, iPod create sufficient value for the companies which include brand value in the balance sheets as an asset. Weak brand names provide very little or no brand equity and in turn confer no value added onto a product or service. The strong brands enjoy repeated sales in comparison to the weak brands, which mean the customer is loyal to the brand. Apple have got a strong brand name which entices the users to purchase the product time after time. The customers of Apple do not tend to switch brands very easily.
It takes money time and resources for the creation of a strong brand name, and this area is not be plunged on by any organisation. The brand equity and customer franchise of Apple Inc is very strong, like the preference of Apple among the Mac community has kept the brand alive all over these years and enable the company to sustain its prices, which is at a premium to the customers (Punyatoya and Plavini, 2014).
The brand appeal of Apple products lie in the unique features that can be considered as its unique selling proposition. The sustainability of any brand in the market is hugely dependent on how much brand appeal does the product has (Musekiwa, et al. 2013). The constantly growing competitive market demands to build a strong bond with the users. Brand appeal by Apple can be done on rational basis or taking the emotional point of view. Rational Approach by Apple would include convincing the users based on the features of the device. When it come to investing money, a lot of thinking process comes into play, which most importantly includes getting value for money. Emotional appeal is taken into consideration when the user is attracted to the brand due to emotional reasons (Mamula, 2012). Apart from the long term, faith on the brand, the marketing and advertisement for promoting the product also has impact on the buyers significantly.
However, the brand strategy mainly focuses on the customer's emotions, as the brand personality of Apple is all about lifestyle, imagination, innovation, aspirations, and providing power to the users by the means of technology. Apple have the power of employee engagement, where the workers are not mere users but also Apple enthusiasts. The company have a singularly powerful store strategy, where they own and operate more than 434 stores in 16 countries (Liu et al. 2013). Apple Inc considers its mission carefully, and beyond just making money. It pays special attention to the employee engagement around the brand's values, and constantly focuses on innovation of the product. The brand strives to control the chain of communications as much as possible along with the channel of distribution.
Figure 2: Maximum portfolio value
(Source: Hanna, 2012)
The blue ocean strategy implementation by Apple has allowed it to reconstruct the boundaries of the market, and focus on the bigger picture rather than just the numbers. Apple implemented the strategy for the iTunes for making it more preferable application software for the users. This strategy was unique, as the success of the iTunes would feed into other hot product by the same company like the iPod. As it is a more design driven organisation, it puts the customers at the centre of the product innovation, which creates the need of the product, and Apple exploits the newly created market share getting an edge over its competitors (Gabrielli, 2012). The brand portfolio for Apple is the effective creation, development and the management of brand assets in accordance to the simultaneous top and bottom line growth, the maximum portfolio value can be attained by accessing the new market as well as the customers like FedEx, efficiency in the investment like ups, strengthening customer relationships like GE or uncovering the latent brand potential like Apple Inc.
Figure 3: portfolio of Apple Inc
(Source: Fayrene, 2011 )
An equity engine is a modelling technique, which is used for measuring the strength of a brand in the term of its emotional as well as functional benefits as perceived by the customer. It performs the evaluation and measurement of how individual user perceives the three main drivers of a brand value namely the affinity, performance and the price (Clatworthy, 2012). The Affinity involves the consumer's emotional relationship with the brand, which is most difficult to measure like the trust afforded by Apple and the prestige associated with its products. Performance is measured using the attributes regarding the functions, which are specific to the market (Radon, 2012). Like for Apple the product features, how much user friendly it is. A qualitative research is used for carrying out the separation of the mentioned attributes. Finally the price factor and the perception of the customer regarding it
Customer feedbacks have got a vital role in making a brand and retaining it. It helps in the improvement of the product of service. In view of Zott and Pearson, (2012), a customer is the biggest critic of a product, so listening to them is the only way to guarantee the creation of a product or service that they actually want. The most innovative companies create a product that meet their customer needs and exceeds their expectation like Apple Inc. Customer feedback offers the best way to measure customer satisfaction, which helps in determining whether the product is meeting the expectation of the customer or not. It also provides actionable insight for creation a better customer experience, which involves getting directly in touch with them and gives them a personalized experience. Customer feedback is crucial for retaining a customer, as it offers a line of communication with them so that it can determine if they are not happy with the product (Allaway et al.2011). It also delivers tangible data which can be utilized for making a better business decisions and can be also used to identify the customer advocates. These customers will give high scores and will recommend the product to others as well.
The study includes the discussion about brand management process of a Apple, along with a detailed explanation of the various branding strategies implemented by Apple Inc. The customer brand equity model helps in the understanding of importance of stronger brand over the weaker one in context to Apple. The study also explains the importance of customer feedback.
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