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white paper Back to Basics Series: The Who, What And Why Of Brands SUMMARY • Why bother with brands?

In it's simplest form our marketing world can be divided into two classes:

• What is a

strong brands and non-brands. A brand that is not strong, that is to say a

brand?

• Who owns the brand

• How does a brand become a brand?

brand that is not thoroughly understood by the consumers, is not a brand in any real sense of the word. It may be a reputable company or it may be a great product. But until there is a clear, consistent and meaningful understanding of how the product and the company relate to the consumer and his or her world, there is no brand.

• How can a

company influence its brand?

416.967.3337 www.proteanstrategies.com

Why bother with "the brand"? The brand understanding enveloping a product determines its comparative value to the consumer. The difference between the absolute cost of manufacturing the product and the amount the consumer will be prepared to pay for it is determined by the brand understanding. In other words, the brand strength is the ultimate determinant of profit margins. By extension, brand strength is an important determinant of the longterm profit potential of the company, and in this capacity becomes a valuable (if intangible) component of the balance sheet. It is also true that brand understanding colours the way consumers experience a product. If there is a positive brand understanding, consumers approach the product or service in the expectation of a positive result. Being human, this strongly influences how we perceive and evaluate the

actual experience. What is a brand? A brand is an abstract construct in the minds of consumers. It exists only in the minds of consumers. It is the understanding of, and belief about, the name and/or symbol attached to the product, and it results from the internalization of information from three sources. First, the product itself -- what the individual knows about the product, what his or her experiences of the product are, etc. The second source is the company that makes the product as represented by the name, trustmark or logo. The third source is the individual's own values and beliefs about the category, the usage of the product and toward the world in general. These information sources are referred to as the three elements of the brand Trinity.

This article first appeared in Marketing Magazine, April 1999


“Most importantly it [advertising] can set up the expectations that provide the lens through which the brand is ultimately understood.�

Who owns the brand? Brands only exist in the mind of consumers, and therefore belong to them. A company has only a limited ability to control the brand, and does so under license to consumers. The more strongly established a brand is, the less tolerant consumers are of changes. Internationally, Coke learned this at great cost when they tried changing the product -- people throughout the world loudly said they would not tolerate any changes to the Coke brand, which was defined by, among other elements, a very specific brown fizzy liquid. When Coke asked people if they preferred a different tasting product, the answer in all the research, was a resounding "Yes." However, Coke did not ask people if they would accept changes in the Coke brand. In the event, the strength of the brand transcended the product itself so strongly, that the message came back: "If you change the taste, you change the brand. And we won't let you do that." Currently, in Canada, companies like Eaton's and The Bay are learning that Canadian consumers are equally intolerant of attempts to change icon brands.

sarily to the benefit of the company. A change in the quality of the product, for example, may well result in a negative impact on the brand. Advertising and public relations, where companies communicate aspects of who they are, what they believe in and how they behave, are the most common and most direct ways of influencing a brand. Advertising alone probably can't define a brand, but it can refine the brand, and it can provide the frequency of interaction that determines the speed and depth of the brand strength. Most importantly it can set up the expectations that provide the lens through which the brand is ultimately understood. The third source of the brand Trinity, the beliefs and values of the individual, are obviously difficult to influence. However, they can be revealed, amplified, and incorporated into the other elements in order to ensure harmony and hence influence the strength of the brand.

Can a company influence its brand? Yes. Companies can manage or influence their brand by altering any of the three elements of the brand Trinity.

Protean Strategies is a Toronto based management consulting firm specializing in developing brand strategies and providing a full range of consumer research services. Since its inception in 1997, the firm has provided breakthrough strategies for leading Canadian and US brands, including General Motors, Fairmont Hotels, Canadian Tourism Commission, American Express, Dell Canada, Energizer Batteries, Unilever , Procter and Gamble, Allstate Insurance and advertising agency partners in Toronto, Calgary, New York City, Chicago , London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Shanghai.

A change in the product will result in a change in the brand-- not neces-

www.proteanstrategies.com 416.967.3337

How does a brand become a brand? In order for a brand to exist, there must be three elements: there must be a product; there must be a company that makes the product, and there must be a consumer. As soon as these three elements come together, a brand is born.

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The who how and what of brands  

with brands? brand? • Why bother • Who owns the brand • How does a • How can a SUMMARY • What is a 416.967.3337 www.proteanstrategies.com Th...

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