Marketing Communications in Building Strong Brand Names

Introduction

Marketing initiatives by any company are charged with the role of making the product more appealing than competing ones. Heather (2004) says that one of the core values of any given business entity is its brand. While marketing entails moving the product from the production line to the shopping cart, knowledge of the product by the consumers and the entire market is enhanced through marketing communication. Ideally, this is informing the public of the goods or services that a company is offering as Heather (2004) puts it. On the other hand, marketing may also be viewed as the making of a service desirable by making it fulfill a market need or want. This compliments what Bethuel (2006) says that marketing comes into existence immediately a business idea is born hence marketing in most cases is older than the business itself. By this, he implies that an entrepreneur must in the first place clearly identify the factors or the opportunities created by certain needs on part of the market that will make his product or service sell.

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The creation of a new business comes along with a new product brand and a corporate brand. However, a product brand is not necessarily a result of a new business entity a site may be born from an existing firm introducing a new brand in the market. Once the groundwork is set, the entrepreneur now looks at the selling of the company’s brand and that of the product. The manner in which he informs the market of the new product and brand takes the form of marketing in which the manner and mode of delivering or communicating g the message is called marketing communication Bethuel (2006). The manner in which marketing communication is done has a big role to play in determining how strong the brand, both product, and corporate will be in the market. This paper investigates the views taken by different authors in assessing the role played by marketing communication in creating/building and sustaining a strong brand name in the market.

Defining a brand

According to Heather (2004), a brand is said to be a symbol, name, term, or sign, or combination of any of the listed intended to identify goods/products/organizations and differentiate them from other competitors. Having borrowed the name from livestock keepers, the idea in branding is to make a marketer’s products identifiable to him and to other marketers and consumers in a marketplace filled with many products. Again, a brand can be identified as a slogan that goes along with the products. For instance, the slogan “Nokia connecting people” has become unique to Nokia mobile phones only. Thus we have two types of brands:

  • Product brand
  • Corporate brand

A product brand identifies just one type of product/service from one single organization. For instance, we have common product brands as Ford Escape 2008, Fanta orange, Always sanitary pads, Paela, etc. These are only examples of product brands that are owned and marketed by business corporations that have their own corporate brand names. In this case, Ford Escape 2008 shares the brand name Ford with the organization hence the two strengthens each other i.e. the product brand and the corporate brand. On the other hand, a corporate brand may be stronger than the product brand or vise versa. From the examples of listed brands above, it would be probably difficult even to identify what type of product Paela is as the brand name is very weak. Fortunately, the product is more marketable under its corporate brand, Goya foods and it’s simply rice meant for the Hispanics living mostly in the US. Bethuel (2006) notes that this is what marketers capitalize on when seeking mergers and acquisitions: the presence and strength of a brand name expressed through brand equity. This relationship will be covered later on in the paper. On the other hand, there may be the case of a stronger product name than the corporate brand. Always sanitary pads are relatively more pronounced in the global market than the parent company Procter and Gamble. In such situations, marketers must be very careful in realizing the selling brand name and utilize it fully to their advantage (Heather, 2004).

Developing a brand is not just naming a product or a company, the brand has to be acceptable and made acceptable to the market through marketing the brand or what we call brand marketing. According to Bethuel (2006), brand marketing is the art of making or forming a good image or perception of the image by creating an impression that delivers on the prospects of consuming the good or service. Thus effective brand marketing goes into researching the market, identifying the target audience, and then engineering the image that you want of your product or company in the eyes of the consumer. This then will lead to brand identity. Simply put, brand marketing aims at developing a brand identity that will be unique to the product/company that makes it clearly differentiable from rival products.

When a brand is well represented in the market, the marketer will be more concerned not with making a product sell as such but by making the consumer recognize the brand and respond to it. The type of response that the market will give to the product will highly depend on how the brand has been developed in making it appealing to the consumer. What are the benefits of branding? Then, how do we go about making the brand appealing?

First, we address the impact of branding and the importance of having a strong brand asset against a weaker brand in the market. Brassington and Pettitt (2005) say that familiarity or awareness by consumers of brand marks the success of all the marketing efforts that a company has employed. But before we look at how we make it successful, we pinpoint the benefits of having a strong brand. By understanding these benefits from the start, Bethuel (2007) says that the top management will have little reservations in extending a generous budget and resources to the marketing initiative.

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Benefits of branding

Maintaining a strong benefit plays a significant role in acquiring new customers and retaining the old ones. Among the many benefits of branding, different authors (Margaret, 2006: Heather, 2004, Bethuel, 2006) agree on these as the main benefits of branding to companies.

  1. It is a source of competitive advantage e.g. Coke and Pepsi are strong brand names that help in locking out competitors.
  2. Differentiates products from rivals’ and helps in customer preference and loyalty.
  3. Sets the basis for legal protection of brand name through trademarks and patents.
  4. Creates a barrier to market entry for potential competitors.
  5. Adds value which is utilized in making pricing strategies.
  6. Facilitates new product development.
  7. Increase influence in the channels of distribution and advertisements.
  8. Customers also have their own benefits as a result of branding.
  9. Customers are able to predict what to expect from a certain brand.
  10. He utility or satisfaction obtained from consuming a particular brand or service is consistent.

However, Pickton and Broderick (2004) say that brand consistency is more relevant in product brands than in service brands. They say that due to the human factor associated with service delivery, services tend to vary as per the human factor. They give an example of a strong brand name such as Mcdonald’s. They say that though the food aspect from one of their outlets may be consistent, service varies depending on the waiter serving.

Another benefit to the customer is that he can relate and hold accountable his satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a particular brand after consumption.

Brand equity

Building and sustaining a brand identity is viewed as the first step towards developing strong brands which result in brand equity. Brand equity focuses on the marketability of a product because of its name and not specifically the attributes as put against competing products. Marketing communication has been viewed to be the most effective tool in building strong brands. Randall says that in the case of business-to-business (B2B) marketing, “suppliers focus on making their products smarter, faster, and smaller, and more cost-effective and reliable, than the competition. They also find ways to improve and add services so that they provide customers with a complete and satisfying experience”. Randall also notes that competition in the market has led to many replicas and imitations of common brands in the market. This he says that imitators are conscious of strong brands in the market and hence “joyride” on the popularity of certain brands to make economic gains. Marketing communication here has to play its role in ensuring that consumers are well informed about genuine and original products.

Pickton and Broderick (2004) write that, managing and developing a strong brand identity, it is necessary to keep the basics of research to the marketing practice. Brand identity is involved in formulating and cementing a relationship between the customer and the brand by generating a value proposition that revolves around emotional, functional, or self-expressive benefits. It follows then that there is a problem for the brand identity to perfectly match with a brand image following the intricate nature of the existing communications system. Graham, (2007), emphasizes that brand image is and should be an integral part of the strategic brand analysis where brand strategists carefully evaluate their existing brand image as well as those of competitors to assist them in establishing their own brand identity that will result in an optimum impact in the market positively. To develop a brand promise that creates emotional connections, the company ensures that consumers integrate a product into their culture. Therefore, the manner in which marketing communications is done to create brand awareness should always seek to strike on how a product will fit in the consumers’ life and the positive benefits that the consumer is to realize on consumption of the product. The best manner in which to develop a brand identity then will have to be based on market research concerning how the market will respond to a brand as guided by hypothetical findings on how consumers make decisions.

How consumers make decisions

According to Randall (2007) consumer decisions are “largely based on irrational impulses often unknown to the buyer”. Therefore, if the consumer himself does not in actual sense clearly pinpoint the main reasons for making a decision to buy or not, then it the duty of marketing communications of making the consumer identify some particular aspects of a product that will definitely propel him into making that decision. On the other hand, there are the basic considerations that come into place when a consumer is making a decision in the market place. The above largely revolves around the emotional factors. In addition to it, there are the functional and economic aspects.

The functional aspect of the product is in most cases fulfilled by the marketer together with the competitors thus the product cannot be clearly set up against rival products as they all serve the same purpose. For instance, marketing communications based on the fact that a digital camera takes photos whenever possible will not be anything unique to the competing brands because they all perform the same function.

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The economic aspect of making a purchase of a product attains to achieve value for money and utility on the side of the consumer.

A brand has to be aimed at achieving beyond the functional and economic fulfillment to the customer through emotional fulfillment. Marketing communications is thus aimed at making an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. Graham (2007) informs us that customer wants keep on changing as influenced by culture, fashion technological growth among many other factors which the author notes can make of break a brand. In his analysis of understanding what really ties the consumer to a particular brand, he says that the marketer has to find ways and means of making the consumer see where his life connects with the brand. Marketing communications through the various tools does the trick. Unfortunately, marketers have relied on advertising alone as the sole means of getting the message across negating other tools of marketing communication that offer a wholesome solution to one of the most daunting tasks to marketers.

The role of marketing communication

The marriage between marketing and the number of sales realized has proved to have no predictable pattern that can fully tie increase in sales to advertising or the strength of a brand in the market to spending on marketing activities. Therefore, marketers are charged with the role of finding the best marketing mix that will deliver results. Differences in organizational culture and sub-cultures in a company have been viewed to have a negative contribution in delivering the message to the market about a particular product on offer. The importance of delivering an all inclusive consistent message in all the marketing channels should be ensured in that the product has to be predictable in meeting the consumer’s expectations. Marketing Communication, according to Heather (2004), represents the voice of the brand to the people. Another view adopted in symbolizing marketing communication is that it is a means of dialogue between the product and the customers.

Emphasis here is on dialogue to indicate that marketing communication is a two way process. The process comes out as a plan where dialogue takes place in promotions and pricing. In selling the marketer satisfies his objective while the consumer by consuming satisfies his objective. As such, marketing communication is a sharing of experience between the company/marketer or sender of a message and the target market to receive that message. Facilitated by the fact that communication gives marketers the chance to provide their potential customers with information about any new developments in terms of offers, interaction between the two is pushed to another level for the benefit of both. Communication also reminds existing customers of the benefits and experiences with products and services from the marketer. It is of vital importance in all of these exchange processes the message being delivered through the various tools be uniform prosing on and delivering on the same without failure. This contributes in building a strong brand in that the consumer is always reminded of the product as part of his life through experiences thus reaffirming that marketing communications is most effective when a product or service is integrated in the consumers’ culture. Another advantage of marketing communications is that through the images it creates, it may dissociate a brand from imitators’ brands. Unfortunately the same image created by a particular marketer is used by imitators to develop imitations and ride on the success of one brand thereby denying the original bran sales revenue and market share. When such imitations do not meet customer’s expectations as promised through marketing communication then the brand suffers for crimes committed by others.

Other modes of marketing communication as noted by Kay (2005) involves product placement other than blatant advertising which researchers have shown has some potential of creating a negative image and especially when over done with special focus to commercial adverts on television and other electric media.

Role of IMC

IMC is defined as the art of assembling and arranging marketing communication tools to function as one in a strategic manner. According to Graham (2007), IMC plays the role of harmonizing all the marketing communications tools used by a marketer. These tools include sales promotion, advertising, personal selling, merchandising, after sales services, gifts and rewards among other new tools such as licensing and franchising (Kay 2005).

One of the commonly used tools in marketing communication is advertising. It has developed into a very significant industry expected to be worth over $155 billion by 2010. Unfortunately, marketing academics are worried that advertising is consuming all the resources devoted to marketing in the view that it is the most effective tool in creating strong brands which has historically proved not to be the case. The same way as MC, advertising can be viewed to be informative or persuasive but not singularly responsible for creating strong brands and retaining their place in the market and in the minds of consumers. By informative advertisements, the consumer is made aware of some basic facts about a brand and the more the reason why a consumer should buy it (Graham 2007). However, some form advertising may take the idea of instilling fear on the consumer over the dangers of a certain habit. For example, Margaret (2004) notes the idea used by CabXpress, a cab company in Australia that warns of the dangers of drunk driving and instead proposes use of their cabs as an alternative. Margaret also prefers to view this form of advertising as product placement to some extent. She reasons that the idea behind this advert is to incorporate cab hiring as an alternative to drunk-driving. Persuasive advertising on the other hand portrays a particular brand as superior to competing brands.

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MC models and theories

According to Graham (2007) and Margaret (2004), there are three theories explaining how MC works:

  1. Hierarchy of effects model.
  2. Advertisement annoyance and brand confusion.
  3. Attitude development model for MC.

The hierarchy of effects model

The hierarchy of effects model draws its strength from the reaction or response of consumers to MC. The model proposes that the cognitive stage involves the consumer being informed of a new brand in the market. The second stage is where the consumer feels the effect of the brand through what he perceives of the brand by the manner in which it is packaged and presented or by other means (Keller, 2003). The final stage is where the consumer makes all the other stages count in that it is at this stage that the consumer decides to buy or not to buy as guided by the perception he has of the brand. The model though, faces criticism in that there is no evidence that consumers follow stages and that there is no interaction between the stages.

Attitude formation model

This model also draws its strength form three components according to Keller (2003). The fist stage named cognitive entails evaluation of the brand/object, cultural and self beliefs and a reflection on the knowledge about it. In the second stage called the affective stage, the consumer puts into considerations affective feeling aroused by the brand/object. The third and final stage stresses on the behavior of the consumer by his readiness to buy or not.

Advertisement irritation and brand confusion

This theory emphasizes on attitude of the consumer towards the brand. A positive attitude increases the chances of the consumer buying the brand and the vise versa. On the other hand, a strong brand attracts imitators into making use of a marketer’s success in the market. A counterfeit product will in most cases not deliver on the original promise made by the original product thus in future the customer will steer away from the product. Margaret (2006) believes that making the customer aware of the existence of counterfeits will make the consumer feel more secure that his welfare is somehow guarded by being warn of dangers of consuming non-originals thereby developing an even warmer relationship with the product.

MC vs. brand awareness and decision making

Among all the models shown above, the major force determining the effectiveness of MC is on the attitude that the consumer has on the brand. As a result, MC should work on making or persuading the consumer to develop a positive attitude and those that already have positive attitudes rewarded through incentives such as promotions. The various tools of MC are used in unison to make the quest of invoking a positive attitude towards a brand pay off. This whole quest brings us round to IMC. Thus making use of all channels or rather tools of communication such as advertisements, product placement, promotion , public relations etc into the same direction, then there is a higher percentage that the customers attitude and hence perception will change in favor of the marketer. This revolves back to the idea of changing the customers’ attitude towards a brand by informing him of all the facts such as ingredients, grading or the process of production that makes the customer feel like part of the whole process and a cultural system that he would like to share in.

Conclusion

MC is charged with the role of informing the market of what a company has to offer to the consumers. The success of any brand in the market is determined by the level of connection and interaction that the consumer can identify between him and the product. This will in the long run create a strong brand that will form an attachment/relationship between the consumer and the product. As retold by Kay (2005), the product will become a cultural aspect in the consumers’ life and the consumer will be a marketing device himself in tapping new customers. Therefore the customer is responsible for determining the strength of a brand and the best way to drive the customer into making purchases is by “brainwashing” the customer into making him believe that he needs the product/service in his life by strategically informing him so (Kay, 2005).

References

Bethuel, F. Marketing communication: New approaches, technologies and styles, Boston: Wesley, 2006.

Graham, Tim. Marketing communications management: theories and cases, London: Penguin, 2007.

Heather, M. Marketing communications, New York: Pearson, 2004.

Kay, Mark, Strong brands and corporate brands, New Jersey: Montclair State University, 2005.

Keller, J. Strategic brand management, London: Macmillan, 2003.

Margaret, S. Marketing communication: an integrated approach, New York: Wily, 2006.

Pickton, D. and Broderick, A. Integrated marketing communications, London: Prentice Hall, 2004.

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