Building Brand Equity

Marketers build brand equity by creating the right brand knowledge structures with the right consumers. The success of this process depends on all brand-related contacts—whether marketer-initiated or not.35 From a mar­keting management perspective, however, there are three main sets of brand equity drivers;

  1. The initial choices for the brand elements or identities making up the brand (brand names, URLs, lo­gos, symbols, characters, spokespeople, slogans, jingles, packages, and signage)—Microsoft chose the name Bing for its new search engine because it felt it unambiguously conveyed search and the “aha” mo­ment of finding what you are looking for. It is also short, appealing, memorable, active, and effective multiculturally.36
  2. The product and service and all accompanying marketing activities and supporting marketing pro­grams—General Mills and its long-time CMO Mark Addicks are employing a number of new marketing activities to sell cereals, cake mixes, and yogurt. The company is exploring how to best use smart phones with consumers via QR codes, apps, and augmented reality, developing new packaging strategies in the process.37
  3. Other associations indirectly transferred to the brand by linking it to some other entity (a person, place, or thing)—The brand name of New Zealand vodka 42BELOW refers to both a latitude that runs through New Zealand and the percentage of the drink’s alcohol content. The packaging and other visual cues are designed to leverage the perceived purity of the country to communicate the positioning for the brand.38

CHOOSING BRAND ELEMENTS Brand elements are devices, which can be trademarked, that identify and differentiate the brand. Most strong brands employ multiple brand elements. Nike has the distinctive “swoosh” logo, the empowering “Just Do It” slogan, and the “Nike” name from the Greek winged goddess of victory.

Marketers should choose brand elements to build as much brand equity as possible. The test is what consum­ers would think or feel about the product if the brand element were all they knew. Based on its name alone, for instance, a consumer might expect SnackWell’s products to be healthful snack foods and Panasonic Toughbook laptop computers to be durable and reliable.

BRAND ELEMENT CHOICE CRITERIA There are six criteria for choosing brand elements. The first three—memorable, meaningful, and likable—are brand building. The latter three—transferable, adaptable, and protectable—are defensive and help leverage and preserve brand equity against challenges.

  1. Memorable—How easily do consumers recall and recognize the brand element, and when—at both purchase and consumption? Short names such as Tide, Crest, and Puffs are memorable brand elements.
  2. Meaningful—Is the brand element credible? Does it suggest the corresponding category and a product in­gredient or the type of person who might use the brand? Consider the inherent meaning in names such as DieHard auto batteries, Mop & Glo floor wax, and Lean Cuisine low-calorie frozen entrees.
  3. Likable—How aesthetically appealing is the brand element? A recent trend is for playful names that also offer a readily available URL, especially for online brands like Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Dropbox, and others.
  4. Transferable—Can the brand element introduce new products in the same or different categories? Does it add to brand equity across geographic boundaries and market segments? Although initially an online bookseller, was smart enough not to call itself “Books ‘R’ Us.” The Amazon is famous as the world’s biggest river, and the name suggests the staggeringly diverse range of products the company now sells.
  5. Adaptable—How adaptable and updatable is the brand element? Logos can easily be updated. The past 100 years have seen the Shell logo updated 10 times.
  6. Protectable—How legally protectable is the brand element? How competitively protectable? When names are in danger of becoming synonymous with product categories—as happened to Kleenex, Kitty Litter, Jell-O, Scotch Tape, Xerox, and Fiberglass—their makers should retain their trademark rights and not allow the brand to become generic.

DEVELOPING BRAND ELEMENTS Brand elements can play a number of brand-building roles.39 If consumers don’t examine much information in making product decisions, brand elements should be easy to recall and inherently descriptive and persuasive. But choosing a name with inherent meaning may make it harder to later add a different meaning or update the positioning.40

Often, the less concrete brand benefits are, the more important that brand elements capture intangible char­acteristics. Many insurance firms use symbols of strength for their brands (the Rock of Gibraltar for Prudential and the stag for Hartford) or security (the “good hands” of Allstate, the Traveler’s umbrella, and the hard hat of Fireman’s Fund).

Like brand names, slogans are an extremely efficient means to build brand equity.42 They can function as useful “hooks” to help consumers grasp what the brand is and what makes it special, as in “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There,” “Nothing Runs Like a Deere,” and “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” for the jeweler.

Firms should be careful in replacing a good slogan. Citi walked away from its famous “Citi Never Sleeps” slo­gan, replacing it with “Let’s Get It Done,” only to return when the new slogan failed to catch on.43 After 50 years, Avis Car Rental dropped “We Try Harder” for “It’s Your Space.” It’s not clear whether this new slogan will have the staying power of the one it replaced.44

1. MARKETING MEMO The Marketing Magic of Characters

Brand characters have a long and important history in marketing. The Keebler elves reinforce home-style baking quality and a sense of magic and fun for their line of cookies. In the insurance industry, the AFLAC duck competes for consumer attention with GEICO’s gecko, and Progressive’s chatty Flo competes with Met Life’s adorable Peanuts characters. Michelin’s friendly tire-shaped Bibendum—the “Michelin Man”—helps to convey safety for the family and is credited with helping the brand achieve 80 percent awareness around the world. Each year Michelin distributes a “Passport” for Bibendum that sets boundaries on the character’s use by marketers in advertising. Bibendum is never aggressive, for example, and never delivers a sales pitch.

Brand characters represent a special type of brand symbol—one with human characteristics that in turn enhance likeability and tag the brand as inter­esting and fun. Consumers can more easily form relationships with a brand when it has a human or other character’s presence. Brand characters typically are introduced through advertising and can play a central role in ad campaigns and package designs. M&M’s “spokescandies” are an integral part of all the brand’s advertising, promotion, and digital communications. Some brand characters are animated, like the Pillsbury Doughboy, Peter Pan (from the peanut butter), and numerous cereal characters like Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle, & Pop. Others are live-action figures like Juan Valdez (Colombian coffee) and Ronald McDonald.

Because they are often colorful and rich in imagery, brand characters can help brands break through marketplace clutter and communicate a key product benefit in a soft-sell manner. Maytag’s Lonely Repairman reinforced the company’s key “reliability” product association for years. Characters also avoid many of the problems that plague human spokespeople—they don’t demand pay raises, cheat on their spouses, or grow old. Betty Crocker may be over 90, but after seven makeovers, she doesn’t look a day over 39!

With the opportunity to shape the brand’s personality and facilitate consumer interactions, brand characters play an increasingly important role in a digital world. The success of Mr. Peanut in viral videos led to the introduction of a new peanut butter line. For the namesake character of Captain Morgan rum, Diageo has a team of eight people who work with its New York ad firm Anomaly to create daily online content. Even old-timers are making their way onto the Web. First introduced in 1957, Mr. Clean has amassed almost 900,000 Facebook fans.

The online popularity and effectiveness of brand characters was demonstrated by a research study revealing that the Pillsbury Doughboy garners 10 times the social media buzz for the Pillsbury brand as NBA star LeBron James does for his Nike sponsor!

Sources: Bruce Horovitz, “Mascots Top Celebrities in Social Media Buzz,” USA Today, June 10, 2013; Rupal Parekh, “Meet the Woman behind the Michelin Man,” Advertising Age, June 11,2012; Suzanne Vranica, “Knights, Pirates and Trees Flock to Facebook,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2012; David Welch, “Mr. Peanut Gets Smashed,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 12, 2012; “Betty Crocker Celebrates 90th Birthday,”, November 18, 2011; Dorothy Pomerantz and Lacey Rose, “America’s Most Loved Spokescreatures,” Forbes, March 18, 2010; Judith A. Garretson and Scot Burton, “The Role of Spokescharacters as Advertisement and Package Cues in Integrated Marketing Communications,” Journal of Marketing 69 (October 2005), pp. 118-32; Judith Anne Garretson Folse, Richard G. Netemeyer, and Scot Burton, “Spokescharacters: How the Personality Traits of Sincerity, Excitement, and Competence Help to Build Equity,” Journal of Advertising 41 (Spring 2012), pp. 17-32.


Brands are not built by advertising alone. Customers come to know a brand through a range of contacts and touch points: personal observation and use, word of mouth, interactions with company personnel, online or tele­phone experiences, and payment transactions. A brand contact is any information-bearing experience, whether positive or negative, a customer or prospect has with the brand, its product category, or its market.45 The com­pany must put as much effort into managing these experiences as into producing its ads. Any brand contact can affect consumers’ brand knowledge and the way they think, feel, or act toward the brand.

As we describe throughout this text, marketing strategy and tactics have changed dramatically.46 Marketers are creating brand contacts and building brand equity through new avenues such as online clubs and consumer com­munities, trade shows, event marketing, sponsorship, factory visits, public relations and press releases, and social cause marketing. Consider how BMW has built the MINI Cooper brand in the United States.47

MINI COOPER When BMW launched the modernized MINI Cooper in the United States in 2002, it em­ployed a broad mix of media: billboards, posters, Internet, print, PR, product placement, and grassroots activities. Many were linked to a cleverly designed Web site with product and dealer information. The car was placed atop Ford Excursion SUVs at 21 auto shows across the United States; it was used as seats in a sports stadium; and it appeared in Playboy magazine as a centerfold. The imaginative integrated campaign built a six-month waiting list for the MINI Cooper. Despite its relatively limited communications budget, the brand has continued to develop innovative, award-winning campaigns ever since. MINI has especially used outdoor advertising creatively: Two curved palm trees planted next to a speeding MINI on a billboard created an illusion of speed and power; a digital billboard personally greeted passing MINI drivers by using a signal from a radio chip embedded in their key fobs; and a real MINI on the side of a building was able to move up and down like a yo­yo. A new worldwide campaign, “Not Normal,” spotlights MINI’s strong, independent character through classic and digital media. Now sold in 100 countries around the world, MINI has expanded into a six-model lineup, including a convertible, a coupe, the Clubman four-door, and the Countryman wagon. These product introductions reinforce that MINI is agile, versa­tile, and fun to drive, and the marketing campaign as a whole builds strong emotional connections with drivers.

Integrated marketing is about mixing and matching marketing activities to maximize their individual and collective effects.48 Marketers need a variety of different marketing activities that consistently reinforce the brand promise. Consider what Deckers is doing to make sure UGG does not become yesterday’s news.49

UGG UGG sheepskin boots were originally made for men; surfers in Australia wore them on the beach to warm their feet after surfing. Acquired by Deckers in 1995, UGGs took off among women in 2000 after Oprah Winfrey showcased them on her famous “Favorite Things” show. By 2011, sales had cracked $1 billion. The following year, women’s tastes in boots shifted to leather, and sales of UGGs slipped. To bolster the brand, Deckers is using the credibility and influence of bloggers who make up the “UGG Creative Council” to expand the brand’s social media footprint and build awareness of the full range of its product line. To appeal to men, rugged New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was hired as an en­dorser in a campaign featuring the comfort, craftsmanship, and quality of the brand. To broaden the brand’s appeal beyond its quintessential winter boot, spring and summer lines including sandals and beach cover-ups were launched to position UGG as an active, outdoor lifestyle brand.

We can evaluate integrated marketing activities in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency with which they affect brand awareness and create, maintain, or strengthen brand associations and image. Although Volvo may invest in R&D and engage in advertising, promotions, and other communications to reinforce its “safety” brand association, it also sponsors events to make sure it is seen as active, contemporary, and up to date. Notable Volvo sponsorships include golf tournaments and the European professional golf tour, the Volvo Ocean race, the famed Gothenburg horse show, and cultural events.

Marketing programs should be put together so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, marketing activities should work singularly and in combination.


The third and final way to build brand equity is, in effect, to “borrow” it. That is, create brand equity by linking the brand to other information in memory that conveys meaning to consumers (see Figure 11.5).

These “secondary” brand associations can link the brand to sources such as the company itself (through branding strategies), to countries or other geographical regions (through identification of product origin), and to channels of distribution (through channel strategy), as well as to other brands (through ingredient or co-branding), characters (through licensing), spokespeople (through endorsements), sporting or cultural events (through spon­sorship), or some other third-party sources (through awards or reviews).

Suppose Burton—the maker of snowboards, snowboard boots, bindings, clothing, and outerwear—decided to introduce a new surfboard called the “Dominator.” Burton has gained more than a third of the snowboard mar­ket by closely aligning itself with top professional riders and creating a strong amateur snowboarder community around the country.50 To support the new surfboard, Burton could leverage secondary brand knowledge in a num­ber of ways:

  • It could “sub-brand” the product, calling it “Dominator by Burton.” Consumers’ evaluations of the new prod­uct would be influenced by how they felt about Burton and whether they felt that such knowledge predicted the quality of a Burton surfboard.
  • Burton could rely on its rural New England origins, but such a geographical location would seem to have little relevance to surfing.
  • Burton could sell through popular surf shops in the hope that their credibility would rub off on the Dominator brand.
  • Burton could co-brand by identifying a strong ingredient brand for its foam or fiberglass materials (as Wilson did by incorporating Goodyear tire rubber on the soles of its Pro Staff Classic tennis shoes).
  • Burton could find one or more top professional surfers to endorse the surfboard, or it could sponsor a surfing competition or even the entire Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour.
  • Burton could secure and publicize favorable ratings from third-party sources such as Surfer or Surfing

Thus, independent of the associations created by the surfboard itself, its brand name, or any other aspects of the marketing program, Burton could build equity by linking the brand to these other entities.

Leveraging secondary associations can be an efficient and effective way to strengthen a brand. But linking a brand to someone or something else can be risky because anything bad that happens to that other entity can also be linked to the brand. When popular endorsers Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong got into trouble, many of the firms using them to promote their brands chose to cut ties.


Marketers must now “walk the walk” to deliver the brand promise. They must adopt an internal perspective to be sure employees and marketing partners appreciate and understand basic branding notions and how they can help—or hurt—brand equity.51 Internal branding consists of activities and processes that help inform and inspire employees about brands.52 Holistic marketers must go even further and train and encourage distribu­tors and dealers to serve their customers well. Poorly trained dealers or other intermediaries can ruin the best efforts to build a strong brand image.

Brand bonding occurs when customers experience the company as delivering on its brand promise. All the customers’ contacts with company employees and com­munications must be positive.53 The brand promise will not be delivered unless everyone in the company lives the brand. Disney is so successful at internal branding that it holds seminars on the “Disney Style” for employees from other companies. Chevrolet chose to send almost 3,000 of its dealers to the Disney Institute in Walt Disney World to help them learn how to apply Disney principles to improve the car-buying experience for their customers.54

When employees care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and feel greater loyalty to the firm. Some important principles for inter­nal branding are:55

  1. Choose the right moment. Turning points are ideal opportunities to capture employees’ attention and imagination. After it ran an internal branding campaign to accompany its external repositioning, the “Beyond Petroleum” ad campaign, BP found most employees were positive about the new brand and thought the company was going in the right direction.
  2. Link internal and external marketing. Internal and external messages must match. Ford’s new branding push to “Go Further” targets car buyers as well as Ford employees. The company believes that mak­ing Ford’s internal branding efforts consistent with its external branding can “create profound synergies that will benefit the company in significant ways.” Internally, Ford CMO Jim Farley is emphasizing three areas to help Ford employees “go further”: “people serving people,” “ingenuity,” and “attainable.”56
  1. Bring the brand alive for employees. Internal communications should be informative and energizing. Starbucks created a major facility and exhibit to physically immerse managers and employees in the brand experience. To help its staff better understand how the brand positioning and promise affected their daily work, a major services company invested more than 100,000 hours in deep manager and employee training, with role-playing scenarios, exercises, and interactive tools.57
  2. Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm employees with too many details. Focus on the key brand pillars, ideally in the form of a brand mantra. Walmart uses three very simple brand pillars: “Quality Products; Unbeatable Prices; Easy Shopping.” 58

Source: Kotler Philip T., Keller Kevin Lane (2015), Marketing Management, Pearson; 15th Edition.

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