Branding 2008

Journal of Arts Marketing Issue 28 – January 2008

Complex relationships abound
Heather Maitland discovers that most research into brands is case-study based and here she explains why
Branding is well researched: Google Scholar comes up with over 6,000 books and articles published in academic journals with ‘brand’ in the title. Mark J Kay1 points out, though, that much of the research into successful brands is based on case studies. These case studies have shaped the way that brands are managed, emphasising the importance of differentiation and consistency. In effect, many researchers and commentators are saying to us, ‘This is self-evidently a strong brand. This is what the company did so we should do it too.’ But often, we have very different products, customers and contexts that make the specifics of the case study irrelevant. Mark J Kay says what is missing is a coherent theory that explains the processes managers and marketers can apply to ensure their own brands are different and consistent.
So why the emphasis on case studies? Much of the research focuses on the complex relationships customers have with brands. Franz-Rudolf Esch and his colleagues2 say most brand managers spend considerable resources on measuring brand awareness and brand knowledge (i.e. what the customer associates with the brand name). They argue that brand managers should focus on the brand relationship as this is far more important in the long term. Brand relationship, they propose, is based on satisfaction, trust and attachment – all emotional factors. Both researchers and brand managers talk about creating ‘emotional truths’ and ‘brand enthusiasm’. Dori Mellitor, for example, says: ‘getting at the subconscious drivers of consumer behaviour required a whole new approach that transcended the traditional sphere of sales data and focus groups. A more strategic approach – one that divines consumer behaviour and infuses it with intuition and imagination – was required…
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