Brand building: from product to values, and vice versa

It takes time to build a really strong brand. There are two routes, two models for doing so: from product advantage to intangible values, or from values to product. However, with time, this two-way movement becomes the essence of brand management: brands have two legs.

Most brands did not start as such: their founders just wanted to create a business, based on a very specific product or service: an innovation, a good idea to start their business and open the distributors’ closed doors. Through time, their name or the name of the product became a brand: well known and endowed with market power (the ability to influence buyers). It did not simply designate a product or a person, but little by little came to be associated with imagery, with intangible benefits, with brand personality and so on. Perception had moved upwards from objects to benefits, from tangible to intangible values.

As is shown by the upward-pointing arrow in figure below, most brands start not as brands but as a name on an innovative product or service. Nike started out as a meaningless name on a pair of innovative running shoes: if they had not been innovative no distributor would have paid attention to Phil Knight in the first place. With time, that name acquired awareness, status and trust, if not respect or liking.

This is the result of all the communication and stars which accompanied the business building. Little by little an inversion takes place in the process: instead of the product building the brand awareness and reputation (the bottom-up arrow of influence), it is the brand that differentiates and endows the product/service with its unique values (the top-down dotted arrow). In fact at this time the brand determines which new products match its desired image. Nike is now in the phase of brand extensions: the brand has stretched from running shoes to sports apparel and now golf clubs.

Through time, brand associations typically move up a ladder (the vertical axis of Figure below), from ingredient (Dove with hydrating cream) to attribute (softening), to benefit (protection), to brand personality, brand values and even mission (Apple or Virgin have a mission), at the very top intangible end.

Now this does not mean that, with time, brand management should not be concerned with material issues and differentiation any more. Brands are two-legged. Even luxury brands, bought for the sake of show, must give their buyers the feeling that they have bought a great product and that the price difference is legitimate. But material differentiation is a never-ending race: competitors copy your best ideas. Attaching the brand to an intangible value adds value and prevents substitutability. The Mercedes price premium is permanently explained by product-based advertising copy, but also by PR operations that accentuate the unique status of the brand.

This first model concerns brands that started as a product. There exists a second model of brand building: many brands start as concepts or ideas. This is true of all licensed brands (Paloma Picasso perfume, Harry Potter products and so on) and of many fashion brands, spirits or cigarette brands. The Axe men’s hygiene line started from an insight as well: teenagers feel insecure about their sex appeal.

This model also provides a reminder that even when launching a product brand (that is, a brand based on a product advantage) it is important to incorporate from the start the higher levels of meaning that are intended to attach to the brand in the longer term. The brand should not simply acquire them, by accumulation or sedimentation; they should be planned from the start and incorporated at birth. Incorporating this perspective from the start accelerates the process by which products become brands.

This is why product launch and brand launch are not the same. This is also why brand names should never be descriptive of the product. The first reason is that what is descriptive soon becomes generic, when competitors come into the market with the same product. Second, clients will soon learn what the business is about. Names should better aim at telling an intangible story. Amazon speaks of newness, force and abundance (like the River Amazon), and Orange says ‘definitely non-technical’, just as Apple Computers did 25 years earlier.

The two models of brand building through time

Finally, as is illustrated by the two dotted arrows of the graph, brand management consists of a permanent coming and going between tangible and intangible values. Brands are two-legged value producing systems. This means that having an excellent product is not enough in modern competition. However, neither luxury nor image brands can afford to forget the functional realities of products.

Strategic Brand Management Related Practice Tests

Strategic Management Practice Tests
Brand Equity In Question What Is A Brand? Differentiating Between Brandassets, Strength And Value Tracking Brand Equity Goodwill: The Convergence Of Finance And Marketing How Brands Create Value For The Customer How Brands Create Value For The Company Corporate Reputation And The Corporate Brand Strategic Implications Of Branding What Does Branding Really Mean? Permanently Nurturing The Difference Brands Act As A Genetic Programme Respect The Brand ‘contract’ The Product And The Brand Each Brand Needs A Flagship Product Advertising Products Through The Brand Prism Brands And Other Signs Of Quality Obstacles To The Implications Of Branding Brand And Business Building Are Brands For All Companies? Building A Market Leader Without Advertising Brand building: from product to values, and vice versa Are Leading Brands The Best Products Or The Best Value? Understanding The Value Curve Of The Target Breaking The Rule And Acting Fast Comparing Brand And Business Models: Cola Drinks From Private Labels To Store Brands Evolution Of The Distributor’s Brand Are They Brands Like The Others? Why Have Distributor's Brands? The Financial Equation Of The Distributor’s Brand The Three Stages Of The Distributor’s Brand The Case Of Decathlon Factors In The Success Of Distributor's Brands Optimising The Dob Marketing Mix The Real Brand Issue For Distributors Competing Against Distributor's Brands Facing The Low-cost Revolution Should Manufacturers Produce Goods For Dob's? Brand Diversity: The Types Of Brands Luxury, Brand And Griffe Service Brands Brand And Nature: Fresh Produce Pharmaceutical Brands The Business-to-business Brand The Internet Brand Country Brands Thinking Of Towns As Brands Universities And Business Schools Are Brands Thinking Of Celebrities As Brands The New Rules Of Brand Management The Limits Of A Certain Type Of Marketing About Brand Equity The New Brand Realities We Have Entered The B To B To C Phase Brand Or Business Model Power? Building The Brand In Reverse? The Power Of Passions Beginning With The Strong 360° Experience Beginning With The Shop The Company Must Be More Human, More Open Experimenting For More Efficiency The Enlarged Scope Of Brand Management Licensing: A Strategic Lever How Co-branding Grows The Business Brand Identity And Positioning Brand Identity: A Necessary Concept Identity And Positioning Why Brands Need Identity And Positioning The Six Facets Of Brand Identity Sources Of Identity: Brand Dna Brand Essence Launching The Brand Launching A Brand And Launching A Product Are Not The Same Defining The Brand’s Platform The Process Of Brand Positioning Determining The Flagship Product Brand Campaign Or Product Campaign? Brand Language And Territory Of Communication Choosing A Name For A Strong Brand Making Creative 360° Communications Work For The Brand Building Brand Foundations Through Opinion Leaders And Communities The Challenge Of Growth In Mature Markets Growth Through Existing Customers Line Extensions: Necessity And Limits Growth Through Innovation Disrupting Markets Through Value Innovation Managing Fragmented Markets Growth Through Cross-selling Between Brands Growth Through Internationalisation Sustaining A Brand Long Term Is There A Brand Life Cycle? Nurturing A Perceived Difference Investing In Communication No One Is Free From Price Comparisons Branding Is An Art At Retail Creating Entry Barriers Defending Against Brand Counterfeiting Brand Equity Versus Customer Equity: One Needs The Other Sustaining Proximity With Influencers Should All Brands Follow Their Customers? Reinventing The Brand: Salomon Adapting To The Market: Identity And Change Bigger Or Better Brands? From Reassurance To Stimulation Consistency Is Not Mere Repetition Brand And Products: Integration And Differentiation Specialist Brands And Generalist Brands Building The Brand Through Coherence Defining The Core Identity Of The Brand Confirming The Presence Of Brand Core Facets In Each Product Identifying The Role Of Each Product Line In The Construction Of The Brand Graphically Representing The Overall System Of The Brand Checking The Coherence Worldwide The Three Layers Of A Brand: Kernel, Codes And Promises Respecting The Brand Dna Managing Two Levels Of Branding Growth Through Brand Extensions What Is New About Brand Extensions? Brand Or Line Extensions? The Limits Of The Classical Conception Of A Brand Why Are Brand Extensions Necessary? Building The Brand Through Systematic Extensions: Nivea Extending The Brand To Internationalize It Identifying Potential Extensions The Economics Of Brand Extension What Research Tells Us About Brand Extensions Avoiding The Risk Of Dilution Balancing Identity And Adaptation To The Extension Market Segments Assessing What Should Not Change: The Brand Kernel Preparing The Brand For Remote Extensions Keys To Successful Brand Extensions Is The Market Really Attractive? An Extension-based Business Model: Virgin How Execution Kills A Good Idea: Easycar Brand Architecture The Key Questions Of Brand Architecture Type And Role Of Brands The Main Types Of Brand Architecture The Flexible Umbrella Brand The Aligning Umbrella Brand (masterbrand) Choosing The Appropriate Branding Strategy New Trends In Branding Strategies Internationalising The Architecture Of The Brand Some Classic Dysfunctions What Name For New Products? Group And Corporate Brands Corporate Brands And Product Brands Multi-brand Portfolios Inherited Complex Portfolios From Single To Multiple Brands: Michelin The Benefits Of Multiple Entries Linking The Portfolio To Segmentation Global Portfolio Strategy The Case Of Industrial Brand Portfolios Linking The Brand Portfolio To The Corporate Strategy Key Rules To Manage A Multibrand Portfolio The Growing Role Of Design In Portfolio Management Does The Corporate Organization Match The Brand Portfolio? Auditing The Portfolio Strategically A Local And Global Portfolio – Nestlé Handling Name Changes And Brand Transfers Brand Transfers Are More Than A Name Change Reasons For Brand Transfers The Challenge Of Brand Transfers When One Should Not Switch Analysing Best Practices Transferring A Service Brand How Soon After An Acquisition Should Transfer Take Place? Managing Resistance To Change Factors Of Successful Brand Transfers Brand Turnaround And Rejuvenation The Decay Of Brand Equity The Factors Of Decline Distribution Factors When The Brand Becomes Generic Preventing The Brand From Ageing Rejuvenating A Brand Growing Older But Not Ageing Managing Global Brands The Latest On Globalisation Patterns Of Brand Globalisation Why Globalise? The Benefits Of A Global Image Conditions Favouring Global Brands The Excess Of Globalisation Barriers To Globalisation Coping With Local Diversity Building The Brand In Emerging Countries Naming Problems Achieving The Delicate Local–global Balance Being Perceived As Local: The New Ideal Of Global Brands? Local Brands Can Strike Back The Process Of Brand Globalisation Globalising Communications: Processes And Problems Making Local Brands Converge Financial Valuation And Accounting For Brands Accounting For Brands: The Debate What Is Financial Brand Equity? Evaluating Brand Valuation Methods Brand Valuation In Practice The Evaluation Of Complex Cases What About The Brand Values Published Annually In The Press? Strategic Brand Management Interview Questions