Brand Association: What it is and What It Represents
While growing up in secondary school, everyone wants to hang out with the cool kids. The in-group. The popular group! Why? Because if you hang out with the cool kids in school, you’ll automatically be labeled as one of the cool kids as well. Being part of or even being acknowledged by the cool kids would associate you with the cool crowd.
So, if a person can be identified and associated with ‘being cool’ or being popular among the peers, what about brands?
What is Brand Association?
Here is the idea of Brand Associations, which are the thoughts, feelings and images that a brand evokes in the consumer’s mind. These associations have a direct impact on brand value, influencing the consumers’ behavior and ultimately their purchases.
Brand Associations are not “reasons-to-buy” but provide acquaintance and differentiation that’s not replicable. They are relating perceived qualities of a brand to a known entity.
Brand Association is lined to images, symbol or colours associated to the brand or its benefit. For example Nike’s swoosh sign, the Nokia’s tune (which is also known as Grande Valsa), the golden arches or McDonald’s, the red and blue wau of Malaysia Airlines, and the flat-bottomed teardrop shaped Hershey’s Kisses.
If these symbols and images were presented to people without identifying the brand, most consumers would be able to recognize and recall from memory what brands they are.
Importance of Brand Association
Brand association is anything which is deep-seated in customer’s mind about the brand. Brands should be associated with something positive so that the customers relate your brand to being positive.
Brands also want to be associated with people, events, activities and items that reflect their brand values.
Brand associations can be formed from two main sources – direct experience and indirect exposure. Brand association through direct experience can be based on the trial or actual usages of the product – getting to experience the product performance and its quality first hand; like using Colgate toothpaste while brushing or drinking Nescafe every morning before working.
Indirect exposure would involve learning about the product through reviews, recommendations and advertisements, like checking out YTL’s resorts on the website, or hearing from a friend about how good the newest burger from KFC tastes like. Brand associations formed via direct experience tend to be stronger and more stable over time as compared to those formed from indirect sources.
Positive brand associations are developed if the product which the brand depicts is durable, marketable and desirable.
The customers must be persuaded that the brand possesses the features and attributes satisfying their needs – which leads to customers having a positive impression about the product.
Positive brand association helps an organization to gain goodwill and slows down the competitor’s entry into the market.
But if the consumers find that the products are of poor quality or services rendered are not up to expectations, it would lead to negative brand association.
Everything someone recalls the brand, it brings back bad memories – which in turn could deter repeated sales as well as negative publicity.
Among these are Mattel recalling its toys after discovering that its one million of its toys, which were made by a contract manufacturer in China, was covered in lead paint in 2007, or counterfeit cosmetics purchased online, which had dangerous levels of lead, beryllium, aluminum and bacteria in them.
Commenting on such incidents, Former London Business School professor Nirmalya Kumar noted that Chinese brands will face many obstacles when marketing to Western consumers. “Beyond the associations with poor quality and unsound environmental practices, they generally do not have the marketing capabilities or budgets to build powerful global brands,” he said.
Different Types of Brand Associations
Brand association can be categorized into various types, reflecting the different ways consumers perceive and connect with brands. Here are some of the most common types of brand association:
- Attribution Based Brand Association: This type focuses on the physical attributes or external aspects of a product, including pricing, packaging, quality, and appearance. These are tangible elements that consumers can directly observe and evaluate.
- Benefits: This involves the advantages or benefits that consumers believe they receive from using the brand’s products or services. These benefits can be functional (such as durability or reliability), emotional (such as feeling good or prestigious), or experiential (such as enjoyment or comfort).
- Brand Personality: This type of association personifies a brand with human-like traits, such as being youthful, energetic, sincere, or sophisticated. Consumers may choose brands whose personality matches their own or their aspirational self-image.
- Brand Attitude: This refers to the overall evaluation or sentiment that consumers have towards a brand, which can be positive, negative, or neutral. It is shaped by consumers’ experiences, beliefs, and perceptions about the brand.
- Interest and Lifestyle: Brands may also be associated with certain interests, activities, or lifestyles. For example, a sports brand may be associated with an active lifestyle, while a luxury brand may be associated with a high-end, sophisticated lifestyle.
- Values and Social Responsibility: Increasingly, brands are also associated with their values, ethics, and social responsibility efforts. Consumers may feel more connected to brands that share their values or contribute positively to social and environmental causes.
Strategies on Building Brand Association
Building a strong brand association is like becoming the most popular kid in school. You want everyone to know your name and think good things when they hear it. Here are some cool tricks to make your brand stand out and be remembered in a good way:
1. Be Consistent with Your Message
Just like wearing your favorite hat or shoes every day makes people think of you when they see them, always telling the same story about your brand makes people remember it. Whether it’s in ads, on your website, or the way you package your products, keep it consistent.
2. Use Symbols and Logos
Think of a logo as a secret handshake. Every time you see it, you know exactly who it belongs to. Make a cool logo or symbol that’s easy to remember, so when people see it, they instantly think of your brand.
3. Create a Memorable Slogan
Slogans are like catchy songs that stick in your head. Create a fun and easy-to-remember slogan that tells what your brand is all about. When people hear it, they should think of your brand and what makes it special.
4. Connect with Emotions
Ever watch a movie that made you super happy or sad? Brands can do that too. Connect your brand with feelings. Maybe your brand makes people feel safe, excited, or happy. When they feel that way, they’ll think of your brand.
5. Partner with Other Brands
This is like making friends in school. When you hang out with someone cool, you become cooler too. Partner with other brands that have a good image. It’s a way to show that your brand is just as awesome.
6. Be Part of Special Moments
Be there during holidays, birthdays, or any special days. If your brand can be part of people’s happy memories, they’ll associate those good times with your brand.
7. Teach Something New
If you can teach people something useful or interesting, they’ll think of your brand as helpful and smart. It’s like being the kid in class who always has the cool facts.
Example of Brand Associations
Brand association refers to the qualities, attributes, or emotions that consumers connect with a brand, influencing their perception and decision-making process. Here are a few examples of brand associations for well-known companies:
- Downy: Associated with softness, indicating the brand’s focus on creating products that enhance fabric softness.
- Tesla: Associated with electric vehicles, highlighting the company’s innovation in the electric car industry.
- Coca-Cola: Associated with being classic, reflecting the brand’s long history and iconic status.
- BMW: Associated with driving performance, emphasizing the brand’s commitment to high-quality and high-performance vehicles.
- Apple: Associated with simplicity, showcasing the brand’s focus on user-friendly design and intuitive technology.
- ZARA: Associated with being fashionable, representing the brand’s commitment to offering trendy and stylish clothing options
At the end of the day, all companies would want positive brand associations from their customers to their brand in order to beat the competitors to be the ‘cool brand amongst its peers’.
By being consistent, using cool logos, creating memorable slogans, connecting with emotions, partnering with other brands, being part of special moments, teaching something new, and giving back, you can make your brand someone’s “best friend” in the world of products.