Deconstruction of brand identity building blocks

As researchers, we frequently mention brands within the abstract – their core values, their ideologies and their equity, as if these were currencies that would be traded on the open market. But the reality is that, without a connection to consumers, a brand has nothing that we will discuss or measure. In fact, we could argue that there’s no such thing as a brand within the absence of something called a consumer – no story without a reader or an audience.

We also know that the metrics of branding are static since well before the digital revolution. Concepts like equity and value go back to the 1950s, if not earlier, when the amount of brand name touchpoints was still definable and consumer interactions with brands happened under predictable conditions – seeing an ad , watching a TV commercial or encountering a product on store shelves. In fact, one can go way back to the center ages and appearance at signage on pubs as an elemental sort of branding (prior to widespread literacy).

Today, brand and consumer interactions have multiplied to an extent too extreme to urge our heads around. Throughout the day, on our phones and laptops and smart speakers, we encounter brands. the road between sponsored and organic content becomes blurrier all the time, as “hidden” product references seep into things we might never concede to be advertising. Our impressions of brands consist now of numerous random elements that concepts like equity can seem forced or overly simplified.

To return A level of clarity and practicality to the art of branding and brand measurement, we’d like to strip away long-held assumptions and return to truth core of brand name meaning – the emotional relationship with the buyer . we’d like to travel beyond brand models to know how brands develop within the first place – the building blocks of brand name identity.

Consumers develop a holistic understanding of brands across all touchpoints, supported personal experiences, and people experiences collectively cause a gut feeling a few brand, something seemingly baked into our cells but actually consisting of specific moments of engagement and interaction. Fundamentally, this is often our experience economy.

Truly know the brand

This new, instinctual model of brand name ing consists of what we call Brand Dimensions – positive and negative impressions that precede equity within the timeline of brand relationships. Brand Dimensions are difficult to dislodge; once all brand experiences have gelled in consumers’ minds and consumers feel they really know the brand, it are often very difficult to vary that perspective.

Consider the case of a long-established car maker – let’s use the name ABC – that positioned itself as top-quality and luxury within the 1980s. Ad campaigns, elite sports sponsorships and television show placements sent the message that ABCs were exclusive and luxurious , creating hooks within the minds of consumers of each class. the very fact that those folks who were alive then were kids and young adults – still impressionable and inexperienced – set the hooks deeper in our psyches.

More recently, however, ABC vehicles have won fewer accolades; rumblings about performance issues are heard within the market. Yet, for many consumers, the Brand Dimensions that ABC deployed way back will still override any intellectual information that the brand may have dimmed its luster.

This is because Brand Dimensions developed into one overriding construct, lodged in emotion and instinct, not knowledge and discernment. These dimensions are the heartstrings that brands tug on, the roots that reach beneath thinking and connect products to the fiber of consumer identity.

Conversely, consider another imaginary automotive brand – XYZ – which launched decades ago as a low-cost entry into the marketplace. Even after recent years of quality accolades and merchandise improvement, residual Brand Dimensions still exist. it’s taking years for consumers to shed these aspects of brand name meaning and see XYZ as a top quality vehicle maker.

Part of the thinking round the idea of brand name Dimensions was borrowed from a really different discipline – the pioneering work and publications of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. To quote Damasio, “We aren’t thinking machines that feel; rather, we are feeling machines that think.” His concept of “somatic markers” recognizes the important connection between emotion and decision-making. Our point of view is that his theory and work are often applied to how brands develop in our minds and hearts.

Somatic markers – established through reinforcement of key messages and experiences – create a shorthand that’s convenient for creating choices and decisions. They bypass cognition and direct us toward quicker decisions and seemingly advantageous options. The bias that somatic markers create are often shaped by communication – if we find out the way to hack the marking process.

Similarly, Byron Sharp’s seven rules to brand growth – cited in his classic book How Brands Grow – place “refreshing and rebuilding memory” at the middle of the brand development process. Brand Dimensions are the sources of brand name memory and that they got to be consistently stimulated and reinforced to take care of solid consumer relationships.

The Brand Dimensions framework starts before traditional brand equity KPIs, peeling right down to the thoughts and feelings that structure a brand’s impressions. These insights can help brand managers: reinforce positives; adjust communication to combat negatives; and transcend tracking attributes (which are key yet don’t tell enough of the core brand story).


Three categories

We can separate the experiences that leverage Brand Dimensions into three core categories: reinforcing, expanding and dissonant. allow us to illustrate them through the story of a hypothetical beverage manufacturer, Mr. Zing, which has established itself with high-energy, very sweet sodas. Mr. Zing has been around since the 1990s, introducing different flavors but keeping to its guy-focused, hyperactive identity.

Reinforcing experiences are according to existing Brand Dimensions, strengthening neural connections and reinforcing existing responses. Mr. Zing doesn’t got to do much to remind people what it stands for – 15-second commercials and six-second Twitter reminders featuring skateboarders and soccer stars reinforce the company’s dimensions effectively.

Expanding experiences push the brand to a meaning that’s according to its image but still refined or enlarged in how . because the coffee craze kicked in, Mr. Zing introduced a Hyper-Latte that combined espresso flavoring with an additional jolt of caffeine – making its brand more appealing to adults also as teens.

Dissonant experiences are incongruous with existing dimensions and must overcome them to form an impression . this will involve changing the personality of a brand, what a brand stands for, the design and feel of advertising and connections to distantly related categories.

Mr. Zing decided it couldn’t resist the CBD phenomenon – but the thought of relaxation was completely counter to its established image. To bridge the gap, Mr. Zing introduced a Mellow Meltdown flavor, which featured its characteristic energetic packaging and messaging except for a product that might “take you to a replacement high of calm.” But Mr. Zing’s Brand Dimensions were too well established and this discordant offering never caught on with consumers.


Getting consumers to speak

The key to uncovering Brand Dimensions is to urge consumers to speak about their feelings and experiences with the brand. These results transcend traditional brand attributes and personality dimensions to which individuals respond. we will get at these sorts of insights by:

using projective techniques that reveal underlying territories occupied within the dimensions (usually followed up by why people imagined that brand that way) – generating the thoughts and feelings consumers have about the brand;
putting consumers during a specific situation where they could experience the brand;
characterizing the brand through references to people, places or things; and
having consumers discuss different experiences they need had with the brand – e.g., first experience, best experience and most up-to-date experience.
Through these techniques, we will construct the planet during which each brand resides within the consumer’s mind.

What can we learn?

So what can we learn from a dimensions view of the marketplace and consumers?

Act carefully when your brand is young. When launching a brand, confirm your communication is consistent and thought of . With digital advertising so affordable, it’s tempting to place out a couple of ideas and see what sticks but this is able to be a grave error. Communication that doesn’t stick may very well hurt the event of positive dimensions; things that don’t produce positive connections can also produce negative ones.

Accentuate the positive. If there are positive connections forming the size , continually reinforce them. Leverage these connections to increase brand meaning into other categories and SKUs.

Be realistic about the challenges of brand name shifts. Small brands that haven’t had strong experiences or communication to make the emotional dimensions of a brand are easier to vary and shape. Well-defined brands, while hugely valuable in some ways, are harder to maneuver . A brand with negative dimensions will take time to maneuver – don’t be discouraged. Redouble your efforts, keep to your Polaris , to your brand vision. Fighting cognitive dissonance takes time and energy .

Monitor your dimensions. you would like to know what makes up your brand meaning and to whom. Has anything slipped into it over time? Have consumers taken your brand to a special territory? (And is that an honest thing?)

Above all, respect the facility and potential of brands – they’re the building blocks of business relevance and are irreplaceable touchstones for consumers.