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From the Bottom Up: Developing Consumer-Based Brand Equity

September 09, 2020


From the Bottom Up: Developing Consumer-Based Brand Equity

I've talked a lot about customers and developing relationships with them, but we haven’t thought much about brand equity. But equity is important for our customers. It helps determine what they get out of a relationship with us.

You can think of consumer-based brand equity like equity in a business or your house. You put money into it to get a return. Investors look for equity—or ownership—in a business. Their money buys shares, which gives them a stake in the company’s governance and profits. With your own home, you build equity as you pay off your mortgage. The difference between the market value of your house and your mortgage is your equity. If you sell the house or finance against it, that’s the financial gain you could receive.

So equity gives people a stake in some sort of return. Consumer-based brand equity gives our customers a stake in our brands. That, in turn, gives them some kind of return on their investment.

Dimensions of Consumer-Based Brand Equity

There are a couple of different models of brand equity out there. The dimensions depend on which model you’re using.

The Brand Tree is one of my favorites…but for another day.

The Keller model uses a pyramid, for example, which shows brand equity growing from a solid base. From the bottom up, the dimensions are:

·          Brand Identity: Who you are

·          Brand Meaning: How consumers interpret your imagery and performance

·          Brand Response: How people react to your brand

·          Brand Resonance: When consumers feel aligned with your brand

In Marketing, we’ve talked a lot about resonance lately. Our customers are more driven by values than ever before. They want to align with brands that share the same values.

We also talked about it in relation to the pandemic. Our messages need to resonate with the new realities facing our customers. We can’t pretend nothing happened, because our messages just aren’t going to resonate with our customers now.

Building the Base: Identity

The base of the pyramid is brand identity—who we are. Knowing who we are is key to a successful brand.

And this doesn’t mean knowing our name or having a catchy slogan. This goes deeper, to the very core of our businesses. Why are we here? What are we doing that no one else can do for our customers?

This core essence guides us, helping us identify our values. Once we’ve discovered those values, we can work on communicating them to our customers.

And that’s where we can start building connections. We have to know ourselves before we can build relationships with our customers. Otherwise, we risk lying to them or failing to deliver what they think we’re all about!

If we’re ever unsure of what are businesses are all about, it’s time to check in with our loyal customers. More often than not, they can tell us what our brands do for them. That often strikes more at the heart of our brands than what we put down in branding documents.

Making Meaning

The next step is creating brand meaning. Customers want to shop with businesses that have values and purpose. And we want them to know what our values are, what our purpose is whenever they see our logo or hear our name.

This is the process of making meaning. In this stage, we’re communicating those values to our customers, telling them what we’re all about! That way, when they see an ad for us, it should inspire a particular feeling in them.

Of course, it takes two to make meaning: We can put whatever messages we like out there, but our customers have to interpret them.

We can only control the one end of this process. We can carefully select our actions (our performance). We can pick the right images for our ads. An example might be showing a diverse family in our ads—that immediately says to our customers “you’re welcome here.”

If we always use images of people from one ethnic group or family structure, our customers might think we don't want to work with people like them. That’s where brand responsecomes in. If we do our jobs right, our customers will see our performance and images, and they’ll respond in a positive way.

That’s because they have positive feelings and associations with our ads and actions. Maybe they see that image of the smiling family and think, “I feel welcome here!” They might also think we’re helpful, that we can assist them and their families in living happier lives. Maybe we make something simple or better for them.

Brand responses are conditioned over time. Knowing our identity allows us to pick the right imagery and showcase our values in our actions. Our customers then interpret it—and hopefully get a good impression.

Resonating with Our Customers

Finally, we want our brands to resonate with our customers. This is the pinnacle of the pyramid. Marketers who talk about resonance without the other layers have skipped solid foundations.

Resonance is the finally stage because it’s based on reciprocity. We’re aligned with our customers and they’re aligned with us. This is where our customers realize their equity—they have some sense of ownership with the brand here. They may be getting a return, although it might not be a monetary one—it might be emotional! Maybe they love working with us because we make the process so smooth. Or maybe it’s that they know we’re working to green our offices and we donate to environmental groups.

Whatever the reason, our customers have a deeper sense of attachment. They’re invested in our brand’s success. They think we’re great (just like we think they’re great). We continue to build a relationship—often through better communication, always with our shared values in mind. And, in turn, they’re excited to act as brand ambassadors for us.

And to reach this pinnacle, we have to start with our brand identities. We have to think about why we’re here, why we’re doing what we do.

So, like always, start with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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