Brands are neither physical products, nor actual services. Brands live in the mind of the consumer. So how do agencies like bloomfield knoble help companies successfully brand? By understanding that when we successfully create a brand, we create brand knowledge.
Brand knowledge isn’t a stand-alone idea. Instead, it’s a combination of two things: brand awareness and brand image. Brand awareness is the level of brand recall and recognition that consumers have of a particular brand and its specific product category. Brand image is the set of mental associations with a brand that influence the buyer. Although different brands may mean different things to different people, brand knowledge is always a function of awareness and image.
At bloomfield knoble, building brand knowledge is a delicate balancing act between awareness and image. So delicate, in fact, that no matter how strong you build one, a slip in the other can bring everything crashing down (example – Tiger Woods: super high awareness + bad brand image = loss of sponsorship). For us, brand awareness is about both recognition and recall. Recognition is the ability to define the product by form. A great example of this is Absolut Vodka. Their advertising features the bottle, so when a consumer goes to a liquor store they see the shape of the bottle and (hopefully) make a decision while looking at the bottle. Recall is the consumer making a decision without actually looking at the product. For example, the consumer needs tires for the car and decides to go to a Firestone store. That’s of real benefit, because there aren’t competitive tires at a Firestone shop where a person may be subject to recognition.
Brand image is way more challenging, because it is the associations in the consumers’ mind of both real and imaginary qualities and shortcomings that influence the customer’s buying decision. bloomfield knoble strives to build images that have strong (based on personal relevance and consistency), favorable (based on consumer needs) and unique (connections not shared by competitors) associations in the consumer’s mind. Starbucks is a good example of a company that built a strong, favorable and unique brand. Consumers keep going to Starbucks because of the unique brand experience as much as the coffee. Creating brand image means selecting elements that become an asset to the brand.
When selecting brand elements, bloomfield knoble looks for “devices” that serve to identify and differentiate the brand:
Memorable – brand elements must be inherently memorable to enable recall or recognition.
Meaningful – strong brands have some inherent meaning that enhances the brand associations. Meaningful brands provide both general information about the nature of the product category and specific information about particular attributes and benefits of the brand.
Transferable – brand elements should be able to reach various product categories and stay the same across geographic and cultural regions.
Adaptable – brand elements must be adaptable to changing consumer values and opinions. The more adaptable and flexible the brand elements, the easier it is to update.
Protectable – brand elements need to be protectable both in a legal and competitive sense.
Creating a brand identity that is strong, favorable and unique is one of the best competitive advantages a company can have.
A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.