How Being Funny Can Help You Build Your Brand

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Building a strong brand can be thought of in terms of a sequence of steps, in which each step is contingent
upon the successful completion of the previous step. All steps involve accomplishing certain objectives with customers, both existing and potential. The first step is to ensure identification of the brand with customers and an association of the brand in customers’ minds with a specific product class or customer need. The second step is to firmly establish the brand meaning in the minds of customers by
strategically linking a host of tangible and intangible brand associations. The third step is to elicit the proper customer responses to this brand identity and brand meaning. The fourth and final step is to convert brand response to create an intense, active loyalty relationship between customers and the brand.
These four steps represent a set of fundamental questions that customers invariably ask about brands, implicitly if not explicitly:
– Who are you? (brand identity)
– What are you? (brand meaning)
– What about you? What do I think or feel about you? (brand responses)
– What about you and me? What kind of association and how much of a connection would I like to have with you? (brand relationships)
There is an obvious sequence in this “branding ladder,” that is, meaning cannot be established unless identity has been created; responses cannot occur unless the right meaning has been developed; and a relationship cannot be forged unless theproper responses have been elicited.

Brand Identity

Achieving the right brand identity involves creating brand salience. Brand salience relates to aspects of customer awareness of the brand. How easily and often is the brand evoked under various situations or circumstances? To what extent is the brand top-of-mind and easily recalled or recognized? What types of
cues or reminders are necessary? How pervasive is brand awareness?
Formally, brand awareness refers to customers’ ability to recall and recognize a brand. Brand awareness is more than just the fact that customers know a brand name and the fact that they have previously seen it, perhaps even many times. Brand awareness also involves linking the brand—brand name, logo, symbol, and so forth—to certain associations in memory. In particular, building brand awareness involves making sure that customers understand the product or service category in which the brand competes. There must be clear links to other products or services sold under the brand name. At a broader, more abstract level, however, building brand awareness also means ensuring that customers know which of their needs the brand is designed to satisfy—through these products. In other words, what basic functions does the brand provide for customers?

Brand Meaning
Creating brand meaning involves establishing a brand image—what the brand is characterized by and should stand for in the minds of customers. Although a myriad of different types of brand associations are possible, brand meaning can broadly be distinguished in terms of functional, performance-related considerations versus abstract, imagery-related considerations. Thus, brand meaning is made up of two
major categories of brand associations that exist in customers’ minds—related to performance and imagery—with a set of specific subcategories within each. These brand associations can be formed directly—from a customer’s own experiences and contact with the brand—or indirectly—through the depiction of the brand in advertising or by some other source of information (e.g., word-of-mouth).

Thus, a number of different types of associations related to performance and imagery may become linked to the brand. Regardless of the type involved, the brand associations that make up the brand image and meaning can be characterized and profiled according to three important dimensions:
– Strength—How strongly is the brand identified with a brand association?
– Favorability—How important or valuable is the brand association to  customers?
– Uniqueness—How distinctively is the brand identified with the brand  association?
Successful results in these three dimensions produce the most positive brand responses, the underpinning of intense and active brand loyalty.  To create brand equity, it is important that the brand have strong, favorable, and unique brand associations, in that order. In other words, it does not matter how unique a brand association is unless customers evaluate the association favorably, and it does not
matter how desirable a brand association is unless it is sufficiently strong so that customers actually recall it and link it to the brand. At the same time, it should be recognized that not all strong associations are favorable and not all favorable associations are unique.

Brand Responses
Brand responses refer to how customers respond to the brand, its marketing activity, and other sources of information, that is, what customers think or feel about the brand. Brand responses can be distinguished according to brand judgments and brand feelings, that is, in terms of whether they arise more from the “head” or from the “heart.”
Brand Judgments. Brand judgments focus upon customers’ personal opinions and evaluations with regard to the brand. Brand judgments involve how customers put together all the different performance and imagery associations for the brand to form different kinds of opinions. Customers may make all types of judgments with respect to a brand, but in terms of creating a strong brand, four types of summary
brand judgments are particularly important (and are cited in ascending order of importance):
1. Brand quality. There are a host of attitudes that customers may hold toward brands, but the most important relate in various ways to the perceived quality of the brand. Other notable attitudes related to quality pertain to perceptions of value and satisfaction.
2. Brand credibility. Customers may form judgments that transcend specific brand quality concerns to consider broader issues related to the company or organization making the product or providing the service associated with the brand. In other words, customers may form judgments with respect to the company or organization behind the brand. Brand credibility refers to the extent to which the brand as a
whole is seen as credible in terms of three dimensions—perceived expertise, trust-worthiness, and likability. In other words, to what extent is the brand seen as: (1) competent, innovative, and a market leader (brand expertise); (2) dependable and sensitive to the interests of customers (brand trustworthiness); and (3) fun, interesting, and worth spending time with (brand likability).
3. Brand consideration. Eliciting favorable brand attitudes and perceptions of credibility is important but may be insufficient if customers do not actually seriously consider the brand for possible purchase or usage. Consideration is more than mere awareness of a brand; it suggests the likelihood that customers will actually include the brand in the set of brands they might buy or use. Consideration depends in part on how personally relevant customers find the brand, that is, the extent to which they view the brand as being appropriate and meaningful for themselves. Thus, customers often make an overall appraisal as to whether they have any personal interest in a brand and whether they would or should ever buy that brand. Brand consideration is a crucial filter in terms of building brand equity. No matter how highly regarded or credible a brand may be, unless the brand also receives serious consideration and is deemed relevant, customers will always keep a brand at a distance and never closely embrace it. Brand consideration will depend in large part on the extent to which strong and favorable brand associa-
tions can be created as part of the brand image.
4. Brand superiority. Finally, superiority relates to the extent to which customers view the brand as unique and better than other brands. In other words, do customers believe that the brand offers advantages that other brands do not?
Superiority is absolutely critical in terms of building intense and active relationships with customers and will depend to a great degree on the number and nature of unique brand associations that make up the brand image.
Brand Feelings. Brand feelings are customers’ emotional responses and reactions with respect to the brand. Brand feelings also relate to the social currency evoked by the brand. What feelings are evoked by the marketing program for the brand or by other means? How does the brand affect customers’ feelings about themselves and their relationship with others? These feelings can be mild or intense, positive or negative, in nature. There are six important types of brand-building feelings:
1. Warmth. Warmth refers to soothing types of feelings—the extent to which the brand makes consumers feel a sense of calm or peacefulness. Consumers may feel sentimental, warmhearted, or affectionate about the brand.
2. Fun. Feelings of fun are also upbeat types of feelings. Consumers may feel amused, lighthearted, joyous, playful, cheerful, and so on.
3. Excitement. Excitement relates to the extent to which the brand makes consumers feel that they are energized, and are experiencing something special. Brands that evoke feelings of excitement may result in a sense of elation or “being alive”; the customer may feel cool, sexy, and so forth.
4. Security. Security feelings occur when the brand produces a feeling of safety, comfort, and self-assurance in the customer, who associates the brand with the elimination of worries or concerns they might otherwise have felt.
5. Social approval. Social approval occurs when the brand results in consumers’ feeling positively about the reactions of others to them; that is, when consumers feel that others look favorably on their appearance, behavior, and so forth. This approval may result from others’ direct acknowledgement of the consumer using the brand or, less overtly, from attributing the product itself to consumers.
6. Self-respect. Self-respect occurs when the brand makes consumers feel better about themselves, for example, when consumers feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, or fulfillment.
The first three are experiential and immediate, increasing in level of intensity. The latter three are more private and enduring, increasing in level of gravity.

Brand Relationships
Brand relationships can usefully be characterized in terms of two dimensions—intensity and activity. Intensity refers to the strength of the attitudinal attachment and sense of community. In other words, how deeply felt is the loyalty? Activity refers to how frequently the consumer buys and uses the brand, as well as engages in other activities not related to purchase and consumption. In other words, in how many different ways does brand loyalty manifest itself in day-to-day consumerbehavior? Examples of brands with high resonance include Harley-Davidson, Apple, and eBay.