Marketing Methods of Brand Protection
The methodology of brand protection is explained in my article “Methods of Brand Protection”. Now the point at issue is about marketing methods of brand protection. To begin with, I would like to explain what it means. In the first place, it involves protection of image and reputation of brand which implies making a promise to consumers that they obtain certain result by using the product for the purpose of reducing of risk of disappointed expectations for consumers. Reputation shall be understood to mean the dynamic characteristic of company performance which is formed in the society for quite a long period of time and on the basis of totality of the information related to the manner and methods used by a business organization for establishing of its behavior in certain situations. If favorable image attracts new partners and consumers, then the reputation being developed for years make the partners and consumers to remain loyal to the choice once made. In any case, it should be kept in mind that choice of products made by consumers is not always rational and based on the features of the product itself but is determined by associated perception of consumer through which the product image is created.
Unless you have absolute clarity of what your brand stands for, everything else is irrelevant.
Mark Baynes, global cmo, Kellogg Co.
Measures aimed at marketing methods protection of brand can concern one, several or all elements of its structure, ranging from brand platform to verbal and visual attributes of the concept of brand promotion. When working out such measures, the following groups of factors shall be taken into consideration:
- needs, expectations and requirements of consumers;
- mission, vision, key competences and values of the company owning the brand;
- perceived values and positioning of brands of competitors;
- character of communication activity of brands of competitors.
Marketing methods of brand protection shall be aimed at creating of such characteristics of brand as:
- communicativeness — strong brands change their behavior as they obtain knowledge about their consumers;
- having of psycho-emotional impact — consumers purchase those products and services in which they are confident, on quality whereof they rely and are ready to pay extra for it;
- globality — brand creators should be guided not only by tastes and preferences of the nation; different approaches should be applied, depending on the positions occupied by the brand on the market of each separate country;
- informativeness — brands are comprehensive sources of information as well as an instrument enabling to identify a product; the main objective of creation of brands is to create awareness of customers;
- integrity — compliance of brand with the essence of assortment of its products.
Marketing methods of brand protection are implemented by implementation of specific measures. The main principles underlying the programs for brand protection include conformity, continuity and consistency. The principle of conformity means that different methods shall be logically interrelated and shall not come into conflict with each other. The principle of continuity implies that methods of brand protection are interconnected and sequential in time. The principle of consistency assumes that several messages support and complement each other.
Brand extension involves adding of a new product to the existing line of products under the same name. It is stepping of brand outside the initial assortment of its products or its category. On the one part, putting of brand in a different category of products enriches its identity not only by association with a different class of goods but also with attributes which can pertain to it.
On the other part, increasing volumes of sales during a short period of time, brand extension can devaluate the entire brand in the long-term and, as a consequence, decrease volumes of sales of all products having the same brand names.
In many cases extension requires creation and turning out of a sub-brand, especially if it refers to a new class of products or to a new market. Extension can be carried out both towards more expensive products so that to make the brand more significant in the opinion of consumers and towards cheaper products so that to make the brand more affordable, more competitive and to drive up demand.
For the majority of companies it is easier to offer new products and services under the brand which has already gained acceptance and is recognizable rather than to build an individual brand from scratch. One of the significant advantages in this case is that investments made in brand are distributed among several products. All the products included in the product line can benefit from positive synergistic effect related to the brand. However, similar to using of the strategy of corporate brand, this effect can have adverse impact if one of the products fails. Damaging of image of one product sold under the family brand can have adverse impact on all other products offered under such brand. Such adverse influence can occur if not all the products and services combined under one brand fit together by quality or price.
Therefore, the most important conditions of brand extension are as follows: taking into consideration the real character of brand, understanding and compatibility, retaining of brand identity. Relation between products shall be obvious for consumers. The most apparent reason of brand extension can turn out to be saturation of market with some product. In such a case, brand extension is economically justified to a greater extent than expansion into new markets. In my opinion, when it relates to brand extension, it is necessary to avoid extremely wide assortment since too wide array of choices often embarrasses customers and complicates the process of choosing.
As time passes, almost any brand tends to extend which result in widening of assortment of products. In practice, companies employ extension at the phases of maturity and decay. It is more effective when new products and services are closely connected with the old products and services in the perception of consumers. Extending the brand, you gain the following advantages: costs of entry into a market are lower because of absence of expenses for development of consumer awareness; expenses for advertising and other instruments of marketing communications have greater effect; risks are lower when bringing a new product on the market.
Analysis of consumers’ preferences and customization of products in compliance with the preferences. Brand protection shall be implemented by way of close relationships not only with end users but also with retailers since the latter are the most important purchasers for many brands. Building relationships on the principles of mutual benefit, manufacturers can find additional levers for brand protection. Consumers put more and more value on confidence and stability of long-term relationships with those who understand their specific needs and can satisfy them. All these require that companies rethink the values which they offer to their customers as well as rebrand the products which they manufacture.
Research of their behavior enables to improve products and includes the following phases:
- Identifying of early adopters;
- Getting an insight into their experience and learning of the areas of use of products;
- Determining of modifications of products;
- Enhancement of the final products.
Research of expectations and preferences of customers which have a direct and comprehensive impact on the interrelation between quality of products and customer satisfaction can be carried out by means of methods which can be divided into two types: analysis of value perceived on the basis of functional characteristics and analysis of values perceived on the basis of costs. The first type involves such methods as:
- Consumers’ rating and classification.
- Keeping track of the process of ordering from the earliest stage of its planning till settlements of claims in case of after-sale problems.
- Analysis of relative efficiency of operations.
- Kano Model involving analysis of properties of products from the standpoint of functional and dysfunctional aspects.
The second type is related to analysis of consumer expenses during the lifecycle: expenses for purchasing and maintenance, operating costs, owning costs and expenses for disposal.
Creation of customer value can be based on the merits of the product itself, advantages of handling and servicing, brand reputation, emotional benefits, psychological value, etc. This ratio between advantages obtained by consumer as a result of purchasing and using of products and expenses for purchasing and using of such products. Performance attributes allow for only small part of value. Companies should sense unobvious direction of creation of consumer value and then demonstrate them to consumers. Besides, innovations which create new values in the perception of consumers shall serve as the incentive and drive of readiness to purchase.
Basic requirements to any product are considered by consumers as a matter of course. Fulfillment of these requirements cannot trigger any appreciable emotions of consumers. However, failure to fulfill or improper fulfillment of these requirements usually causes a sensation of dissatisfaction. Therefore, basic requirements are always important but they have strategic meaning only if they are not fulfilled. Special emotions can be triggered by such characteristics of products or services which consumers do not expect to obtain or do not take into consideration when making a decision on purchase.
Companies should pay special attention to improvement of the characteristics of products which are of importance for consumers. When creating consumer value, two-sided process takes place: brand increases the consumer value of products (consumers get a chance to emphasize a specific social status) and such specific and unique consumer value enables to attract new consumers and to keep the existing consumers faithful to the choice once made.
From my point of view, it is the identified and consumer significant values of products or services that the strategy of positioning shall rely on. The classical theory of marketing methods proceeds from the premise that positioning is a process in the course whereof companies purposefully communicate with consumers so that to take a definite stand for their products in the perception of consumers. Position of products and position of company are determined relative to positions of competitors. That is why you should have your products differentiated, highlighting their attributes which meet expectations of the target audience. The main principles are as follows:
- products shall be different from products of competitors;
- this difference shall be relevant for consumers;
- consumers shall be aware of this difference.
The majority of consumer groups have no clear ideas about different brands, except for simple and obvious properties; and this knowledge is not much different with respect to those who buy branded products and those who don’t buy these products. Therefore, all strategies of positioning and creating of consumer value shall focus on the advantages relevant for consumers with the use of the company resources for the purpose of offering of the real value to the target segment.
In my opinion, the following can be pertained to the most common mistakes of positioning made by modern enterprises:
- fuzzy segmentation with the idea of everything for everybody;
- deviation from target segments;
- wrong choice of position which does not meet consumer expectations;
- lack of unique selling proposition which distinguishes products from competitor products;
- positioning with focus on uniqueness of products without notice of me-too products available at the market with the same parameters;
- failure to take account of specificity of regional markets;
- too frequent change of position;
- lack of appropriate support by marketing communications mix;
- incorrect advertising communications, as a consequence whereof understanding of brand philosophy by the key consumer segments does not take place.
In general, marketing methods of brand protection employed on all phases of its lifecycle perform different tasks, achieving ultimately of the shared objective. Brand extensions can contribute to its entering into new markets, redistribution of financial risks and to cutting of costs for launching of new products.
In the 21 century, against the background of unfair competition, financial instability and deceptive advertising, crisis management communications become one of the most important methods of brand protection serving as the techniques of rapid information response to emerging challenges.
Originally published at Maximilian Groh — Your Business Advisor.