Role of Brand Image in Marketing

Author- | Posted- | Updated: October 8, 2018 |

Role and Importance of brand image –  Why brand image matters in marketing?

Brand image is a very important term in marketing with both short term and long term implications. It is true about both the new and old business brands. A brand image is related to the perception of the consumers and how they see the entire personality of your brand. An image is not formed overnight and takes time, money and efforts to build. From product and service quality to customer service and advertising campaigns, all these factors have a deep influence on the brand image.  The kind of experience consumers have with a brand also affects its image. Over the long term, the brand image becomes a central element in your marketing strategy.  If certain brands focus on creating a specific kind of image among their consumers, then the reason is their marketing and business strategy.

Amazon has created a customer friendly image that reflects its obsession with providing the best in class customer service. Walmart’s image is that of a pocket friendly brand based mainly on its least prices.  These things are a major part of their marketing and overall business strategy. Every brand is in a race to become its customers’ favorite. So, they are focusing on creating an image that resonates with their target market. From Nike to Adidas and Amazon to Zara, all of them have a certain image which also helps their customers relate with the brand. So, brand image can also be the key to customer engagement and managing customer relationships. A strong brand image in most cases means higher customer loyalty. There are several examples in the industry which can help you understand how brand image can help brands target a specific set of customers, promote their products and brand and increase sales and revenue.

Role of brand image in marketing

The Case of Amazon: Customer friendliness and technological innovation

 

Amazon, the biggest e-retailer has grown very fast during the recent years. Apart from technological innovation and other things, one important thing that has helped it find superior growth globally is its brand image. Amazon does not claim to provide the least prices. However, in terms of customer service, it leaves no stone unturned. Whether it is to address customer complaints at the earliest or shipping and packaging, it is always concerned about the customers’ concerns.  It also introduced Amazon prime, for free shipping on more than 50 million items. Amazon has complemented its large product range with great quality customer service which has helped it win the hearts of millions of customers globally. Apart from free instant shipping, Amazon prime members also get free access to streaming videos and a number of other features not accessible otherwise. Amazon has proved that being customer oriented can be excellent for your brand image and growth. Its case proves that brand image is an important pillar of marketing strategy.

 

The case of Starbucks: quality, ethics and customer friendliness

Starbucks is another brand that has used brand image as a tool to build loyalty, expand its reach and grow sales. Its brand image is also the central pillar of its marketing strategy.  World’s largest coffee brand has proved that being concerned for your image in the market and among the consumers can bring results far better than your imagination. Starbucks’ brand image rests on three important pillars – product quality, customer service and ethics. An extraordinary brand image needs special focus on two things – quality of your product or service and your social image. Apart from having a great product offering, you must also focus on creating a better social image. It is why Starbucks has focused on customer service and ethics in its business. It sources 99% of its cocoa ethically from around the world and works for improving the life standard of the farmers it sources from. Not just this, the brand has also created an environment and culture of ethics and compliance internally. Starbucks branding strategy has got some deep and valuable lessons to offer. However, there is also another key ingredient in Starbucks’ brand image which is premium quality and image.  The brand targets the premium customer segment with its premium image. It offers premium quality products at premium prices and combines these things with great store environment and excellent customer service. In this way, it has created a premium and customer friendly image. It helps it with targeting the premium customers as well as at gaining recognition as an accountable and ethical brand.  The case of Starbucks proves that accountability and ethics can help you manage a better social image and serve as the backbone of a great marketing strategy. Till some years ago, Starbucks did not spend on marketing and instead all the marketing was based on its image. The brand gained publicity from word of mouth marketing and its customer friendly image also helped it grab media attention.

 

The case of Apple: Innovation and customer focus

In Apple’s case, two things are well known about its co-founder Steve Jobs. In his life, he is known to have remained obsessed with quality and technological innovation. Another thing that was a critical focus for him was customer orientation. These two things have made Apple a celebrity brand. The technological giant is known for its excellent quality of products and for exclusive focus on customers and their needs. Products from Apple are always ahead of competition and give rise to significant buzz in media and public even before they have been released. The reason is the amount of research and development that goes into the making of each product. These things have made Apple synonymous with technological innovation and positioned it as a brand that is absolutely uncompromising in terms of quality. Apple’s obsession with these things has resulted in a brand image that is unique and equally strong. The level of brand loyalty that Apple enjoys is also unmatched. However, Apple is a premium brand and its products come with a premium price tag. This has helped it maintain a premium image that is useful in terms of targeting the right customer segment. Apple targets the upper end customers and has a huge fan base in the millenial generation. Since its products are known to create unmatched level of excitement, they therefore are highly popular among the youth. This excitement is also associated with Apple’s image whose products are as good in design and quality as in terms of aesthetic beauty. These are high performance products loaded with superb technology and are equally appealing to one’s eyes. Just as the high energy environment and culture inside Apple, its brand image is also associated with a high level of energy and excitement. Its I-phone’s popularity is just an example of the kind of trust and loyalty it has been able to build on the basis of product quality.

 

 The case of Google: Customer friendliness and accessibility

Google’s case is also a brilliant example of how brand image can be the strongest pillar of your marketing strategy. Its super-intuitive and super fast search engine comes absolutely free. The best search engine also enjoys a larger market share than the competitors. However, the one thing that has made Google’s image strong is its customer orientation and focus on customer needs. Most of the products Google has brought to the market are a giant step in terms of technological innovation. They are customer friendly products – easy to use and intuitive in terms of customer needs. Google has brought a whole range of products including a search engine, several apps and a browser as well as notebooks and cell-phones. Google’s customer friendly image has turned it into one of the most popular brands on the planet. The best thing about Google is that several of its products are absolutely free to use till a certain level after which one can avail of these services for high level usage at affordable and reasonable sums. Google’s brand image is differentiated and distinctly unique. Apart from marketing, the strength of this image also reflects in the form of its financial strength. Today, Google is a household name in most parts of the world which is a result of exceptional focus on customers and their needs.

The case of Zara: Great styles, low prices

Zara has been at the helm in the growth story of the fast fashion industry. The brand is known for not investing financially in marketing. However, marketing has still played an important role in its growth. It has gained millions of loyal customers very fast. Brand image has played an important in helping it find quick recognition and popularity. It is again a brand whose image has helped it market itself successfully. There are two important pillars of its image – the style of its clothing and the second are the lower prices. Zara is known as a customer friendly brand. Fashion cycles are shorter at Zara and it has made stylish clothes that are just as good looking as those by designer brands, available to its customers at affordable prices. Affordability and style have made Zara highly popular among the middle class consumers in a very short span of time. The result has been faster growth, quicker expansion and high revenue. If you are trying to build a brand with a great brand image then first you must know what to do so your customers love you. You must know their wants and likes. Zara has sharply hit the bull’s eye in this regard. It has nailed both the targets and apart from catering to the style hunger of middle class consumers, it has also made these products affordable. A style that you find irresistible and would otherwise cost you a fortune, is available at an irresistibly affordable price. Now, it would be difficult to not become a fan. Not just easy brand recognition and customer loyalty, but customers start seeing such brands as friends and they do not have to struggle with marketing. While Zara makes use of social media and other free resources to market its products, still it does not invest anything in paid marketing which is the biggest reward a brand can earn by forming a great brand image. Thus, you know that a brand must focus on its image for marketing as well as being competitive.

Coco Cola: A distinctly millennial brand

Coca Cola is also a brand that has utilized the power of brand image for the purpose of marketing and customer loyalty. Its brand image relates with the youth all around the world. Basically, it is a brand that has always targeted the youth and is targeting the millenials. As already discussed the brand image of a brand rests over several things and is formed over a long period depending upon how the consumer perceives its personality as a whole. However, in the case of Coca Cola, there is a very important role of its marketing and advertising strategy. It spends millions on advertising and marketing campaigns. These advertising campaigns mainly target the youth and are focused on creating a specific image of the entire brand as a customer and youth friendly brand that represents the high energy and spark of the millennial generation. Some months ago, it started a new campaign that was aimed at marketing the entire brand as a whole rather than the several products and brands separately. This focus has helped it create a specific customer friendly image and of a brand made for the youth.   Another reason that its products are popular and its brand image strong is because Coca Cola makes and sells affordable products that are loves for their flavors. So apart from product quality and affordable pricing, the brand has also created a youth friendly image to target the young customers worldwide. The competition is very intense in the soda industry and having a customer friendly and strong brand image has helped Coca Cola remain competitive. The case of Coca Cola also proves that apart from marketing, having a good brand image helps brands at overcoming the competitive pressure. If you have a stronger brand image than your competitors, then it will definitely help you expand sales and grow your customer base at a better pace than them.

 

The case of Walmart:  A pocket friendly brand image

Walmart is known for its everyday low prices. The brand has a very large customer base and is especially popular among the middle class consumers.  The brand has focused on creating a customer friendly brand image. It does not burn their pockets and instead provides the best deals and discounts on all products and items. The result is both high popularity and customer loyalty. It is not just the top retailer in US, it is also the number one on the Fortune 500 list. The brand has kept growing larger and larger and in its case, a customer friendly brand image has translated into sales and financial strength. Some factors that have kept hurting its brand image in the past were its poor HR record and its poor sourcing record. However, still the brand managed to grab very good sales and revenue based on its image of a brand that is obsessed with keeping the customers happy with low prices.  In the recent years, it has focused on better HR management and increased the minimum wages for its employees. It has also improved its sourcing policies and made rules for its suppliers related to child labor and compliance. This has worked to boost its brand image. However, the main pillar upon which its brand image rests is that of its pricing strategy. Everyday low prices have made it customers’ favorites and since it helps people save money, its image has kept growing stronger with time leading to huge customer loyalty.

These brands are some great examples of how brand image has a central role to play in the marketing strategy and can translate into customer loyalty and higher sales. However, a brand image strong enough to make you stand out of the crowd cannot be built so easily. It takes time and efforts both and you to do something big and unique enough to shine among the crowd of brands. It can be great product quality, or great customer service or low prices. However, for a strong brand image, the entire picture of the brand must be strong. If you have holes here and there in your brand image it will at to spoil the customer experience. So, brand managers must focus on designing an entire brand experience that maximizes customer satisfaction. It has got proved benefits in terms of marketing as well as customer loyalty.  So, the time and efforts or money you spend on your brand image is always worth it in the long term. It does not just reduce the competition related pressure but also helps with market penetration in case of new products. A brand with a strong brand image finds it easy to release new products in the market. Its new products do not have to struggle to generate sales or attract customers. Thus having a great brand image can be more beneficial than perceived at the surface. However, you also need to maintain a socially responsible image to make your brand shine.

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.