Friday, December 6, 2013

From: "Customer-Based Brand Equity: A literature review"

Fragment: Five Dimensions of Brand Equity: The Proposed Model
By Chieng Fayrene Y.L. and Goi Chai Lee

The consumer-based brand equity is an asset of four dimensions that are brand awareness, brand associations, perceived quality and brand loyalty.



Brand Awareness

Awareness is a key determinant identified in almost all brand equity models (Aaker 1991, Kapferer 1991, Keller 1992, Agarwal and Rao 1996, Krishnan 1996, Na, Marshall and Keller 1999, Mackay 2001). Keller (2003, p.76) defines awareness as “ the customers’ ability to recall and recognize the brand as reflected by their ability to identify the brand under different conditions and to link the brand name, logo, symbol, and so forth to certain associations in memory”. Aaker (1996) identifies other higher levels of awareness besides recognition and recall (Aaker 1991). He includes top-of-mind, brand dominance, brand knowledge and brand opinion. Brand knowledge is the full set of brand associations linked to the brand (Keller, 1993). According to Aaker (1996), for new or niche brands, recognition can be important. For well-known brands recall and top-of-mind are more sensitive and meaningful. Brand knowledge and brand opinion can be used in part to enhance the measurement of brand recall. Similar measures are used by the Y&R and Total Research efforts. Aaker conceptualizes brand awareness must precede brand associations. That is where a consumer must first beware of the brand in order to develop a set of associations (Washburn and Plank 2002).



Brand Associations 

A brand association is the most accepted aspect of brand equity (Aaker 1992). Associations represent the basis for purchase decision and for brand loyalty (Aaker 1991, p. 109). Brand associations consist of all brand-related thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes (Kotler and Keller 2006, p. 188) and is anything linked in memory to a brand. Other researchers (Farquhar & Herr 1993, Chen, 1996, Brown & Dacin1997, Biel 1992) identify different types of association that contribute to the brand equity. Chen (2001) categorized two types of brand associations - product associations and organizational associations.

Product Associations
Product associations include functional attribute associations and non-functional associations (Chen 2001). Functional attributes are the tangible features of a product (Keller 1993, Hankinson and Cowking 1993, de Chernatony and McWilliam, 1989). While evaluating a brand, consumers link the performance of the functional attributes to the brand (Pitta and Katsanis 1995, Lassar et al. 1995). If a brand does not perform the functions for which it is designed, the brand will has low level of brand equity. Performance is defined as a consumer’s judgment about a brand’s fault-free and long-lasting physical operation and flawlessness in the product’s physical construction (Lassar et al. 1995).

Non-functional attributes include symbolic attributes (Aaker 1991, Keller 1993, Farquhar & Herr 1993, Chen 1996, Park et al. 1986) which are the intangible features that meet consumers’ needs for social approval, personal expression or self-esteem (Keller 1993, Hankinson and Cowking 1993, de Chernatony and McWilliam 1989, Pitta & Katsanis 1995). Consumers linked social image of a brand, trustworthiness, perceived value, differentiation, and country of origin to a brand.

Social Image
Lassar et al. (1995) limit the reference of the image dimension to the social dimension, calling it social image as social image contributes more to brand equity. Social image is defined as the consumer’s perception of the esteem in which the consumer’s social group holds the brand. It includes the attributions a consumer makes and a consumer thinks that others make to the typical user of the brand.

Perceived Value
Value appeared in several brand equity models (Feldwick 1996, Martin and Brown 1991, Lassar et al. 1995). Lassar et al. (1995) define perceived value as the perceived brand utility relative to its costs, assessed by the consumer and based on simultaneous considerations of what is received and what is given up to receive it. Consumer choice of a brand depends on a perceived balance between the price of a product and all its utilities (Lassar et al. 1995). A consumer is willing to pay premium prices due to the higher brand equity.  

Brand equity models (Martin and Brown 1991, Lassar et al. 1995) regard trustworthiness of a product as an important attribute in assessing the strengths of a brand. Lassar et al. (1995) define trustworthiness as the confidence a consumer places in the firm and the firm’s communications and as to whether the firm’s actions would be in the consumer’s interest. Consumers place high value in the brands that they trust.  

The Marketing Science Institute (Leuthesser 1988) states that the underlying determinants of consumer-based brand equity are that brands provide benefits to consumers by differentiating products, as they facilitate the processing and retrieval of information (Hoyer and Brown 1990). Other marketing literatures (Ries and Trout 1985; Kapferer1991) also stress the importance of the distinctive character of brand positioning in contributing to the success of a brand. Distinctiveness is defined as the degree to which the consumer perceives that a brand is distinct from its competitors (Kapferer 1991). A brand can have a price premium if it is perceived as being different from its competitors.  

Country of origin
Thakor and Kohli (1996) argue that brand country of origin mustalso be considered. He defines brand origin as “the place, region or country to which the brand is perceived to belong by its customers” (p. 27). Country of origin is known to lead to as consumers’ perceptions. 

Country of origin refers to the country of origin of afirm or a product (Johansson et al. 1985, Ozsomer and Cavusgil 1991), or the country where the product is manufactured or assembled (Bilkey and Nes 1982, Han and Terpstra 1988). Thakor and Kohli (2003) state that less concern should be given to the place where brands manufacture their products, and more to the place where people perceive the brand’s country of origin to be. Therefore, country of origin in the proposed framework referred to the brand’s country of origin.  

Organizational Associations 
Organizational associations include corporate ability associations, which are those associations related to the company’s expertise in producing and delivering its outputs and corporate social responsibility associations, which include organization’s activities with respect to its perceived societal obligations (Chen 2001). According to Aaker (1996), consumers consider the organization that is the people, values, and programs that lies behind the brand. Brand-as-organization can be particularly helpful when brands are similar with respect to attributes, when the organization is visible (as in a durable goods or service business), or when a corporate brand is involved. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) must be mentioned as another concept that is influencing the development of brands nowadays, especially corporate brands as the public wants to know what, where, and how much brands are giving back to society. Both branding and CSR have become crucially important now that the organizations have recognized how these strategies can add or detract from their value (Blumenthal and Bergstrom 2003). CSR can be defined in terms of legitimate ethics or from an instrumentalist perspective where corporate image is the prime concern (McAdam and Leonard 2003).


Perceived Quality

Perceived quality is viewed as a dimension of brand equity (Aaker 1991; Kapferer 1991; Kamakura and Russell 1991; Martin and Brown 1991; Feldwick 1996) rather than as a part of the overall brand association (Keller 1992; Gordon, di Benedetto and Calantone 1994). Perceived quality is the customer’s judgment about a product’s overall excellence or superiority that is different from objective quality (Zeithaml 1988, pp. 3 and 4). Objective quality refers to the technical, measurable and verifiable nature of products/services, processes and quality controls. High objective quality does not necessarily contribute to brand equity (Anselmsson et al. 2007). Since it’s impossible for consumers to make complete and correct judgments of the objective quality, they use quality attributes that they associate with quality (Olson and Jacoby 1972, Zeithaml 1988, Ophuis and Van Trijp 1995, Richardson et al. 1994; Acebro ́n and Dopico 2000). 

Perceived quality is hence formed to judge the overall quality of a product/service. Boulding and other researchers (1993) argued that quality is directly influenced by perceptions. Consumers use the quality attributes to ‘infer’ quality of an unfamiliar product. It is therefore important to understand the relevant quality attributes are with regard to brand equity Zeithaml (1988) and Steenkamp (1997) classify the concept of perceived quality in two groups of factors that are intrinsic attributes and extrinsic attributes. The intrinsic attributes are related to the physical aspects of a product (e.g. colour, flavour, form and appearance); on the other hand, extrinsic attributes are related to the product, but not in the physical part of this one (e.g. brand name, stamp of quality, price, store, packaging and production information (Bernue ́s et al.2003). It’s difficult to generalize attributes as they are specific to product categories (Olson and Jacoby 1972, Anselmsson et al. 2007)


Brand Loyalty

Loyalty is a core dimension of brand equity. Aaker (1991, p.39) defines brand loyalty as the attachment that a customer has to a brand. Grembler and Brown (1996) describe different levels of loyalty. Behavioral loyalty is linked to consumer Behavior in the marketplace that can be indicated by number of repeated purchases (Keller 1998) or commitment to rebuy the brand as a primary choice (Oliver 1997, 1999). Cognitive loyalty which means that a brand comes up first in a consumers’ mind, when the need to make a purchase decision arises, that is the consumers’ first choice. The cognitive loyalty is closely linked to the highest level of awareness (top-of-mind), where the matter of interest also is the brand, in a given category, which the consumers recall first. Thus, a brand should be able to become the respondents’ first choices (cognitive loyalty) and is therefore purchased repeatedly (Behavioral loyalty) (Keller 1998). 

Chaudhuri & Holbrook (2001) mention that brand loyalty is directly related to brand price. Aaker (1996) identify price premium as the basic indicator of loyalty. Price premium is defined as the amount a customer will pay for the brand in comparison with another brand offering similar benefits and it may be high or low and positive or negative depending on the two brands involved in the comparison.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From: "Relationship marketing and a new economy: it’s time for de-programming"

Fragment: Relationship Marketing
Evert Gummesson


Research in both consumer goods marketing, services marketing and B-to-B marketing currently converge and come together under the label of relationship marketing. Within the spirit of grounded theory, relationship marketing could be appointed the core variable, with relationships, networks and interaction as sub-core variables, thus offering the beginnings of a general marketing theory. The relationship marketing label is perhaps new, the phenomenon is not. It had just not been properly observed and conceptualized; marketing professors seem to be the last to notice the reality around them.

Directions in a new economy

Fresh foundation 

New knowledge is sometimes accumulated on old knowledge. At some point, however, we have to start with a fresh foundation; we have to shift the paradigm. To learn, we must unlearn. Even if part of the old merges with the new, it has lost its lead role and will have to step down to a humbler position. I have used the more theatrical language of brainwashing versus de-programming to accentuate the gravity of the situation.

Surveying perceived trends – not just falling in love with the popular hype but settling for the solid and sustainable – is a laborious task. Despite the uncertainty, we need to wrestle with the trends to design future scenarios in our marketing and business plans. The following review of conclusions and recommendations is here to serve as food for thought

Need for theory and context. 

Marketing management today suffers from theory anorexia and cannot properly feed on and digest what is happening in a new economy. Both practitioners and academics are vulnerable to con men offering panaceas and explanations supported by the ever-present media hype. There is need for more healthy and vitamin-rich feeding of the marketing mind. We need marketing theory, good theory, essential for scholars and practicing managers alike. There is currently no general theory of marketing in existence, just reminiscences of outdated microeconomics and fragmented models or concepts, often called theories but so out of management context that they do not survive beyond the shelter of an academic ivory tower.


Healthier marketing theory
General marketing theory in the making.

Relationship marketing and CRM with a focus on relationships, networks and interaction submit the most promising approach to a more valid and general theory of marketing, replacing a dinosaur marketing management and marketing mix consumer goods paradigm from an old economy. Relationship marketing and CRM help us give context on a comprehensive, conceptual and general level, that is, generate healthier marketing theory.
The total offering. We must eventually learn to see the offering trade-off between eCRM and hCRM. We need to properly absorb the values of relationship marketing or CRM will forever be no more than an expensive computer system.
Value and networks. A new economy has been described from two perspectives, as value output and network input. We need to think in those terms, but thinking is not enough; we also need to commit ourselves and take action. It includes viewing the roles of the supplier and the customer in a dimmer light. We must accept that a supplier can add value but the customer also adds value.


Viable research strategy
Inductive research.
It means that we also use our senses and our common sense, intuition, tacit knowledge, and experience in conjunction with systematic, scholarly research and everyday observations from practice. Grounded theory has already been mentioned as a viable research strategy. Personally I embrace its merger with action research, introspection, narrative research, and case study research packaged in what I recently named interactive research (Gummesson, 2000, 2001).

Complex and ambiguous
Complexity and ambiguity.

The world is bewildering and so is marketing. It is complex and ambiguous. Research in marketing must put a halt to the excessive, even obscene indulgence in quantification and surveys. We need less deductive hypotheses-testing of isolated concepts out of context, and more inductive research where true observation is encouraged. Our observations as practitioners, consumers and researchers must be given priority over repositories of old theories, concepts, axioms and other claims of marketing. In discussions, a new economy is more often than not treated on the terms of an old economy, using its concepts and trying to squeeze a reluctant reality into it.

Balanced centricity. The marketing concept, holding that companies should focus on customer needs and not become navel watchers of their own products and manufacturing, is the foundation of today’s interest in the customer. However, both perspectives are needed. Customer-centricity and production-centricity need one another. They must shake hands and make friends in a balanced production-consumption centricity.

From: "Consumers and their brands"

"Developing relationship theory in consumer research."
By Susan Fournier


For a relationship to truly exist, interdependence between partners must be evident: that is, the partners must collectively affect, define, and redefine the relationship (Hinde 1979). The premise that consumer actions affect relationship form and dynamics is easily accepted. Comfort in thinking about the brand not as a passive object of marketing transactions but as an active, contributing member of the relationship dyad is a matter more deserving of note. 

One way to legitimize the brand-as-partner is to highlight ways in which brands are animated, humanized, or somehow personalized. The human activity of anthropomorphizing inanimate objects has been identified as a universal in virtually all societies (Brown 1991). Theories of animism (Gilmore 1919; McDougall 1911; Nida and Smalley 1959; Tylor 1874) suggest that there exists a felt need to anthropomorphize objects in order to facilitate interactions with the nonmaterial world. Consumers show no difficulty in consistently assigning personality qualifies to inanimate brand objects (Aaker 1997), in thinking about brands as if they were human characters (Levy 1985; Plummer 1985), or in assuming the perspective of the brand in order to articulate their own relationship views (Blackston 1993). Consumers' acceptance of advertisers' attempts to humanize brands and their tendencies to animate products of their own accord suggest a willingness to entertain brands as vital members of the relationship dyad. 

Theories of animism provide insight into the specific ways in which the vitality of the brand can be realized in the relationship. Three process mechanisms are implied in these earlier writings, each varying in the degree to which the human condition is approximated. The first animistic form involves instances in which the brand is somehow possessed by the spirit of a past or present other. The use of spokespeople in advertising (e.g., Bill Cosby for Jell-O) qualifies here as an example. Spokespersons may have personalities that so strongly fit those of the brands they advertise that the brand, in a sense, becomes the spokesperson with repeated association over time. McCracken's (1989) idea that spokespersons are effective because they deliver the spirit of the endorser through product usage reflects this theory. Brand-person associations of a more personal nature are also common. A brand of air freshener that grandmother kept in her bathroom, a floor cleaner that an ex-husband always used - these brands can become so strongly associated with the past-other that the person's spirit comes to dwell in the brand and is evoked reliably with each use. Brands originally received as gifts (McGrath and Sherry 1993) are likely infused with the spirit of the giver as well, with these person associations again serving to animate the brand as a vital entity in the consumer's mind.

Another form of animism involves complete anthropomorphization of the brand object itself, with transference of the human qualities of emotionality, thought, and volition. Anthropomorphized brand characters serve as examples. Charlie the Tuna and the Pillsbury Doughboy are identifiable characters endowed with the capacity to laugh, joke, scheme, and conspire. In a variation on this animistic form, limited human qualities are attributed to the brand, though the brand itself is not enlivened as a thinking, feeling entity. Research on person-object relations reveals that people assign selective human properties to a range of consumer goods (Belk 1988; Rook 1985, 1987), most notable among them tools, food, drink, clothing, weaponry (Gilmore 1919), and household technologies (Mick and Fournier 1998). 

For the brand to serve as legitimate relationship partner, it must surpass the personification qualification and actually behave as an active, contributing member of the dyad. Marketing actions conducted under the rubric of interactive and addressable communications qualify the brand as a reciprocating partner. Animated brand characters also satisfy the activity criterion through their performances. It is argued, however, that the brand need not engage these blatant strategies to qualify as active relationship partner. At a broad level of abstraction, the everyday execution of marketing plans and tactics can be construed as behaviors performed by the brand acting in its relationship role. Research on impression formation (Srull and Wyer 1989) suggests that all observed behaviors are translated into trait language and that these traits form the basis for the evaluative concept of the person. Olson and Allen (1995) applied this theory to explain how brand personality develops from the actions of brand characters in advertising. A logical extension of this thinking is to view all marketing actions as a set of behavioral incidents from which trait inferences about the brand are made and through which the brand's personality is actualized. This important conceptual point - that the everyday execution of marketing mix decisions constitutes a set of behaviors enacted on behalf of the brand - forms a cornerstone of the relationship argument. With a focus on brand behavior, one can articulate a theory of how the brand relationship role is constructed and begin to see ways in which the brand, acting as an enlivened partner in the relationship, contributes to the initiation, maintenance, and destruction of consumer-brand relationship bonds. 

Undoubtedly, there exists a lack of parallelism in applying the reciprocity criterion to an inanimate brand object. A brand may enjoy selected animistic properties, but it is not a vital entity. In fact, the brand has no objective existence at all: it is simply a collection of perceptions held in the mind of the consumer. The brand cannot act or think or feel - except through the activities of the manager that administers it. In accepting the behavioral significance of marketing actions, one accepts the legitimacy of the brand as contributing relationship partner. A weaker form of the argument draws comparisons between consumer-brand relationships and human relationships involving partners that lack tangible vitality or mortal status (see, e.g.; Caughey [1984] on relationships between fans and movie stars; Buber [1946] on relationships with God or mortal status; Hirschman [1994] on people's relationships with pets). These works lend credibility to the idea of extending the partnership analogue into the brand domain as well. 

Relationships: Providing Meanings in Psycho-Socio-Cultural Context 

At their core, relationships are purposive: they add and structure meanings in a person's life (Berscheid and Peplau 1983; Hinde 1995). The development of personality depends in large part on relationships forged with others (Kelley 1986). Meaningful relationships can change self-concept through expansion into new domains (Aron and Aron 1996) or reinforce self-concept through mechanisms of self-worth and self-esteem (Aron, Parris, and Aron 1995). This meaning-provision notion is accepted by consumer researchers who study possessions and their broad consequences for self-definition (Belk 1988; Holt 1995; Kleine et al. 1995; McCracken 1988; Richins 1994; Sirgy 1982; Wallendorf and Arnould 1988). 

Since the relationship is, in essence, what the relationship means, understanding a given relationship requires a mastery of the meanings the relationship provides to the person who engages it. Three important sources of meaning - the psychological, the sociocultural, and the relational - are identified, each serving as a context that shapes the significance of the relationship for the person involved. Relationships both affect, and are affected by, the contexts in which they are embedded. 

A fruitful way to map the psychological context of a given relationship is to specify the identity activity in which the relationship is grounded. Considering the work of Mick and Buhl (1992) and others (Cantor and Zirkel 1990), three central connection points in a goal-based personality framework can be specified. First, relationships may help resolve life themes - profound existential concerns or tensions that individuals address in daily life (Csikszentmihalyi and Beattie 1979). Though they may operate below the level of conscious awareness, life themes are deeply rooted in personal history and are thus highly central to one's core concept of self. A relationship may also deliver on important life projects or tasks (Cantor et al. 1987; Caspi 1987; Erikson 1950). 

Life projects involve the construction, maintenance, and dissolution of key life roles that significantly alter one's concept of self, as with role-changing events (e.g., college graduation), age-graded undertakings (e.g., retirement), or stage transitions (e.g., midlife crisis). Most concrete and temporally bounded are relationships rooted in current concerns, a series of discrete, interrelated activities directed toward completion of daily tasks (Klinger 1987; Little 1989). It is easy to conjecture how relationships can connect at different levels of the goal hierarchy: a parent-child relation may help resolve an existential life theme of marginality versus significance, for example, while a functional relationship with one's day-care provider may service a career project or current concern. It is important to note that relationships may add significant meanings to the lives of the persons who engage them at each level or depth of the operative goal connection. 

Prior research highlights five broad sociocultural contexts circumscribing relationship attitudes and behaviors: age/cohort, life cycle, gender, family/social network, and culture (Dion and Dion 1996; Gilligan, Lyons, and Hanmer 1990; Levinger 1995; Milardo and Wellman 1992; Stueve and Gerson 1977). These factors systematically influence the strength of relationship drives, the types of relationships desired, the nature and experience of emotional expression in relationships, styles of interacting within relationships, the ease with which relationships are. initiated and terminated and the degree to which enduring commitments are sought. The importance of sociocultural context is mirrored in consumer research concerning the socially embedded character of consumption meanings and preferences (Holbrook 1993; Holt 1997; Olsen 1995; Sherry 1991; Thompson 1996). 

In thinking about the significance of an individual relationship it is also important to consider the networked nature of the phenomenon. Relationships exist within the context of other relationships (Parks and Eggert 1991). The idea that the meaning of a given relationship is inextricably entwined with other relationships in the portfolio is echoed in consumer research concerning the complementarity of consumption constellations (McCracken 1988; Solomon and Assael 1988) and the cultural meaning of "brandscapes" in materialist society (Sherry 1987). 

Relationships as Multiplex Phenomena 

Relationship research must be acutely sensitive to variations in form (Berscheid and Peplau 1983). The distinctions between relationship classes in the interpersonal sphere are so profound that specialists dedicated to the study of specific relationship types have emerged (e.g., Hayes [1988] on friendship and Kelley et al. [1983] on close relationships). Some have found it useful to collapse across forms to study core relationship dimensions. Relationships are frequently distinguished by the nature of the benefits they furnish to their participants (Weiss 1974; Wright 1974). Socioemotional provisions include psychosocial identity functions (e.g., reassurance of self-worth, announcement of image, and social integration) as well as the rewards of stimulation, security, guidance, nurturance, assistance, and social support; instrumental provisions are functionally tied to the attainment of objective, short-term goals. Relationships are also distinguished by the types of bonds that join parties together. These may be substantively grounded (as with task, obligation, or investment bonds) or emotionally based, the latter ranging in intensity from superficial affect to simple liking, friendly affection, passionate love, and addictive obsession (Fehr and Russell 1991; Steinberg 1986). Other dominant relationship dimensions include kin (nonvoluntary) versus nonkin (voluntary), formal (role-related) versus informal, equal versus unequal, and friendly versus hostile (Wish, Deutsch, and Kaplan 1976). 


Relationships in Dynamic Perspective 

Temporality distinguishes the relationship from the isolated transaction (Berscheid and Peplau 1983). Relationships are constituted of a series of repeated exchanges between two parties known to each other; they evolve in response to these interactions and to fluctuations in the contextual environment. For purposes of study, researchers generally decompose the continuous process of relationship development into manageable growth segments. Most adopt a five-phased model of initiation, growth, maintenance, deterioration, and dissolution (Levinger 1983), wherein each stage is one interval in a sequence of changes in type (e.g., evolution from friends to lovers) or level of intensity (e.g., an increase or decrease in emotional involvement). Theories differ in the number of stages that are posited, the nature of the processes presumed critical for development at each stage (e.g., intimacy, love, commitment, trust, behavioral interdependence, self-other integration), and the mechanisms governing transitions between stages (e.g., novelty and arousal, comparison versus available alternatives, stress accumulation).

From: "Branding: The Past, Present, and Future"

"A Study of the Evolution and Future of Branding"
By Anders Hampf & Kirsti Lindberg-Repo



There are several reasons why it is important to elaborate on the evolution of branding
theories. First, it has not yet been shown in the literature how concepts have an effect on each
other, i.e. their causal connections. Hence, since the causes and effects in the evolution of
branding theories have not yet been scrutinized, it has been hard to map out which concepts
have led to other concepts and which concepts standalone. Due to the lack of understanding
of the cause and effect and the causal connections among the theories, the future of branding
has earlier been impossible to envisage. [...] Due to their importance and vital contribution to the evolution of branding, we name them the 15 milestones of branding.

Segmentation theories became, and still are, an important tool for marketers when breaking the market down into smaller divisions to reach out more effectively to the desired target group. Segmentation should be seen as an internal strategic tool, and the outcome of a segmentation process will help the company to outlay its external position.

In other words, if a company in its segmentation process finds a segment it wants to approach, it has to outlay a positioning strategy. Hence, segmentation and positioning are interconnected and a causal connection exists between them. Furthermore, a company’s positioning influences another contemporary concept, brand identity, which is illustrated in many brand identity models, and the brand identity will consequently change with a new positioning strategy. Hence, it is very important to establish where the employees consider the brand to be positioned. If the employees, who are the representatives for the company’s identity, consider the brand to be positioned in an undesired position, there is a great risk that they will present the company’s identity in an unwanted fashion.

The next milestone, brand loyalty, was presented in the 1950s and still plays a central role in branding. It is, however, a somewhat controversial concept due to its restrictions. That is, brand loyalty should only be a company’s goal with a reservation; it needs to be profitable to have loyal customers. Most companies could attain loyal customers by introducing a good product or service, sell it underpriced, and market it heavily. In this scenario, the company would get loyal customers, but with no profit. Therefore, companies trying to attain loyal customers must also consider a second variable, profitability. This being so, there is a connection between loyalty and brand equity.

To reach and retain profitable and loyal customers, modern companies often become environmentally friendly and focus on social responsibility. Thus, the concepts of brand loyalty and CSR are interconnected. Brand loyalty is also connected to brand communities and subcultures of consumption, which will be discussed later in detail.

Many companies have successfully associated their brands with a certain lifestyle, i.e. Nike, Levi’s, and Abercrombie & Fitch, and the brand lifestyle that the product represents should reflect the desired lifestyle of the consumers. However, not all companies could achieve whatever brand lifestyle they want, as it has to be convincing and trustworthy in the eyes of the customers. As a result, the lifestyle that the company tries to target is dependent on the personality of the company, and hence, the personality of the company and the brand must fit in with the desired lifestyle. If a company has a more mature and conservative personality and is perceived to have an older clientele, it is hard to achieve a young and sporty lifestyle.

Hence, the lifestyle that brands want to attain is interconnected with their personality. The latter has also two more causal connections: those with brand equity and brand identity. As already discussed, brand personality affects brand equity, and especially consumer-based brand equity. Brand equity consists of several influencing variables, which, together, constitute the concept of brand equity, and one of these variables is brand personality. Brand identity is also interconnected with brand personality since it depicts the human characteristics associated with a brand; hence, the perceived personality and its human elements affect the brand identity.

The marketing mix concept had played an important role in the development of marketing and branding for a long period. However, today that concept lost its academic research value and is best suited as a simple theory describing the basic thinking in marketing, for instance, in undergraduate studies. Another concept that also lacks direct causal connections is social marketing. However, this concept is a very important one due to its originality. Social marketing is a framework describing how marketing could be applied outside its normal boundaries. Today, it is an important concept explaining how a company, government, or non-profit organization could work to influence the acceptability of new ideas in the society.

Relationship marketing was introduced during the 1980s and 1990s and offered a new framework for describing how companies and customers could both gain from healthy long-term relationships. However, one important aspect was missing to connect relationship marketing and branding, namely an elaboration on how the brand and the customers affect each other and how this relationship could be used in branding. This was all to change in the late 1990s, when researchers included branding in relationships marketing theories; thus a new concept, relational branding, was coined. This, latter, concept was a product of relationship marketing and the two are, hence, interconnected.

Brand equity plays a central role in branding because it offers a way to measure the long-term effect of branding efforts. Depending on which of the three perspectives one chooses to embrace, brand equity can be influenced by most of the concepts. However, as we have already discussed, brand equity and brand personality are interconnected; furthermore, brand equity has a causal connection to brand loyalty. Aaker and Joachimsthaler (2000) established that brand loyalty is closely related to brand equity, and hence, if a company possesses a large number of loyal customers, the company has high consumer-based brand equity.

As already established, relationship between marketing and relational branding is a close one, whereby the latter has evolved from the former. Furthermore, relational marketing and brand identity are interconnected. Several variables together build up the identity, and by changing some of the variables, e.g. brand name, famous people connected to the firm, or other people reflecting the company’s opinion, the identity could be revised. Hence, since relational branding and brand identity have a causal connection, it is very important to avoid a discrepancy between a company’s relational branding and brand identity; in other words, the two should correspond to each other.

Due to the understanding of how important a good reputation is, CSR has become a key concept in branding. The reputation of a company reflects not only in the planned communication, but also in all activities undertaken by the company. As already discussed, CSR and loyal customers are interconnected; furthermore, CSR also affects brand identity. If a company is perceived as a true citizen brand that pays attention to CSR, this will affect its brand identity. Hence, customers will get the perception that they care for the society, the environment, and take responsibility for the actions undertaken by the company, and this will influence the brand identity. As a result, companies could earn money by changing their identity in the minds of the customers to a brand that encompasses CSR.

In a world that is becoming more and more globalized, and with products crossing the planet with an ever-increasing tempo, COO has become an important research area in branding. Research reveals that COO is not an important issue when it comes to everyday products; however, COO plays a significant role for products that are more dependent on the brand image. It is often more important to emphasize on the COO when selling luxury goods, e.g. Italian fashion designer clothes and Swiss watches. If a company succeeds to associate a brand to a specific country or district, e.g. Champagne, it can thereby attain an identity that is hard to imitate or gain in any other way. Hence, COO and brand identity are interconnected, and companies could consequently use their country of origin in their branding to establish their identity.

Brand communities and subcultures of consumption are two other important concepts in branding. The reason why these groups have become interesting for branding is the strong affiliations that arise among the group members to specific brands chosen by the group.

Group members tend to be very loyal to some chosen brands, which makes them a target group for many marketers; hence a causal connection exists between brand identity and brand communities and subcultures of consumption. Another causal connection is the one to relational branding; branding strategies used to reach these groups obviously try to create a framework to explain how to control the relationship between the brand and its customers. In addition to the connections mentioned above, the concept is also interconnected with brand identity. When branding to smaller subcultures, the brand identity must correspond to the identity the group wishes to attain; otherwise, the brand will not attract the group since they seek the same identity in the brand as the identity they try to achieve.

Brand identity is a concept that is relatively new, coined in the early 1990s, but its components are much older. When the concept of brand identity was shaped, it embraced many old concepts to create a new one. Brand identity has, as Figure 1 reveals, seven causal connections to other concepts: personality, positioning, brand equity, COO, brand communities and subcultures, relational branding, and CSR. Hence, no other concept could compare to brand identity when it comes to the causal connections with other concepts.