Because of clever branding, businesses such as Apple are able to dominate industries. Branding is all about trying to establish a powerful and authoritative image upon potential customers. Brand association is an extremely powerful way to achieve this image.
What is brand association? Brand association is the process of building an opinion that is reflected onto the corresponding brand image. This technique works by having your brand appear alongside things that your customers value. For example, this could be an advertisement that includes golfing activity (if golf is of interest to your audience). Remembering the aim is to portray a relevant message that your target audience care about.
In this article, I will take you through techniques you can use to leverage associations within your branding activities.
1. What Is Brand Association?
Everyone experiences brand association daily. Its who you hang with, who your parents are, how you dress, what charities you support, what politics you support, what sports you like etc.. All these things you associate with, form your personal brand image. It is how people know you as a person.
Brand association is no different, it is a technique businesses use to communicate to its target audience and brings your business to life. The message links mutual values in such a way customers can more easily relate to your business. People relate to what they have in common, and having your business appear alongside something they already like is a good way to gain trust.
The main idea is to align your business to its target customers by building a relationship based on similar values, and stimulate a emotion that resonates with the intended audience. The perception they have spills onto the brand image which later leads to sale conversions.
More simply, brand association is a recipe of symbolism that represents our customers values.
2. Example How RedBull Uses Brand Association
Red Bull is a simple example of a business with a strong brand association. Their target audience is sports people. They cleverly sponsor athletes and advertise on major sporting event banners.
Whenever you watch sports you will always find RedBull. Put simply, the association between red bull and sports is sponsoring athletes. People that like sports will be inclined to like red bull because they both share a similar interest.
3. Why Is Brand Association Important?
Brand association is important as it is the primary method used to reinforce a positive opinion and desired emotion that people hold dear to your business. More specifically, these opinions build a narrative and later change a persons perception. Through brand association we can access deep passages of our consumers mind, and tune into their thoughts. If done correctly we can influence purchasing behaviour. For example, whenever you see an advert for health products there will always be an associated health official in a lab coat. This is because people immediately trust someone in a relevant uniform, making you more inclined to purchase.
Brand association can also be a very powerful recommendation or testimonial. If you associate your business with an influential person or celebrity will influence you to buy that certain fragrance or brand of car. This, along with people sharing their personal experience when using a certain product really stimulates a persons desire to purchase.
It may sound sinister but in part this is behavioural programming. By doing so we essentially inject a motion of thinking, leading our customers to think a certain way. These opinions are reflected onto the brand image. But, it goes deeper than peoples thoughts, and opinions. As these associations are picked up by the consumer’s subconscious we are able to control how our customers think and more importantly where they spend their money. If we can control how our customers think, we can control how they act. In the terms of business this is to lead a customer towards a purchase.
4. Push Vs. Pull
The concept of brand association is relatively straight forward. However, getting the desired result is not as simple. In every brand association strategy there are two key aspects you are looking to control. This includes PULL & PUSH.
- PULL based strategy is figuring out how to tap your business into an existing narrative
- PUSH based strategy is figuring out how to create new narratives your consumer will benefit better from
So, you then need to think of the associations necessary to achieve your goals, and what type of brand image will also reflect this. Once you have scoped up your list of associates the next part is communicating this message using PR tactics to craft the desired narrative.
5. Associations Necessary to Achieve Your Goals
The best way to market to someone is tapping into their values. By associating your brand with other factors that links to the customer values, and If done correctly we instantly build a repertoire with a person.
Things that Emphasise Customers Values:
- Customer Lifestyle
- Customers Ethics
- Customers Interest
- Customers Demographics
- Customers Political Stance
- Customers Opinions
- Customers Idols
- Customers Sports
- Customers Aspirations
Things that Emphasise Business Values:
- Business Partnerships & Alliances
- Business Eco-friendly Policy
- Business Activities
- Business Stakeholders
- Business Sales Channels
- Business Scandals
- Business Policies
- Business Charities
- Employee Benefits
We aim to connect the customers values with the business values and we do that through association. For example, let us say we have outlined customers that need to buy petrol for their car. However, no one wants petrol. People buy petrol for other reasons such as they want the freedom of their own transportation. So, through association we get creative. We can take elements that the target customer like, such as freedom or control. This can include anything like portraying imagery of people driving over mountains or really fast round a race track in an advertising setting.
Overall, this means any decision made in your business needs to be purposeful.
6. Mediums to Communicate the Message
This above section emphasises the importance of truly understanding your target audience, and having a well thought out brand image & PR strategy to connect the business values to the customer values. However, once we have worked out what message we aim to communicate we need a medium to communicate them through. Mediums is any method used to portray a message to your customer.
- Brand image
The mediums used to create a brand association can be as simple as the imagery you use to represent your business, your logo & website design. But, brand association can include everything your business comes in contact with, and how you conduct business. Which leaves it up to having a well thought out PR strategy to deliver your message.
7. Brand Image & Associations
Brand association helps build a brand image. When building a strong brand image with your audience, we can see it as a cooking recipe. There is no right or wrong answer. However, there is a complementary list of ingredients that work well together. This is also the same for branding association. Certain mediums; this includes colours, imagery and characteristics blend and resonate with your target niche.
The mediums are used to reference the associations you aim to create. This is always based on the customer values that is seen familiar and liked by the target audience. Just like cooking there are some styles of associations that will perform better than others. This can include to colours you use, life style you choose, personality you try to address, the age/sex/location to aim towards, the experience you portray, nostalgia people may have. This association will be grated through the visual and image of the product and the message.
8. Negative Impact Of Brand Association
Brand association can work for and against your business. For example, if your business has a brilliant product but a bad experience for accessing that product (customer service experience, or store assistance) then the bad experience will be associated with the brand. This also works the same if you decide to do any dodgy dealings.
In turn, the brand will work against itself. The negative experience will now be associated with your brand, which is problematic for repeat purchase. So in generic terms this is why; under any circumstances, the customer is always right.
Nevertheless, you will not really know until you try it (testing and market research). Just like cooking a new dish, you will not really know if it tastes good until you try it. As a marketer, you need to justify your actions based on information. However, when you are launching a new product, you do not have any facts to justify your decision-making – Just assumptions. This means you need to clarify your assumed ingredients by running marketing research and A/B test. This includes running trials against a test group of people and research how they respond.
Overall, through trial and error, testing and clarifying your assumptions you will be left with a unique innovation.
Brand association is the process of building a brand image that is influential in the eyes of the consumer. In order to do this people must be able to identify themselves with your brand.
This is a powerful tool because it brings your brand to life by associating your business with things of interest,
For this to work most effective we need to match the identity and lifestyle of the target customer and build it into our brand. By associating your brand with other factors that links to the customer interests will help your brand resonates in our customers mind.
Brand association can include everything your business comes in contact with, and how we conduct business. and so every decision made in a business need to be purposeful, and communicated well in the brand image and PR mediums. will be heard above all the noise.