Brand Association

#2 Brand Association [Techniques] For Building A Strong Brand!

Because of clever branding techniques businesses such as Apple are dominating industries. Branding is all about trying to establish a powerful brand, and the most powerful way to do this is by utilising brand association.

Definition of brand association – 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. Brand association is powerful because by associating your business with things of interest, portray a relevant message to your customers. In Fact, brand association is the #No1 factor for creating a business people chase after.

In this article, I will you through techniques to leverage within your branding activities.

1. What Is Brand Association?

Brand association is the process of building an opinion and corresponding brand image that fits best to our customer’s minds.

More so, brand association is the way we communicate our product/services to our audience in a way they can relate more deeply too.

By associating your brand with other factors that links to the customer interests; we instantly build a connection with a person and heard above all the marketing noise.

By this, we need to match the identity of the target customer and build our brand into a life style that represents this identity.

If we are able to break down a brand into parts, we can target and image that will resonates with our customers mind.

2. Why Is Brand Association Important?

Aaker (1991) describes the brand name as the attribute to which the band related associations can be placed.

Brand related association can be described as the life style and image you want your brand to be recognised as.

By doing this we create opinions in our customers minds.

It is by creating opinions that we can access deeper passages of our consumers mind and influence purchasing behaviour by training our consumer’s subconscious.

By being able to train our customer subconscious, we are able to control how our customers think.

If we can control how our customers think, we can control how they act.

2.1 Example

So, let us says 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 customer association we get creative.

We can take elements of the wants and empower this relating to things such as freedom or control.

This can include anything like portraying imagery of people driving over mountains or really fast round a race track (getting creative with your representation of freedom and control).

3. Problems With 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.

In turn, the brand will work against itself.

The negative experience will now be associated with your brand, which is problematic for repeat purchase.

This is why; under any circumstances, the customer is always right.

3.1 Representation Of Brand Association

When building a strong brand association with your audience, we can see it as a cooking recipe.

This is because when cooking food and making a dish there is no right or wrong answer.

However, there is a complementary of ingredients that you use that taste better together than others.

This is also the same for marketing association.

Certain colours and characteristics resonate better with your target niche than others do, as this will resonate better from what they want out of the product.

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 what 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 trial and error against a test group of people and research how they respond.

The ingredients here refer to the association you aim to create. This is always based on wants or something 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.

To note – the ingredients are referring to anything to create an association. 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.

Overall, through trial and error, testing and clarifying your assumptions you will be left with a unique innovation.

4. #2 Brand Association Techniques

There are two methods marketers use to create this association based on the opinion they are trying to build.

These techniques are mere exposure and classic conditioning.

5. Mere exposure

Mere exposure is a technique seen in advertisements that make you scratch your head and wonder why an organisation would spend thousands of dollars on that type of advert.

This is because for all brand-related associations can be placed a person needs to know a brand.

So, the advertising example is an activity to build brand awareness.

This means brand aware precedes brand associations, because consumers cannot hold a strong set of brand associations in memory without being first aware of the brand.

5.1 How Does It Work In branding?

By exposing a person’s mind to the desired brand association (mainly through advertising), the consumer starts to feel like they know it.

If the message is right, then will like it.

This is defined as a terms called cognitive recognition and is used in advertisements all the time.

This is built directly into the know, like and trust factor of building and maintain a solid brand image.

5.2 Know, Like & Trust

When a person goes to a supermarket to buy a product they will be faced with many similar items.

Firstly, they will choose the one they know.

This is the example of using mere exposure with no brand association.

Secondly, people will always choose the one they like, over items they know but do not like.

However, it can be difficult for you recall something you have seen before but does not resonate, or match your personal preferences.

Generally, by being able to recall and be familiar with a brand that has something in common with you then you already subconsciously like it.

Thirdly, is the aspect of you trusting that brand.

At the point of purchase you have previously learned about the product in question and like the message that brand has given you.

The message this brand has used allows you to like it.

At this point, the brand has promised you something.

It is only after you purchasing and agree with the promise that made will you trust and make a repurchase.

5.3 The Power Of Mere Exposure

A study done by the university of Cincinnati ran an experiment.

They gave two groups of people with Parkinson’s disease, the same drug but made it clear they was from different brands.

The people that was exposed to the branded drug had a 28% greater increase in motor skills, than after taking the drug.

This means the expensive brand has a placebo effect that actually increased performance.

When in reality both groups were given the same drug.

The expectations were higher therefor it worked better. So, spending more will make you feel better.

6. Classic Conditioning

The idea behind this technique was developed by a Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov.

Classic conditioning is leveraged by creating expectations.

Pavlov discovered this idea by noticing his dogs salivated whenever it was time for him to feed them.

To prove his hypothesis he started to ring a bell whenever it was time to feed his dogs.

What he noticed was whenever he started to ring the bell the dogs began to learn and started salivating whenever the bell was being ringed.

This was because the dog was associating the sound of the bell with food. In a sense the dog was trained to associate the bell with food and thus created the expectation of feeding time.

This same effect works with humans.

Brand marketing is specifically coordinated to have certain feeling, images and reactions associated with their products.

If a brand shows two images in an advertisement the consumer will subconsciously relate those images to the product.

This in turn has created an association.

Car brands do this all the time.

They will rarely have an advertisement about the actual product features and price.

Rather, they will demonstrate someone driving the car.

If it is a racer car, they will drive it pulling up to a red-carpet event, or if it is a land rover, you will see an adventurous couple with kayaks and bikes on the tow being driven on rough terrain.

This is all part of building a solid brand image which results in the consumer not looking to purchase the actual vehicle for the conform of driving but the life style that is associated with the vehicle.

You are buying into the image of being adventurous or going to luxury black tie events.

6.1 Example of classic conditioning

The best example of this is the beats headphones.

The New York Times estimated the beats headphones cost around 15 dollars to make but they sell for 250 dollars.

The reason is people pay more because of the celebrities and athletes seen wearing the headphones.

A perception is created.

The consumer seeing these high-class people wearing the headphones creates the image that these are fashionable and high quality headphones.

When in fact the quality is just as good as a standard pair of headphones you could buy unbranded from the local store.

6.2 Why Does This Phenomenon Accrue?

Everyone is most comfortable in groups.

If in a line in the bank, or a queue at the petrol station or a lane on the motorway/highway.

People will naturally go to the longer line as they will think there is something wrong with the shorter line, for no other reason than the line is shorter.

They think that one line is better, or more correct than the other is.

Even though it is not, it is just people being in groups psychologically build that impression.

It is just an easier and more comfortable decision to follow what everyone else is doing.


Overall, mere exposure is the first touch point in creating the know, like and trust factor.

This is so powerful brands are able to charge more.

The comparison can be made with ibuprofen. The decomposition of the product Advil is the same as the cheaper brands.

It has to be otherwise legally it cannot be Ibuprofen.

Advil are able to brand this product in such a way people will pay more for the same drug (it is just easier to choose what everyone else is choosing).

Furthermore, classic conditioning trains people to think a certain way by building expectation.

If an organisation can afford to pay big money for advertisements or make the sense that, everyone is buying it then people will buy it because everyone is most comfortable in groups.

If advertisements are seen on the TV it is ever more expensive, which just adds to the credibility because if an organisation can afford to spend that type of money means everyone must be buying it, and its must work well.

The consensus is that it wouldn’t be such a huge brand if it didn’t work well.

Means that is the collective choice which is made.

People can also be anxious by choosing less expensive drugs as there is a fear they won’t work as well.

Overall, by using classic conditioning or mere exposure are two techniques used to create an association between the consumer and their most preferred life style.

These tools are used to create an opinion whether it being a new hip style or quality products/services. Opinions results in the most powerful marketing tools to have available and that it word of mouth.

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