Much of the positioning and brand development work I do with my clients consists of defining what associations a brand wants to have, and what not.
- Brand Association Definition: Brand association is the connection consumers make between a brand/product and another brand, product, or company due to marketing efforts, product attributes, or other factors.
- Positive or Negative Associations: Brand associations can be positive or negative and can endure for varying durations.
- Strategic Importance: Deliberate brand association development shapes how people perceive and connect with your brand, influencing customer loyalty and advocacy.
- Emotional Associations: Brand associations are often driven by emotional memories rather than rational reasoning, but brand owners can shape these associations.
- Elements Influencing Associations: Customer service, quality, product category, advertising, word of mouth, pricing, celebrity endorsements, media, and point of sale all contribute to brand associations.
What Is A Brand Association?
A brand association is when a consumer connects a certain product or brand with another brand, product, or company. This could be because of the marketing that the company does, the way that the product is made, or where it is sold.
Brand associations can be positive or negative, and they can last for a long time or a short time.
A brand association is created when a company or person has something in common with the associated brand, business, person, or location. This can be because of similarities in culture, interests, values, beliefs, styles, or backgrounds.
The importance of brand association
People connect other people, products, services, things, emotions, places, and brands with each other. It’s very important when you are creating your design brand and business, that you intentionally choose which associations you want people to have with your business, and which associations you do not want to have.
This goes far deepen than just the external perception of your brand. It’s about your values, and what kind of mission your business has. But likewise, it’s about what kind of people you want to acknowledge your brand and become devoted fans, advocates, and customers.
All visibility is NOT good for your design brand
In business, it is often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. However, when it comes to brand association, this may not be the case.
If your company becomes associated with something negative, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to shake that stigma. Even if your company had nothing to do with the negative event, consumers may still associate you with it.
This can have a serious impact on your bottom line, as consumers may avoid doing business with you altogether. There are a few things you can do to try and mitigate the damage done by a negative brand association, but it’s important to act quickly and decisively.
Not necessarily harmful, but not helpful either…
A bad brand association does not necessarily mean it’s harmful, but it could also just mean that it’s not helping your brand to be associated with the brands that you actually want to associate with.
If you want your brand to associate with certain niches such as wellness, that might also attract a lot of people and brands from closely related niches such as sports or maybe bodybuilding, or dieting niches. Maybe, you want to be associated with these niches too, but it could also repel the people in the wellness niche who are not or do to want to identify themselves with them.
Example: brand association gone bad
Working with design, wellness, and lifestyle brands and experts, I see many times a certain collaboration that was intended to build a stronger brand platform, actually harming the brand in the long run.
For example, a well-known home textile designer got approached by a retail chain to cooperate, where the designers licensed their original designs to the retail chain, which in turn manufactured products with much lower quality leveraging the designer’s brand and aesthetics.
The problem, though: since the designer’s original products were in the same category, but prices 10x compared to the retail chain product line, the designer lost their credibility and ultimately, revenue, even though the licensing deal was considered a successful one.
Brand associations are not always rational
Brand associations are memories or ideas that consumers associate with a product or company. They are not rational, however, as a brand owner, you can do a lot to form these associations.
You can choose to advertise in certain media outlets and ignore others, even if it means you need to 3x your advertising budget. But, in most niches there are brands at different price scales, so you can choose to work with the ones you can afford now, and then move upwards when you grow.
But if you choose the wrong association, just because it was low-hanging fruit, an opportunity, it’s hard to change the perception once it’s getting public.
How do you create your brand association strategy?
There are many different ways to create a brand association. A company can do this by setting up cooperations with certain brands, using a celebrity spokesperson, or attending the right events, even if they’re not necessarily to sell more of your product or services.
You can contribute to industry associations, events, and media, to build a name for your brand. You can use certain elements in your marketing to give people a perception of what your brand is associated with. For example, you can shoot your product images at a certain location to build the location association.
Furthermore, brand associations are formed on the following basis:
- Customers’ contact with the organization and its employees: The level of customer service builds a brand association.
- Quality: the quality which the consumers associate the brand with.
- Products/services category: the type of products or services the brand carries.
- Advertisements: both the type of advertising and the placement of the advertisement create a brand association.
- Word of mouth: people who talk about a brand and identify themselves as loyal advocates, or alternatively, as brand antagonists.
- Pricing: a certain price-based association is created when a product or brand is aligned with a certain price category.
- Celebrity endorsement: if some celebrities are promoting a brand, it creates an association with the person and their identity. If a celebrity does something that is not aligned with the brand’s values, the brand quickly needs to decide how to deal with it.
- Media: depending on the choice of media partners, a certain brand association can be created.
- POS ( Point of sales) displays: where the consumer buys the products/services.
What is a brand association and why do you need to design yours
In conclusion, building a positive brand association is an important part of your overall marketing strategy. By developing a clear and consistent message, you can create associations that will help your customers remember your brand and what it represents. So be sure to spend time crafting a strong brand association for your business!
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FAQ – Brand Association
What is brand association?
Brand association refers to the mental connections that consumers make between a particular brand, product, or company and other brands, products, or concepts. These associations can be based on marketing efforts, product characteristics, or other factors.
Are brand associations always positive?
No, brand associations can be both positive and negative. Positive associations enhance a brand’s reputation, while negative associations can damage it.
How are brand associations formed?
Brand associations are formed through various means, including shared values, experiences, cultural alignment, marketing messages, endorsements, and customer interactions.
Why are brand associations important?
Brand associations influence consumer perceptions and decisions. Positive associations can lead to loyalty, advocacy, and increased sales, while negative associations can deter customers and harm a brand’s image.
Can brand associations change over time?
Yes, brand associations can evolve over time due to changes in marketing strategies, product offerings, consumer perceptions, or external factors. It’s possible to intentionally shape or change brand associations through strategic efforts.
How can I create positive brand associations?
You can create positive brand associations by aligning your brand with values and attributes that resonate with your target audience, using consistent messaging, partnering with complementary brands, and delivering high-quality products/services.
Can a negative brand association be overcome?
Overcoming a negative brand association can be challenging, but it’s possible with strategic efforts such as transparency, apology, corrective actions, and consistent positive messaging over time.
What role does emotion play in brand associations?
Emotions play a significant role in forming brand associations. Consumers often remember how a brand makes them feel and associate those emotions with the brand.
Can one bad experience lead to a negative brand association?
Yes, a single negative experience can lead to a negative brand association, especially if it’s memorable and emotional. Consistently positive experiences are essential for building and maintaining positive associations.
How do celebrity endorsements impact brand associations?
Celebrity endorsements can influence brand associations by linking the celebrity’s attributes and image with the brand. If the celebrity’s actions or reputation change, it can impact the brand’s associations.
Can brand associations impact pricing decisions?
Yes, brand associations can influence pricing decisions. Brands associated with luxury, quality, or exclusivity may command higher prices, while those associated with affordability may focus on competitive pricing.
Are brand associations always rational?
No, brand associations are often driven by emotions and memories rather than rational reasoning. However, brands can strategically shape these associations through deliberate actions.
How can I measure the effectiveness of my brand associations?
You can measure the effectiveness of brand associations through consumer surveys, tracking sales and customer loyalty metrics, monitoring social media sentiment, and analyzing changes in brand perception over time.
Yes, multiple brands can share similar brand associations if they cater to similar audiences, offer related products or services, or have overlapping values and attributes.
Can I change brand associations quickly?
Changing brand associations quickly is challenging, as associations are deeply rooted in consumer perceptions. However, consistent and strategic efforts can gradually shift associations over time.