Jun 3, 2010

Six Stages of Brand Evolution

The brand evolution process consists of six stages. Each and every stage is related to the consumer engaging, learning, and valuing a particular brand. In this model of brand evolution the brand is being introduce in various forms such as unbranded good, as a reference, as a personality, as an icon, as a company, and finally as a policy.
In the first stage, goods are treated as commodities and most are unbranded. This stage is usually characterized by an excess of demand over supply. It is most closely approximated by developing economies and is rarely seen in developed economies. Producers make little effort to distinguish or brand their goods with the result that the consumer’s perception of goods is utilitarian.
In the second stage, brand as reference, competitive pressures stimulate producers to differentiate their goods from the output of other manufacturers. Differentiation is achieved primarily through changes in physical product attributes. Consumers’ memory networks expand beyond recognition of the basic product category to include other product information in order to evaluate goods on the bases of consistency and quality. They begin to use brand names based on their image of the brand as a heuristic device in decision making. Even so, consumers primarily value brands for their utilitarian value.
By this stage of brand as personality, differentiation among brands on rational/functional attributes becomes exceedingly difficult as many producers make the same claim. Therefore, marketers begin to give their brands personalities. An example is Safeguard soap. By creating the personality of the caring mothers, the marketer injects emotion into the consumer’s learning and valuing process. Doing so brings the brand closer to the consumer through an emotional bond as mothers who want to perceive as caring, use Safeguard soap.
In this stage of brand as an icon, it is "owned by consumers". They have extensive knowledge about the brand, frequently world-wide, and use it to create their self identity. An example is the Marlboro cowboy who is recognized around the world. The cowboy is rugged, a man against the odds, but he is not crude and lacking in sophistication. Consumers who want to be perceived as strong, rugged or loners might smoke Marlboro cigarettes. The cowboy is a symbol or icon of a set of values.
This stage marks the change to postmodern marketing. Here, the brand has a complex identity and there are many points of contact between the consumer and the brand. Because the brand equals the company, all stakeholders must perceive the brand mean company in the same fashion. The companies can no longer present one image to the media and another to stockholders or consumers. Communications from the firm must be integrated throughout all of their operations. Communication is not, however, unidirectional. It flows from the consumer to the firm as well as from the firm to the consumer so that a dialog is established between the two. Consumers become more actively involved in the brand creation process. They are willing to interact with the product or service in order to create additional value.
Few companies to date have entered this stage of brand as a policy which is distinguished by an alignment of company with ethical, social and political causes. Before leaping into this stage, firms have to consider both the risks and their credibility as brand as company. The primary risk is isolate consumers who do not like the firm’s standpoint.

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