It was at the beginnings of the 90s’ when brands began to be used as a way to communicate the functional benefits of products and services. The main objective was to achieve a premium price through higher level of differentiation, better awareness and attractiveness.
As time went by, there was a transformation and in addition to commercial brands, we began to see corporate, NGO, regional and personal brands.
Instrumentally, brands are tools which help to obtain better incomes. In recent times, the role of long-lasting value creator is gaining relevance.
However, there still are an undefined number definitions and goals associated to brands. Brand evolution remains complex.
In 2013, Stanley Moss, in What is a Brand?, presented 62 different brand definitions, all of them currently used. Despite what I just mentioned, it is interesting to note that they share some common features:
- Socially: brands reduce uncertainty, generate attraction by association and create sense of belonging
- Psychologically: brands occupy a space of ambiguity between the natural desire of differentiation and the need of identification with the others
- Institutionally: brands are social constructions which define the corporate vision
- Entrepreneurially: brands synthesize the business strategy and its policies
Thus, four different spaces can be considered, from institutional to social vision vs. the temporal evolution from a tool to a business process. Martin Kornberger, in his book Brand Society synthesizes these concepts in the model presented below.
Brand territories map – adapted from Kornberger framework
Institutionally, the brand is evolving from being a management tool to becoming a corporate catalyst of the highest level strategy.
Socially, in addition to its symbolic capacity, brands achieve a dynamic balance between members of an organization and its system, and the people who are external to it, regardless of the role they play at different moments.
It is important to note the difference between organization and brand. There may be various organizations that constitute a system, whose expressions and relations to the context are through a single brand.
Take as a general example Orange, , the telecommunication company. Its points of contact with customers are all in hands of third party companies, however, all under the umbrella of Orange brand.
Orange system-context relation
As an element transmitting some functional information about products and /or services, brands have evolved to synthesize emotional benefits that generate an acquisition decision, and then the search and enjoy of a meaningful experience.
This can be understood as the construction of the relationship between people and brands to become the latter components of a desired lifestyle, whose key features can be summarized as follows:
- The identity and image form a system of meaning that defines the organization and its relationship with the people
- The experience goes beyond traditional organizational boundaries, diluting the distinction between the different roles that people have in the relationship with the brand (employee, top executive, channel, customer, consumer, prescriber, etc.)
- Building meaningful experiences shows a greater and deeper interleaving between symbols and values
- The use of metaphors and stories that are built as ways of interpreting heritage and aspirations of the organization
- The result of the relationship is a meaningful experience. This is a relatively new issue and is constantly evolving
To sum up, the brands on their relation with people fulfil two roles: to be a strategic platform that synthesizes the highest level strategy and to support the lifestyle of those with whom that relationship has been established.