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Analysis Of Brand Salience

Consumers are constantly being bombarded with slews of advertisements about who, what, where and why of many products that either line the shelves of supermarkets or displayed at luxurious crystal chandeliered showrooms. These products may be different in their category or make, but one thing that certainly propels a brand to be purchased by consumers coincides with great brand management. The two main marketing concepts behind a successful brand are attributed to brand salience and brand positioning. These work in synchronicity to gain brand patronization which in turn converts to sale numbers. The rest of this paper will examine the core concepts of both brand salience and positioning and discuss the implications of how a prior analysis of customers and competitors will assist in developing brand salience. Examples will also be involved to illustrate the analysis.

Brand salience, according to Alba and Chattopadhyay (1986, p.363) refers to ‘the prominence or level of activation of a brand in memory’. This is agreed upon by another author who says that salience is conceptualized ‘as the probability that a customer will think of the brand at some point in time’ (Sutherland cited in Romaniuk & Sharp 2003, p. 26). Brand salience is frequently measured by top-of-mind awareness (order in which a brand comes to mind) and total unaided brand awareness (Miller & Berry 1998, p.78). To illustrate what brand salience is, is to bring forward a buying situation where a customer is abruptly reminded by environmental cues such as a warm summers day, or cold winters night out. He or she will be prompted to think of ice-creams or warm soup dishes which are followed by a several recall of brands that she has seen or heard before making a purchase. These brands are said to have higher brand salience or recall levels and they are considered to have a higher propensity to be purchased everytime a supermarket trip is being made (Lans, Pieters, & Wedel 2008, p. 922).

On the other hand, positioning is ‘all about creating the optimal location in the minds of existing and potential customers so that they think of the brand in the desired way’ (Keller 1999, p. 44). Stanton (cited in Romaniuk 2001, p. 112) gives a universal but similar definition by stating that brand position is how brands are perceived in the minds of consumers, in relation to competitor brands. This holds true for many existing brands in the current market as they verge on multiple similarities rather than differences in product features, thus brand positioning could make a distinction. An example of brand positioning can be exemplified by a brand such as Nike for they have thrived on strong brand positioning for long term success. Nike has a keen sense of how it represents itself to customers encompassing rich brand-consumer association, adopting the brand mantra of ‘authentic athletic performance’ and attributes of success, determination, athleticism, and perseverance (Keller 1999, p. 44).

There are differences in regards to brand salience and positioning. Miller and Berry (1998, p.78) gives a detailed justification by stating salience as the order in which brands come to mind and it refers to not what customers think of the brand but to which ones they think about. Positioning in contrast, is measured by brand imagery, overall ratings, and attributes that brands possess. It is measured in accordance to a brand-to-attribute scale rather than attribute-to-brand scale because customers should be prompted to think of the attributes associated with the brand rather than the other way round (Romaniuk & Sharp 2004, p. 336). Salience and positioning are similar in a sense that they both provoke brand recall after memory cue stimulation is made. Customers simultaneously think of the most popular brand after often regularly associating that brand with attributes they believe helped them recall the brand.

As a brand manager, targeting buyers and potential buyers who has propensities to purchase a brand is one of the main objectives of a customer analysis. Assuming ‘Aperture’, a hypothetical camera brand which has recently been launched globally in 2008 is garnering millions of dollars in profit. They are now a high flying company which gives major camera power houses (Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic) a run for money. Aperture previously thrived on brand salience for success and understood the what, where, when, who, and how of their customers when setting up a marketing campaign in response to the various marketing mix of category, preferences and other alternatives, as well as future purchase intentions. Customer analysis is about knowing customers, and how this tool helps in turning a business around to make it even more profitable than it was before (Riley 1999, p. 38).

When conducting a customer analysis for Aperture, the brand manager knows that in a repertoire market, it is empirically generalized that camera buyers are made up of mostly light buyers who buy from a range of camera brands (East et. al 2008, p. 73) and this can translate to either a high brand turnover rate or risk losing customers. The global camera market is saturated with brands causing advertisements to be ignored almost instantly. Aperture needs to comprehend that to capture the attention of buyers is to advertise as frequently as possible over all possible mediums as long as possible. Aperture also does qualitative research on its customers through surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gain an understanding of its segmentation base. For instance, their Japanese version of camera release could be named more cohesively towards the Japanese culture whereas an American release would differ in similar fashion. Both nations’ camera advertising has its implication on where to advertise, to whom, and how often it should be done in order to increase Aperture’s brand salience levels.

Next, another example that will be involved to illustrate how competitor analysis helps develop brand salience would be to examine a chocolate brand such as ‘Opulence’. The chocolate market, once again is saturated with various brands that may sound different but look very much alike except due to packaging. To differentiate Opulence from its competitors would be a very challenging task and is not worth the effort. Ehrenberg and colleagues (1997, p. 8) substantiates this notion by saying that ‘each brand’s customers do not look at their brand as being very different, instead what differs is the number of people to whom each brand is salient’. Opulence has to also strive not for a ‘unique position for the brand, but aim for distinctiveness’ and consistency in ad reach (Romaniuk 2001, p. 111). To become distinct, Opulence has to first establish a distinctive element such as a logo, colour, jingle, or even smell that acts as cues which a buyer stores in memory and associate with when an occasion arises. This is meant to ‘educate’ the customers of the look and feel of Opulence before they can become familiar and purchase it. Miller and Berry (1998, p.78) cites two theories on how competitor analysis may help in salience and further influence sales and market share. One is that brands that come into mind are likely to be in a consumer’s consideration set and have higher probability to being purchased. Secondly, advertising weight and brand salience are cues to consumers indicating which brands are popular and they also have a tendency to purchase those popular brands.

There are a few conclusions that could be drawn upon the contention that a prior analysis of customers and competitors will assist in developing brand salience. Firstly, brand salience is all about the propensity that a customer will think of a brand in a buying situation. Brand positioning on the other hand denotes the perception of a brand in the customers mind. Brand salience is concerned with ‘which one’ whereas positioning, the ‘what’. It is vital for brands to understand their customers’ composition as it helps the brand to allocate advertising efforts in order to increase salience. Then, competitors are aplenty thus being consistently distinct with brand elements is highly regarded as a way to further develop salience as well.

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