The analysis and the evaluation of the phenomenon of brand domination cannot bear a personal nature or related to separate cases. No matter how different were the political regimes, the levels of economic development, and the values adopted in the society, everywhere from developed countries to the poorest regions, brands are integral parts of life. In that regard, brands today have gone beyond their advertisement industries, and thus companies give more and more attention to brand management, connecting the process of managing the brands with the strategies and the business processes of the company.
Accordingly, such interrelation implies that the mistakes in managing brands can extend beyond the service or the product associated with it. In that regard, the article “Understanding and managing the brand space” by Berthon, Holbrook and Hulbert (2003) analyzes the mistakes that hat many organizations make in managing their brands. This paper evaluates the aforementioned article in terms of the introduced theoretical framework and the concept of brand space discussed in the article.
The main idea leading to the introduction of the framework is that the brands became difficult to manage. Thus, the introduced concept of “brand space” provides two dimensions, in which the management of the brands can become easier and more flexible and effective, the function of the product or service and their meaning.
Accordingly, based on the distinctions of the three realms proposed by Karl R. Popper, i.e. physical objects, subjective experience and culture, the article proposes two axes in which brands can be positioned and developed accordingly, which are abstraction and enactment (Berthon et al., 2003). According to these axes, a brand space might be formed, comprising of four positions, and according to the authors, the main mistakes in branding are associated with the wrong positioning of the products and the services within this space. The four positions in the space are:
- The Reified-Functional Brand – low-abstraction, function-focused position
- The Reified-Enacted Brand – focused on meaning and product-associated brand
- The Abstract-Functional Brand – functional and independent of products brands
- The Abstract-Enacted Brand – focused on meaning and almost product independent
The article outlines the benefits of the framework, stating that “[t]raditional market research may become even less useful as customer-brand relationships and consumer-constructed brand meanings become more inscrutable.“(Berthon et al., 2003).
Looking at the proposed theoretical framework, it can be seen that the positioning is basically focused not only on the mistakes, which is moving products or services from one position to another, but also on destination points on where the customers are headed, and what brand values are created for him (Phipps, 2009).
Another notion is the reason why companies try to other positions. The main reason is gaining a competitive advantage and “to enter nascent markets at the earliest opportunity” (Phipps, 2009). Nevertheless, according to the theoretical framework, gaining competitive advantage by introducing products and services can prove to be failure, if the brands of the company are in certain positions in the brand space, e.g. The Abstract-Enacted Brand (Berthon et al., 2003).
Similar mistakes can be seen in other examples related to incorrect positioning in the brand space. One example that was mentioned is the Coca-cola Company. The example of Coca-Cola is unique in that it demonstrates the principle of being attached to the meaning of the product and the independence of the brand. It hardly can be said that the New Coke was a worse product or that it differed drastically from the original product. It is just that the brand New Coke was alien to the consumers who were attached to the brand rather than the product. Thus, the mistake was that the company forgot why consumers bought Coca-Cola in the first place (Van Gelder, 2005).
Using the framework, the company might differentiate the products using other approaches, and remain in the same brand position as the Coca-Cola brand. This can be seen through taking other niches with products not bearing the Coca-Cola brand, e.g. ‘diet Coke’ , ‘Sprite’, ‘Fanta’, ‘Lilt’, ‘Dr. Pepper’,’ Oasis’ and etc. Each of the aforementioned became a brand of its own, with the only products bearing Coca Cola brand are ‘Coca Cola’ and “Coca Cola Zero’ (2009).
Another example related to the brand space can be seen in taking the position in the brand space with inapplicable products, or more than product in one position. This factor can be confusing as in the next example this action was unplanned. ITT industry, Inc is a global engineering and manufacturing company with many affiliations and a parent company ITT corporation.
Conducting a survey to measure the awareness of their company, they found that people recognized the ITT name. Nevertheless, they associated the brand with financial services resorts, casinos, hotels and etc, rather than with the company’s engineer products. The associated products were of the parent company ITT Corporation, and in that way it can be seen that the position of the company in terms of their products is the Abstract-Enacted Brand, while it should be the Abstract-Functional Brand. The brand is abstract while it bears the wrong emphasis on the meaning rather than on the product. Thus, following the new position, which implies the creation of sub-brands, the company launched a new campaign with a new logo and a new tag line (Kotler et al., 2006).
It can be concluded that the theoretical framework proposed in the article can be useful in brand management. In that regard, the mistakes that can be made by branding managers can be associated with incorrect positioning and accordingly the wrong level of control over the company’s brands. The tool might be also useful, for new companies entering the market, so the goals and position can be established from the beginning of the marketing campaigns. Finally, approaching the issue of branding in terms of abstraction and enactment will allow the companies to rethink the relation of the consumers to their products and services, and thus, develop the brands in the right direction.
- (2009) Coca- Cola -Our Brands. Coca-Cola.com. Web.
- BERTHON, P., HOLBROOK, M. B. & HULBERT, J. M. (2003) Understanding and managing the brand space. MIT Sloan Management Review, 44, 49-54.
- KOTLER, P., PFOERTSCH, W. & MICHI, I. (2006) B2B brand management, Berlin; New York, Springer.
- PHIPPS, B. (2009) “Brand space” and the creation of new markets. Brands Create Customers. WordPress.
- VAN GELDER, S. (2005) Global brand strategy : unlocking branding potential across countries, cultures & markets, Sterling, Va., Kogan Page Limited.