The AC4 ID Test diagnostic framework was developed by Balmer (2012), who insists that senior managers need and have to recognize the importance of the multi-faceted nature of brand management. In marketing, the most important asset and one which can be manipulated to the benefit of the company. A good brand is not only sought after by the company itself but also by other stakeholders. Consumers are drawn to successful brand names. In addition, suppliers and investors tend to trust more in successful brand names more. At the first interaction, the corporate brand promises a surety of services that will be delivered. With continuous interaction, an identity is identified. That is, the customer and investors begin to understand and relate to the deliverables assured by the brand.
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According to (Tollington 2002), there are three major concerns for senior management regarding brand management.
- Brand custodianship: the senior management needs to own the brand and therefore set up policies directed at building the brand. It is only when the senior management owns the brand; the workers and the customers can buy into the brand.
- Credibility: Most companies take time and resources to invest in the brand name. Many promises are made through the brand name. It is these promises that often draw customers into the business. Unfortunately, little effort is often made to ensure that the brand promises are delivered. When the brand’s credibility is not guaranteed, customer trust is hard to regain (Temporal 2002; Salinas 2009).
- Calibration: this involves serious research into the market needs so that the company brand matches the customers’ needs. In addition, the brand is aligned to elaborate the company’s identity meaningfully.
Components of the AC4 ID test
Actual identity: a brand name defines the company’s identity. It allows the company to redefine itself to communicate what it is all about to consumers. (Balmer 2012) indicates that the brand name is the first interaction with the consumer. It is the level at which the company separates itself from other producers and manufacturers. It focuses and gives attention to what the company wants the consumer to know about the product or service that is being offered. The two elements that define the brand are at the core of the brand identity.
On the one hand is the brand logo, which consists of visual elements to assist the customer in identifying the brand. The brand logo uses specific fonts, images, and even unique and identifiable colors. They allow the customer to distinguish between competitor brands and, in the same way, elicit positive emotions when the logo and visual elements of the brand identity are brought into the light.
Identity also includes short statements which are easily identifiable and often linked to the product and services of the company. For example, for major companies such as coca cola, each product has its form of brand identity, which is covered in the main brand.
Communication: there is often no use in having a good and quality brand name if the same is not communicated to the consumer. Consumers need to remain aware of the nature of the brand name, what it represents, and can provide. They need to be able to draw a clear line between the services promised by the company and the needs that they have. The brand name communicates to the customer the company’s potential and purpose. Consumers are often more willing to interact with companies if they understand and feel that such companies have a unique purpose. Communication, therefore, is not just about becoming monetary to statistical. It is not telling the consumer what they need, but instead a conversation that reveals what the consumer needs and how the organization addresses the same need. For senior management, communication is intentional and strategic. Communication must be consistent, a constant reminder to the consumer about what the company stands for. This ensures that competition does not have the chance to sway loyal customers and simultaneously allows the company to build a strong customer base.
Conceived brand identity: when building the brand identity, the company often has a specific focus. The senior management often wishes to send a message to the consumer and other stakeholders about its products and services. Take, for example, IKEA, the large furniture company that is often credited for the best marketing concepts and strategies today. The company has been greatly focused on communicating quality and cost-effectiveness. However, as (Mallik (2009) shows, what the management wishes to communicate and what is communicated and grasped by the consumer may be two different concepts. This is what is termed the perceived brand identity. It is the simple way in which stakeholders understand the brand. The conceived brand identity often provides a unique perspective that can, in turn, be exploited for the company’s benefit.
Going back to the example of IKEA, while cost-effectiveness and quality are important aspects of any company, most consumers showed interest in the company simply because it provided a wholesome picture of a perfect home. On this discovery, the company intermarried the concepts and developed a brand directed at the wholesome existence of strong homes. The result has been an increase in the capital share market in the industry, with competition still trying to catch up. According to Keller (1998), Most senior management ignores or does not understand the importance of conceived brand identity. Yet it is through this conceived brand, especially by the consumers, that they can identify opportunities and needs of the consumers, which strategically place the company in a position to gain a competitive edge. It is important to note that the brand is not just a definition of the company but also communicates the unique nature of the company about customer needs, trends, and tastes.
Covenanted corporate brand identity: (Kapferer 2008; Ford 2005) posits a question to senior managers about branding. What exactly are you promising the customer? The brand is a simple promise to the customer, drawing the customer’s interest and therefore giving them the desire to interact with the company. Often, a customer comes to the company because they have been promised that the company’s product and services will meet their needs. Unfortunately, if the company does not deliver on such promises, there are chances that the brand name and identity will begin to work against them. Take, for example, the Toyota Company in the early ’90s was the leading manufacturer of vehicles. After a series of bad products, some of which have been recalled, the company has lost a lot of its market shares to Ford and other manufacturers who have come into the market with the same promises that the original Toyota had made. That is cheap and quality products. Therefore, the covenanted corporate brand must be easily identifiable and easily achieved by the company. No need to make major promises the company cannot deliver or sustain.
Entering the market with the promise of the cheapest products may be a good way to run off competition and make a mark. However, such a strategy may be difficult to maintain and sustain for a long. It may be much wiser to have another fallback plan, one that still calls to the customer but is also easy to maintain while uniquely distinguishing the company from the competition (Glynn and Woodside 2009).
Cultural, corporate brand: (Sagar 2009) shows that most companies and organizations fail when it comes to branding simply because they view the brand as the statement or logo of the company only. He suggests taking serious consideration of major companies that have successfully branded themselves. Such companies as Coca-cola and General motors which continue to be the benchmark of branding decades after their brands were established are not only about the logo. Everything within the company is centered on the brand. (Randall 1997; Coomber 2002) add that the organization’s culture, in its entirety, is insistent on building and successfully establishing the brand. This can only happen when senior management owns the brand; they make it a part of the organization. Essentially, the brand becomes the foundation for all company decision-making. All products and services of the company must be measured through the brand. If some aspects do not measure up to the brand and its promises to the consumers and the market, it’s ignored or thrown out.
The company’s culture should be such that it does not compromise the brand. This means that the values and objectives of the company are based on and, indeed, are the external characteristics that define the brand without failure. Each must co-exist with the other and not separate from the other (Klopper and North 2011).
Ideal corporate brand identity: this is the main responsibility of senior management. It speaks to the company’s future; that is what the aim and objective of the company are. What would the company’s senior management like the company to be identified with by consumers? In the past, brand names were thought to be seasonal, often changing as per the needs, trends, and tastes of the consumers. As such, it was common for brands to change not just their visual aids or boisterous promises but also the company’s entire brand, including the name, to draw more consumers. However, today senior management remains aware that a brand name is not just for the present but also to secure future customers. (Uhlmann 2005; Tanaka 2012) Clearly states that a brand often outlives a company and its products. While the company may change, and even products and services change, consumers will continue interacting with the brand for generations to come.
To develop an ideal corporate brand, senior management often has to define the company’s desires, objectives, and goals. The ideal brand brings all these aspects into fruition easily and without much effort from the various fronts of the company.
Desired corporate brand: whereas the ideal corporate brand is what the brand needs to be to compete successfully, there is the desire of the management and stakeholders about what they want the brand to be. This is the personal picture that they have designed and built and often work towards achieving. It may change depending on the nature of the management and the operations environment (Elliot and Percy 2007). In essence, it is their definition of the brand. When CEOs change, they often come with their vision and desire for the company; that is what they wish the brand to be. (Arnold 1992;Abrahams 2008) Indicate that for senior management; the brand is like a new person they are interacting with. They often have different desires and definitions of how they want to interact with this person. Each relationship is different, and two managers seldom have the same desire to build the same brand.
Senior managers are charged with the responsibility of ensuring successful branding. However, there are times when they are faced, and they encounter brand malady. This is the decline in the brand’s performance (Brown 1990). The above test allows senior management to redefine and test their brand’s strength easily. By identifying weaknesses and challenges that have affected the brand, they can establish a stronger and more sustainable brand.
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