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A Winning Brand Strategy

The key challenge for brands in today’s competitive landscape is to capture the share of mind and hearts of their respective shareholders. More specifically, brands have to make themselves easily accessible in the minds of their customers for the right reasons. On this premise, it is crucial for brand managers to comprehend the brand evaluation mechanism that is invoked within the minds of their stake holders.

Paramount towards how brands are evaluated is primarily determined by the identity that is bestowed upon the brand. Research demonstrates that the identity of a brand is defined by 2 types of associations; namely the primary and secondary associations. Primary associations are usually constructed based on the brand’s product attribute, benefits, category, emotions and usage experience. On the other hand, secondary associations are formed based on association with the identity of the corporate brand. This demonstrates that the corporate brand identity has an important role in defining the identity of the product brand.

The core of the corporate brand identity is defined primarily by the corporate brand vision, its positioning and its personality. In particular, the personality of a corporate brand reflects 3 key dimensions, which are synonymous to those that define a person’s identity. These dimensions communicate the brand from the perspective of the “mind”, “body” (which is rational), and “heart” (which are emotional). Collectively, these 3 dimensions manifest the corporate brand in a holistic context that may differ from the personality of the product brand, which is usually better associated with the user of the product brand.

Press and media relations among others are the activities that build associations to the corporate brand identity. The messages that are carried across the various media channels by independent parties are inclined to be perceived to be more trustworthy and genuine than some of the brand’s advertising messages.  As such, getting the attention of the press and the various media owners is crucial in reinforcing the corporate brands identity. Apart from that, the press and the media are one of the most cost effective approaches for corporations to promote their identity.  With the growth in the popularity of new media such as blogs, blog casts and on-line forums, the media has become even more crucial in communicating the corporation’s identity to its various stakeholders (e.g. customers, business partners, investors, etc).

It has been demonstrated in numerous research that the messages that corporate brands mainly convey the “Corporate Ability” and/or Corporate Social Responsibility activities of the organization. Corporate Ability relates to the associations concerning the company’s expertise in producing and delivering its output.  It has been reflected in a few studies that innovation is a common corporate ability that most try to convey. For instance, Microsoft’s corporate ability is being a leader in developing software technology and Exxon Mobil is being an innovator in petroleum extraction.  Such messages tend to reinforce the personality dimensions concerning the “mind “and “body” of the corporate brand. It gives an impression that the corporate brand as being creative, discipline, agile and collaborative at different degrees.

On the other hand, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities tend to be concerned with associations that reflect the organization’s status and activities with respect to its perceived societal obligations. Societal obligations would include activities that have economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic impact. Most corporations focus on community involvement and environmental preservation related activities to invite attention of the press and media. For instance, in the recent disaster events in Myanmar and China, many corporations such as McDonalds, Siemens and Singapore Airlines have announced through the press and media about their donations for disaster relief operations.  Press and media communications that relates to CSR activities incline to portray the personality dimensions that manifests the “Heart” of the Corporation. It conveys a sense of compassion and also passion within the corporation.

When the messages concerning the Corporate Ability and CSR activities of a corporation are frequently brought across the community at large, the corporate identity will be evaluated in a positive light. Research has shown that the corporation will be evaluated as an “expert” within their domain of business when their Corporate Ability is frequently emphasized. On the other hand, CSR related activities will influence the society to evaluate the corporate brand as likable and trustworthy. On this premise, it is vital that the corporation’s marketing communications and public relations find a balance in releasing Corporate Ability and CSR related messages. It is also equally important that the crafted messages have to be salient and relevant to the majority stakeholders. Only messages with salient and relevant characteristics will be easily processed and accessed from the stakeholders’ memory. With the right balance, the corporation will command a holistic brand image as being a dependent expert, likable and trustworthy.

The benefits that corporations derive from possessing a strong brand identity are tremendous.  A strong corporate brand identity will engender to a positive influence on the attitudes of the corporation’s various stakeholders. For business investors, it will invoke confidence and trust towards the corporation. With this, the share value and equity of the overall corporation will be elevated. Business partners will be convinced to deepen their partnership with the corporate once they are convinced that the corporation is competent, likable and trustworthy.  As for employees, a strong corporate brand identity will foster stronger morale, commitment and cultivates a sense of belonging. In addition to that, more people will aspire to work with the corporation. This gives the corporation the competitive advantage in winning over good talented staff as compared to their competitors. Finally, a strong corporate brand identity will reinforce the brand identity of its products. This will build stronger customer affinity towards their product brands and also foster better product brand extensions that the corporation intends to introduce to the market.

In conclusion, press and media relations are among one of the important tools for building corporate brand identity which will ultimately reap ample benefits as mentioned previously. As such, corporations need to comprehend the key underlying factors for building corporate and product brands. Part of the challenge will be to understand the cognitive and emotive processes underlining brand evaluation and to leverage on this knowledge to construct a desirable brand in the marketplace.