C. Whan Park, Bernard J. Jaworski, & Deborah J.· C. Whan Park, Bernard J. Jaworski, & Deborah J

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  • C. Whan Park, Bernard J. Jaworski, & Deborah J. Maclnnis

    Strategic Brand Concept-Image, Management

    Conveying a brand image to a target market is a fundamental marketing activity. The authors present anormative framework, termed brand concept management {BCM), for selecting, implementing, and con-trolling a brand image over time. The framework consists of a sequential process of selecting, introduc-ing, elaborating, and fortifying a brand concept. The concept guides positioning strategies, and hencethe brand image, at each of these stages. The method for maintaining this concept-image linkage de-pends on whether the brand concept is functional, symbolic, or experiential. Maintaining this linkageshould significantly enhance the brand's market performance.

    COMMUNICATING a brand image to a targetsegment has long been regarded as an importantmarketing activity (Gardner and Levy 1955; Grubb andGrathwhol 1967; Moran 1973; Reynolds and Gutman1984; White 1959). A well-communicated image shouldhelp establish a brand's position, insulate the brandfrom competition (Oxenfeldt and Swann 1964), andtherefore enhance the brand's market performance(Shocker and Srinivasan 1979; Wind 1973). This po-tential impact underscores the importance of manag-ing the image over time.

    In their classic paper, Gardner and Levy (1955)wrote that the long-term success of a brand dependson marketers' abilities to select a brand meaning priorto market entry, operationalize the meaning in the formof an image, and maintain the image over time. Thefact that several brands have been able to maintaintheir image for more than 100 years (e.g.. Ivory's

    C. Whan Park is Distinguished Professor of Marketing, University ofPittsburgh. Bernard J. Jaworski and Deborah J. Maclnnis are AssistantProfessors of Marketing, University of Arizona. All authors contributedequally to the article. The authors thank two anonymous JM reviewersand Richard Lutz for their valuable comments and suggestions. Partic-ular thanks are extended to Editor Shelby Hunt for his encouragementduring the revision process.

    "purity" image) supports their position.Despite the important relationship between a brand's

    image and its market performance, neither the man-agement of the brand's long-term image nor the jointrelationship between a brand image and sales-induc-ing marketing strategies has been considered fully. Forexample, product life cycle (PLC) based strategies,though long-term oriented, are not examined for theirpotential effects on the brand image. A brand imagehas both a direct effect on sales and a moderating ef-fect on the relationship between PLC strategies andsales. Finally, a brand image is not simply a percep-tual phenomenon affected by the firm's communica-tion activities alone. It is the understanding consumersderive from the total set of brand-related activities en-gaged in by the firm. Thus, unless effects on the brandimage also are considered, the implementation of PLCstrategies may cause a decline in long-run market per-formance.

    Positioning/repositioning strategies, though in-corporating the notion of image (and indirectly sales),do not typically indicate how the image can be man-aged over time. Instead, short-term, market-drivenfactors such as current consumer needs and compet-itors are used as a basis for managing the brand's im-age/position (Aaker and Shansby 1982; Arabie et al.1981; Keon 1983; Trout and Ries 1979; Urban and

    Jnurnal of MarketingStrategic Brand Concept-Image Management / 135

  • Hauser 1980; Wind 1982). Because both positioningand repositioning decisions are based on current con-ditions, they are not strategically oriented.

    The purpose of our article is to provide a long-term framework for managing the image over time.Managing the image over time necessitates the coor-dination of communication activities with other sales-inducing activities. We propose a normative frame-work that allows for such coordination. The proposedframework, termed brand concept management (BCM),is defined formally as the planning, implementation,and control of a brand concept throughout the life ofthe brand. A brand concept is a firm-selected brandmeaning derived from basic consumer needs (func-tional, symbolic, and experiential).' A concept se-lected prior to market entry sets boundaries on the scopeof positioning strategies, and hence influences theperceived brand image/position. After the initial con-cept selection task, the concept is managed over threestages: introduction, elaboration, and fortification.Thus, the identification and management of a brandconcept represent the means for developing, main-taining, and controlling the brand image.

    The article is organized to correspond with theproposed sequence of brand concept management. Wefirst discuss how a firm selects a brand concept, thenpropose a three-stage process of introduction, elabo-ration, and fortification to maintain and control theconcept. Finally, we discuss how the type of conceptselected and the stage of the process determine spe-cific positioning strategies. Figure 1 provides a frame-work for the discussion to follow. It illustrates the hi-erarchical relationship between the brand concept,positioning strategies {using the marketing niix), andthe position/image. It also summarizes the specificsets of strategies that follow from the distinct brandconcepts across the three stages.

    Brand Concept SelectionAn important factor influencing the selection of a brandconcept is consumer needs. Functional needs are de-fined as those that motivate the search for productsthat solve consumption-related problems (e.g., solvea current problem, prevent a potential problem, re-solve conflict, restructure a frustrating situation; seeFennell 1978). A brand with a functional concept isdefined as one designed to solve externally generatedconsumption needs. Symbolic needs are defined as de-sires for products that fulfill internally generated needs

    'The term "brand concept" differs somewhat from the term "productconcept" used in the new product development literature. In that lit-erature a product concept is considered to be a new product idea (e.g.,a powdered drink mix). In contrast, a brand concept reflects a generalmeaning associated with the brand (e.g., symbolic). This distinctionshould become apparent as the discussion progresses.

    for self-enhancement, role position, group member-ship, or ego-identification. Work on symbolic con-sumer behavior (Levy 1959; Martineau 1958; Sirgy1982; Solomon 1983) and the sociology of consump-tion (Nicosia and Mayer 1976; Wallendorf and Reilly1983) illustrates the important relationship betweensymbolic needs and consumption. A brand with asymbolic concept is one designed to associate the in-dividual with a desired group, role, or self-image. Ex-periential needs are defined as desires for productsthat provide sensory pleasure, variety, and/or cog-nitive stimulation. Work on variety seeking (Mc-Alister 1979, 1982; McAIister and Pessemier 1982),consumer aesthetics, and experiential consumption(Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Holbrook andHirschman 1982; Holbrook et al. 1984) illustrates theimportance of experiential needs in consumption. Abrand with an experiential concept is designed to ful-fill these intemally generated needs for stimulation and/or variety. Researchers commonly have assignedproducts to one of these three categories on the basisof product class membership (e.g., lawnmowers arefunctional products, cars are symbolic, and food isexperiential; Midgley 1983; Woods I960). However,we use the terms "functional," "symbolic," and "ex-periential" to refer to the image created in a brand,not a product class. The image is a perception createdby marketers' management of the brand. Any product(e.g., toothpaste) theoretically can be positioned witha functional, symbolic, or experiential image (e.g.,Crest, Ultra Brite, or Aqua Fresh).

    Many brands offer a mixture of symbolic, func-tional, and experiential benefits. It therefore may bepossible to develop a brand image with two or moreconcepts. However, we propose that managing this"generic" image may be difficult. First, as illustratedshortly, different concepts require the use of differentlong-term positioning strategies. A brand with mul-tiple concepts therefore provides inconsistent guide-lines for positioning. Second, a brand with multipleconcepts may be more difficult to manage because itcompetes against more brands (e.g., those with purelyfunctional, experiential, or symbolic concepts). Third,a brand with multiple concepts may be less effectivein establishing an image/position by making it moredifficult for consumers to identify the brand's basicmeaning. This difficulty will increase the costs as-sociated with implementing positioning strategies atthe introduction, elaboration, and fortification stages.

    Aside from general consumer needs, the selectionof a concept is based also on its fit with macroenvi-ronmental trends and relevant stakeholders. More-over, the firm's internal environment must be consid-ered. The firm's mission sets a limit on the type ofbrand concepts that can be considered. Factors suchas the firm's resources, image, production capabili-

    136 / Journal of Marketing, October 1986

  • FIGURE 1Brand Concept Management

    Brand Concept:Stages

    BrandConcepts

    PositioningStraceglea

    DevelopingA HarketlngKlx GivenCompetitiveSituation

    Introduction Elaboration

    Functional Symbolic Expecientlal Functional Symbolic Experiential

    Functional Reference Cognitive/Problem- Group/Ego SensorySolving Enhancement StimulationCapablll- Associationsties

    ProblemSolvingSpeciali-zationStrategy

    ProblemSolvingGeneraliza-tionStrategy

    I

    MarketShieldingStrategy

    BrandAccessoryStrategy

    HrandNetworkStrategy

    Develop Appropriate MarketingMix to Establish