Brand Image and Identity

by smartamarketing

One of the problems with the discussion of brands and branding seems to be the distinction between brand and brand image that is often made. A brand is the identity of a Product (goods and services), which the marketer wants to create, whereas brand image is the image of the Product (anything that can be exchanged), which is formed in the customer’s mind.

The term brand identity can sometimes be used as a description of the image of the brand that the marketer wants to create. Keeping apart the concepts of a brand and brand image somehow gives the impression that a brand can be created and can exist without the presence of the customer or indeed a Product. According to this view, the customers form an image of a readily created brand. Following this line of thought the expression “brand building” has emerged. In reality, customers continuously receives inputs about the brand that is being created, and they relate to these brand messages on a continuous basis, to the extent that they observe them and react to them unconsciously, thus forming the brand image in their minds. This is the case with services as well as with physical goods. This can be put another way: a brand is not first built and then perceived by the customers. Instead, every step in the branding process, every brand message, is separately perceived by customers and together add up to a brand image, or brand for short, which is formed in their minds.

When including the customer in the branding process, there is no need to make a distinction between a brand and a brand image. The brand as a concept is always an image. When we talk about a brand we always refer to it as an image in the minds of customers. In this way brand and brand image are synonymous.

The term brand identity can be used as a concept which describes the image of the brand that the marketer wants to create in the minds of customers. It is the goal to be achieved. A brand is the image that is actually formed in their minds. Branding is the process of creating this image.

The term “brand building” is often used to mean branding. However, this is incorrect and dangerous, because it gives the impression that the marketer can create a brand by himself. From this follows that after the brand has been “built” it can be offered to customers. In reality, as we shall see in the following sections, the customers’ role is much more active in the branding process. Whatever the marketer does, it is the customer who decides whether an intended brand is developing or not. If anybody builds a brand, it is the customer.

The role of the marketer is to create frames for the development of a brand in the minds of customers, by providing an appropriate physical product, service process and supportive communication using various means of planned marketing communication. Thus, the brand is formed. If the marketer has been successful in creating this branding “frame,” the intended brand identity is achieved, otherwise it is not.