Building Brand Equity: Mastering Identity, Trust, and Recognition

Category

Branding

Read Time

15 min

Published

11 December, 2023

Imagine brand equity as money in the bank, but instead of being in a financial institution, it’s stored in the minds of your customers.

It’s an accumulated wealth of perceptions, emotions, and experiences that your audience holds about your brand. Just like financial capital, this “brand capital”’ can be grown, invested, and, if managed poorly, even squandered.

You know how they say your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room?

Well, brand equity is what people think of you whenever you enter their mind. You don’t even have to be near the room, or ever been in the room. It’s the automatic reaction to hearing your brand name.

For example, when you think of Apple, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s great tech products at insanely high prices.

When I think of Hubspot, I think of the colour orange, how awesome their Inbound event looks, and about how user friendly their software is. And the fact that they pretty much invented Inbound marketing.

This isn’t “branding.” That’s not what they’ve tried to get me to think. It’s just what I happen to think when I think of their brands.

It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly…

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But it’s also the value you’ve built, the trust you’ve earned, and the recognition you’ve gained.

In the digital age, brand equity goes beyond physical products and also impacts the services, software, and technology sectors.

Your brand equity is like a savings account for your brand’s reputation.Each positive interaction, each memorable experience, is like a deposit, building up value over time.

And just like money in the bank, this value can be drawn upon to propel growth, navigate market shifts, and build customer loyalty.

What is Brand Equity?

Brand equity isn’t just about recognition; it’s the value your brand holds in the minds and hearts of your customers.

But before diving into the specifics of how to build and measure brand equity, it’s crucial to understand what it truly means and why it’s so important for your brand.

This value can significantly impact your business, from customer loyalty to pricing power.

Let’s explore what brand equity really entails and how renowned models like Kevin Keller’s Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) can help us grasp its complexities.

A diagram of the elements that make up brand equity

The Elements of Brand Equity

Brand equity is a multi-faceted concept that encapsulates various elements contributing to a brand’s value in the minds of consumers. Let’s first understand the key components that form the foundation of brand equity.

Brand Awareness

This is about how familiar your target audience is with your brand. High brand awareness means that your brand is top-of-mind for consumers when they think about your industry or product category.

Brand Association

This refers to the attributes, qualities, and sentiments that customers associate with your brand. Positive and strong associations can significantly contribute to the brand’s overall equity.

Perceived Quality

Perceived quality is the customer’s perception of the overall quality or superiority of a product or service. It plays a crucial role in differentiating a brand and can heavily influence purchasing decisions.

Brand Experience

This encompasses all the interactions a customer has with a brand, from using the product to engaging with customer service. Positive brand experiences build equity by enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Brand Preference

Brand preference is when customers favour one brand over competing brands, often due to a combination of factors like quality, experience, and association. It’s a key indicator of a brand’s strength in the market.

Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is the tendency of customers to continue choosing one brand over alternatives. Loyal customers often become brand advocates, further amplifying brand equity through word-of-mouth.

Now, let’s explore how renowned models like Kevin Keller’s Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) can help us grasp its complexities.

A diagram of Kevin Keller's CBBE model

Brand Equity Model: Kevin Keller’s CBBE Model

Kevin Keller’s Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) model is a useful framework for understanding brand equity from a customer’s perspective.

It suggests that brand equity arises from a brand’s ability to fulfil the expectations and needs of its customers.

In the business world, this translates to building products and services that aren’t just functional but align with the values, aspirations, and lifestyles of the target audience.

To simplify the Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) model with a movie analogy:

  • Brand Identity (Who are you?): Imagine you’re choosing a movie to watch. You first recognise it by its title or the actors in it. This step is like the brand’s name or logo – the first thing that helps people recognise and remember the brand.
  • Brand Meaning (What are you?): Now think about what the movie is about. Is it a thrilling adventure, a heartwarming story, or a comedy? For a brand, this is about what it stands for. Is the brand known for innovation, quality, or being eco-friendly?
  • Brand Response (What do I think or feel about you?): This is how you feel about the movie after watching it. Did you love it, find it just okay, or not like it at all? Similarly, for a brand, this is what people think and feel when they see or hear about it. Do they perceive it as high-quality, trustworthy, or affordable?
  • Brand Relationships / Resonance (What kind of relationship do I have with you?): Finally, think about your connection with the movie. Is it your all-time favourite that you watch repeatedly, recommend to friends, or follow updates about? For a brand, this step is about building a strong connection with customers, where they remain loyal, recommend it to others, and have a strong emotional attachment.

Understanding and enhancing these four aspects can help a brand become as beloved as someone’s favourite movie.

infographic showing 3 things a brand does

Components of Brand Equity

The job of a brand boils down to 3 things; differentiation, consistency, and memorability. These are the cornerstones of any brand, and come into play when building brand equity.

  • Differentiation: Take the tech industry, for instance. It’s a landscape dominated by a sea of blues, slick edges, and dotted textured backgrounds. To make a tech brand stand out, we’d venture away from these clichés. Imagine a tech brand that rebels against the blue tide, choosing instead a vibrant colour palette that breaks the norm. This is differentiation in action, making the brand instantly noticeable and distinct in a crowded market.
  • Memorability: Being memorable isn’t just about having a catchy name or a flashy logo; it’s about creating an identity that sticks in the minds of your audience. It’s about crafting a narrative and visual identity that’s instantly recognizable and, more importantly, hard to forget.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key in reinforcing these different and memorable elements across all touchpoints. Whether it’s the website, social media, or customer service, every interaction should reinforce the brand’s unique identity and values.

Speaking of customer experience, let’s talk about its role in brand equity, particularly in the tech industry.

If your brand doesn’t cover these things, then building your brand equity is going to be a real uphill climb.

Building Equity through Customer Experience

Where the landscape is constantly evolving with new competitors, building equity and loyalty is crucial.

A good example is Indeed’s strategy of surprising people with free advertising credits to keep hiring managers engaged with their platform. These thoughtful gestures contribute significantly to building positive customer experiences.

When customers have positive interactions with a brand, they’re more likely to return, recommend, and form a loyal bond with it. In the digital world, where options are endless, these experiences can make all the difference in building lasting brand equity.

A cartoon image of two coffee cups representing why brand equity matters

Why Brand Equity Matters

Markets are getting increasingly competitive. As a result, the importance of brand equity cannot be overstated. It’s a powerful tool that can elevate a business to new heights.

Here’s how:

Market Positioning and Pricing Power: The Starbucks Example

Take Starbucks, an example of brand equity mastery.

They’ve managed to turn a cup of coffee, which probably costs less than £1 to produce, into a premium product that people are willing to pay up to £5 ($8) for.

Because they’ve made Starbucks “not just about the coffee.” It’s about the experience, the perceived value, and the premium feel associated with the brand. This perception of Starbucks as a premium brand is a testament to its strong brand equity.

As well as that:

Starbucks has become a part of popular culture, with “Starbies” becoming a colloquial term on platforms like TikTok. Then there’s the whole Game of Thrones scandal that I’m still not sure wasn’t accidentally on purpose!

And, their loyalty scheme is a masterstroke in reinforcing these positive perceptions. It’s not just a program; it’s an extension of the brand experience, deepening the emotional connection and reinforcing the “premium” feel in the hearts and minds of their customers.

Starbucks promises to “have your coffee ready for you” when you get there. And that feels like premium, first-class service.

But:

They were going to make your coffee at some point. They’ve added nothing to the experience but a simple marketing twist.

That’s marketing at its finest. But it builds up positive brand equity with their customers.

Innovation and Adaptation Across Industries: The Nike Example

When a brand is deeply entrenched in the minds and hearts of its consumers, it gains a level of trust and loyalty that allows more freedom to innovate and evolve.

Consider Nike:

A symbol of innovation in the world of sports and fitness, driven by robust brand equity.

Nike has built such a formidable reputation that their brand name alone carries an implicit trust. This trust is pivotal when they release products for specific activities – whether it’s climbing, running, or leisure.

Consumers don’t just see a new shoe; they see a promise of quality and innovation backed by extensive research and development.

Nike’s content strategy plays a significant role in reinforcing this trust.

Their advertisements, marketing campaigns, and video campaigns don’t just showcase products; they offer a glimpse into the science and stories behind them. This transparency and storytelling create a deeper connection with their audience.

When a brand like Nike, with substantial equity, introduces something new, it’s not merely a product launch; it’s an event. Their trust and credibility in the market give them the freedom to innovate, experiment, and venture into new territories. This trust, a culmination of years of consistent brand building, means that when Nike speaks, people listen, and when they innovate, people follow.

This is the power of brand equity.

It’s not just a measure of recognition; it’s a licence to set trends, break moulds, and continually redefine what’s possible.

purple and white brick wall in the shape of a love heart

How to Build and Sustain Brand Equity

Brand equity is crafted, not stumbled upon. It’s a blend of strategy, consistency, and innovation.

Here’s how we approach the branding process at Canny:

Establish a Strong Brand Identity

Our journey begins with a robust framework that starts from the ground up. We dive into comprehensive research, analysing competitors, sectors, and visual trends.

This research paves the way for brainstorming and creative thinking, leading us to rounds of design that we refine and refine until we unveil a stand-out brand identity.

As I mentioned earlier, we believe in making our brands different, consistent, and memorable.

Different

Take the tech industry, for instance. Given their preference for the colour blue and standard tech imagery, to make a tech brand stand out, we’d need to venture away from those clichés.

Imagine a tech brand that rebels against the blue tide, choosing instead a vibrant colour palette that breaks the norm. This is differentiation in action, making the brand instantly noticeable and distinct in a crowded market.

At Canny, we see this need for differentiation firsthand, especially at events.

We attend a specific IT event that we won’t name, but it often feels like walking into a sea of monotony. The exhibitions look the same, the branding is indistinguishable, and even the people look like little Agent Smith clones with their sharp suits and overpowering aftershave.

Can I tell one from another? Absolutely not. That’s why standing out, being different, is so crucial.

Consistency

This is the glue that holds your brand together. Consistency in messaging, visual identity, and customer experience across all platforms solidifies what the brand stands for and builds trust.

Every tweet, every customer service interaction, every marketing material, every brand touchpoint, they all add up to a cohesive story about who you are as a brand.

Inconsistency can lead to confusion and dilute brand equity, while a consistent approach reinforces your brand’s values and promise.

It’s about ensuring that no matter where or how a customer interacts with your brand, they get the same core experience that reflects your brand strategy and reinforces their perception of trust in your brand.

Memorability

Achieving memorability is about more than just your visuals; it’s about creating a lasting impression that resonates with your audience. It’s about weaving a story and an experience around your brand that’s unforgettable.

For instance:

When a brand launches a marketing campaign that is perfectly on-brand, it etches itself into the memory of the audience. This memorability drives brand recall, ensuring that when a need arises, it’s your brand that surfaces first in the minds of the consumers.

At Canny, we strive to hit these notes, crafting not just a visual identity but an emotional connection that stays with the audience long after they’ve interacted with the brand.

Deliver Consistent Quality and Top Tier Experiences

Consistency in quality and experience is what makes a brand like Uber stand out. Their app is a testament to simplicity and functionality, working seamlessly across major cities worldwide, including Canny’s hometown of Blyth (which honestly, is the last place to get anything useful – apart from creative services!)

What makes the Uber experience noteworthy is its reliability and the sense of security it provides. You can track your driver, view their ratings, and even have food delivered—all through the same app.

Whether you’re in Orlando, New York, Toronto, London, Newcastle, or even Egypt, the Uber experience remains consistent.

It’s this reliability that builds trust and, in turn, brand equity.

Knowing that you won’t be left stranded, whether you’re gazing at the pyramids or rushing to a meeting in a bustling city, is the kind of assurance that turns users into loyal customers.

Uber’s commitment to a seamless experience across different geographies is a powerful example of building brand equity through consistent quality and customer experience.

Engage and Listen to Your Audience

Engagement with your audience is key.

We’ve even seen our clients, like a notable IT company in Newcastle, successfully build brand equity by hosting regular cyber-security events. These events not only demonstrate expertise but also create a platform for direct interaction and engagement with their audience.

This strategy of engagement through events is not exclusive to one industry either. It’s also not exclusive to events.

Brands are building and fostering communities of loyal followers and users.

For example:

  • Sephora have the Beauty Insider Community
  • Lego have Lego Ideas
  • Harley Davidson have the Harley Owners Club

There’s thousands of brands out there building communities that allow them to actively engage with and listen to their audience.

It’s a universal approach to deepening connections and nurturing brand equity. Listening to your audience, understanding their needs, and adapting based on their feedback are crucial in keeping the brand relevant and respected.

If you want to build an online community you have SaaS products like Disciple and Mighty Networks that can help you.

Net Promoter Score

How to Measure and Monitor Brand Equity

Effectively measuring and understanding brand equity is crucial for guiding a brand’s future strategy and growth. Here’s how this can be approached:

Quantitative Metrics and Customer Engagement

At Canny, we emphasise the importance of both quantitative and qualitative data in measuring brand equity. Using tools like Google Analytics, we assess how people are engaging with the brand through websites and digital platforms. This quantitative data offers invaluable insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and engagement levels.

Customer Perception and Feedback

While Canny focuses on brand strategy, brand identity, and website creation, the ongoing task of measuring brand equity through customer feedback and perception analysis typically falls within the remit of our clients’ marketing departments. This qualitative aspect is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of brand equity.

New marketing managers can find additional strategies in our guide on 30 Things to Do in Your First 90 Days as a Marketing Manager.

Long-term Brand Health

Brand health is an intuitive yet critical indicator of a brand’s overall state. Much like recognising when you’re sick, marketing teams can often sense when their brand is underperforming or losing its connection with the audience. This is where Canny steps in, offering either a refresh or complete rebrand of the identity and collateral. Identifying the need for such interventions is key to maintaining long-term brand health and, by extension, its equity.

The Power of Brand Equity

As we’ve explored throughout this post, brand equity is a critical asset for any business. Your brand equity is the culmination of a brand’s efforts in creating a lasting impression in the minds and hearts of its customers.

From a strong brand identity and memorable experiences, to consistent quality and innovative approaches, brand equity encompasses a multitude of elements that contribute to a brand’s success.

At Canny, our journey with each brand begins with understanding, then by crafting a brand identity that stands out, resonates, and endures.

While we focus on the foundational aspects of brand identity and digital presence, the journey of building brand equity is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and adaptation.

Remember:

Brand equity is like a savings account for your brand’s reputation, where every positive interaction and experience is a deposit that adds value over time. It’s what sets you apart in a crowded market, creates customer loyalty, and drives your business forward.

As we wrap up, ask yourself:

How are you contributing to your brand’s equity? Are your efforts aligned with the long-term vision for your brand?

At Canny, we’re here to help you navigate these questions and build a brand that not only stands the test of time but thrives in an ever-changing marketplace.

Hey I'm Tony, Founder and Director of Canny Creative. I eat, sleep and bleed Canny to be honest. I'm an absolute workaholic (and yes, I know that's not a good thing!).

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