Advertising and Brand Equity

Kevin Lane Keller. Handbook of Advertising. Editor: Gerard J Tellis & Tim Ambler. Sage Publications. 2007.

The media environment has changed dramatically in recent years. Traditional advertising media such as TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers are losing their grip on consumers. After the dot-com crash and subsequent hangover in the early 2000s, marketers returned to the Web with vengance, pouring $18 billion into Internet advertising in 2005. While Web advertising jumped 20% during this time, spending for TV ads remained flat.

The prognosis for TV advertising going forward is not necessarily good. With more cable companies building TiVo-like digital video recorders into their digital set boxes, household penetration of DVRs in the US was expected to jump to 33% by 2008. One survey found that almost three-quarters of users of DVRs frequently or always skip over ads when watching recorded programmes. Increased fragmentation from the proliferation of satellite and cable channels has only exacerbated the problem.

Although media rates have continued to climb, viewership and readership with some key demographics such as teenagers continue to slide. The results of a Forrester Research survey of on-line 12-17-year-olds revealed that 94% owned a game console of some kind, two-thirds considered themselves active gamers, and more than 50% of males said they would rather play video games than watch TV.

Paid search services from Yahoo! and Google have exploded to become a $3 billion industry. Consumers are actively creating and sharing content online as consumer communities and blogs have become created on virtually all topics. Seventy-two percent of teens exchange instant messages each day and 64 million Americans use some type of IM application. Cell phones are becoming a critical device for more than phone conversations.

This changing media landscape has forced marketers to re-evaluate how they should best communicate with consumers. As a result, the strategies behind marketing communication programmes have changed fairly dramatically in recent years. In 2004, Procter & Gamble CMO Jim Stengel noted how 90% of P&G’s global ad spending was on TV in 1994, but one of its most successful brand launches in history, for Prilosec OTC in 2003, allocated only about one-quarter of its spending to TV. Although there is a strong rationale for such shifts in media spending, the danger is that marketers may overcorrect, failing to take advantage of the important brand-building contributions of advertising that still exist (Duncan, 2002; Keller, 1996).

Towards a better understanding of advertising and brand equity, this chapter has two primary objectives. We first present a detailed model of brand building that helps to provide specific insights into how different types of advertising affect brand equity. The basic theme here is the importance of “mixing and matching” advertising and other communications to create rich and robust brand images (see also Naik, 2007, Chapter 1.3). Second, we address the specific issue of how to devise strategies to improve brand links to communication effects, a major deficiency in most advertising campaigns. We begin our analysis by briefly reviewing the different forms and functions of advertising.

Advertising Forms and Functions

Advertising comes in many different forms. Five major types of advertising are media (e.g., broadcast and print), direct response (e.g., mail, media, telephone, and internet), on-line (e.g., web sites, search ads, and banner ads), place (e.g., billboards, product placement, and movies), and point of purchase (e.g., shelf-talkers and in-store radio or TV) advertising. Because of its inherent versatility and the control that these different forms afford marketers, advertising can perform many different functions to contribute to brand-building and can accomplish many different objectives.

For example, advertising is a means by which firms can inform, persuade, and remind consumers—directly or indirectly—about the brands that they sell. Advertising represents the voice of the brand and is a means by which the brand can establish a dialogue and build relationships with consumers. Consumers can be told or shown how and why a product or service is used, by what kind of person, and where and when. Consumers can learn about who is behind the product or service and what the company and brand stand for. Consumers can be given an incentive or reward for trial or usage.

Finally, through advertising, brands can be linked to other people, places, events, brands, or experiences. Marketers often find themselves in need of borrowing equity from someone or something else that can help to remedy a brand deficiency or bolster a brand strength. Advertising is often indispensable as a means to leverage that other equity. Thus, although advertising is not the only important means of communication—personal selling, direct response, promotion, events and experiences, and public relations all can contribute to brand equity—it often plays a central role.

The Importance of Brand Equity

Assuming a firm is successful through advertising and other means in building a strong brand with much equity, as Hoeffler and Keller (2003) review, a number of possible benefits may be realised by the firm.

  • Improved perceptions of product performance.
  • Greater customer loyalty.
  • Less vulnerability to competitive marketing actions and marketing crises.
  • Larger margins.
  • More elastic customer response to price decreases and inelastic customer response to price increases.
  • Greater trade or intermediary cooperation and support.
  • Increased marketing communication effectiveness.
  • Additional licensing and brand extension opportunities.

One key benefit of building a strong brand is increased advertising effectiveness. In a general sense, as a result of the strength and equity of the advertised brand, consumers may be more willing to attend to additional brand advertising, process this advertising more favourably, and have a greater ability to later recall advertising or their accompanying cognitive or affective reactions to that advertising. Brand equity is thus central to the way advertising works, either as a goal in itself or as a mediator to other goals.

Along these lines, academic research has shown a number of communication effects that can be attributed to well-known and liked brands (Sawyer, 1981). For example, consumers are more likely to have a negative reaction to ad repetition with unknown as opposed to strong brands (Calder and Sternthal, 1980; Campbell and Keller, 2003). Familiar brands appear to better withstand competitive ad interference (Kent and Allen, 1994). Similarly, consumers appear to have a more negative reaction with ad tactics such as comparative ads (Belch, 1981) depending on the nature of the brand involved. Humour in ads seems to be more effective for familiar or already favourably evaluated brands than for unfamiliar or less-favourably evaluated brands (Chattopadhyay and Basu, 1990; Stewart and Furse, 1986; Weinberger and Gulas, 1992).

In addition, consumers who are highly loyal to a brand have been shown to increase purchases when advertising for the brand increases (Hsu and Liu, 2000; Raj, 1982). Other advantages associated with more advertising include increased likelihood of being the focus of attention (Dhar and Simonson, 1992, Simonson et al., 1988) and increased “brand interest” (Machleit et al., 1993). Ahluwalia et al. (2000) demonstrated that consumers who have a high level of commitment to a brand are more likely to counter-argue in the presence of negative information (e.g., unflattering claims from a competitor’s comparative ad). This maybe the reason why strong brands were shown to be better able to weather a product-harm crisis (Dawar and Pillutla, 2000).

These advertising benefits, however, only arise as the result of having a strong brand. Building strong brands is thus a management priority (Aaker, 1991, 1996; Kapferer, 2005). To build a strong brand, the right knowledge structures must exist in the minds of actual or prospective customers so that they respond positively to marketing activities and programmes in these different ways. Advertising can play a crucial role in shaping that knowledge.

A Model of Brand Equity for Advertising Communications

Several different definitions and models of brand equity exist in the academic literature. One well-known model, as developed through a series of books, is from Aaker (Aaker, 1991, 1996, 2004; Aaker and Joachimstahler, 1999). His model, however, is more of an asset-based model and lacks the necessary consumer behaviour perspectives to adequately interpret and provide detailed prescriptive guidance for advertising and communication effects. To do so, a brand equity model is need that would be comprehensive, cohesive, and well-grounded in psychological theory. A model developed with those criteria in mind is the customer-based brand equity model (Keller, 2001, 2003).

According to the customer-based brand equity model, brand equity is fundamentally determined by the brand knowledge created in consumers’ minds by marketing programmes and activities. Specifically, customer-based brand equity is defined as the differential effect that consumer knowledge about a brand has on their response to marketing for that brand. According to this view, brand knowledge is not the facts about the brand—it is all the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, and so on that become linked to the brand in the minds of consumers (individuals and organizations). All of these types of information can be thought of in terms of a set of associations to the brand in consumer memory. The basic premise of the customer-based brand equity model is that the power of a brand lies in the minds of customers (Janiszewski and van Osselaer, 2000).

Two particularly important components of brand knowledge are brand awareness and brand image. Brand awareness is related to the strength of the brand node or trace in memory as reflected by consumers’ ability to recall or recognize the brand under different conditions. Brand image is defined as consumer perceptions of and preferences for a brand, as reflected by the various types of brand associations held in consumers’ memories. Strong, favourable, and unique brand associations are essential as sources of brand equity to drive the differential effects and yield the marketing advantages as outlined above.

Although this customer-based brand equity model of brand building has been summarized elsewhere (Keller, 2001, 2003), here we consider its specific advertising communication implications and how it can guide advertising communication development. Building a strong brand, according to the customer-based brand equity model, can be thought of in terms of a sequential series of steps, where each step is contingent upon successfully achieving the previous step. All steps involve accomplishing certain objectives with customers—both existing and potential.

  • Identity: Ensure identification of the brand with customers and an association of the brand in customers’ minds with a specific product class or customer need or benefit.
  • Meaning: Firmly establish the totality of brand meaning in the minds of customers—i.e., by strategically linking a host of tangible and intangible brand associations.
  • Responses: Elicit the proper cognitive and affective customer responses to this brand identity and brand meaning.
  • Relationship: Convert brand response to create an intense, active loyalty relationship between customers and the brand.

Enacting these four steps is a complicated and difficult process. To provide some structure, it is useful to think of sequentially establishing six “brand building blocks” with customers to accomplish the four steps and create a strong brand. To connote the sequencing involved, these building blocks can be assembled in terms of a brand pyramid. Creating significant brand equity involves reaching the top or pinnacle of the pyramid and will only occur if the right brand-building blocks are put into place. The corresponding brand steps represent different levels of the pyramid.

With the customer-based brand equity model, the most valuable brand building block, brand resonance, occurs when all the other brand-building blocks are completely “in sync” with respect to customers’ needs, wants, and desires. In other words, brand resonance reflects a completely harmonious relationship between customers and the brand. With true brand resonance, customers have a high degree of loyalty marked by a close relationship with the brand such that customers actively seek means to interact with the brand and share their experiences with others. Firms that are able to achieve resonance and affinity with their customers are more likely to reap the host of valuable benefits that comes from building a strong brand.

Each of these four steps and corresponding brand-building blocks, as well as their implications for advertising development, are examined next.

Brand Identity

Achieving the right brand identity involves creating brand salience with customers. Brand salience relates to aspects of the awareness of the brand, e.g., how often and easily is the brand evoked under various situations or circumstances. To what extent is the brand top-of-mind and easily recalled or recognized? What types of cues or reminders are necessary? How pervasive is this brand awareness?

Formally, brand awareness refers to customers’ ability to recall and recognize the brand. Brand awareness is more than just the fact that customers know the brand name and the fact that they have previously seen it, perhaps even many times. Brand awareness also involves linking the brand—the brand name, logo, symbol, etc.—to certain associations in memory. In particular, building brand awareness involves ensuring that customers understand the product or service category in which the brand competes. There must be clear links as to what products or services are sold under the brand name. At a broader, more abstract level, however, it also means making sure that customers know which of their “needs” the brand—through these products—is designed to satisfy. In other words, what basic functions does the brand provide to customers?

Awareness forms the foundation or basebuilding block in developing brand equity and provides three important functions. First, awareness influences the formation and strength of brand associations that make up the brand image and gives the brand meaning. Second, creating a high level of brand awareness in terms of category identification and needs satisfied is of crucial importance during possible purchase or consumption consideration opportunities. Third, when customers have “low involvement” with a product category, e.g., because they lack either purchase motivation or ability, they may make choices based on brand awareness alone.

Brand awareness can be distinguished in terms of two key dimensions—depth and breadth. Depth of brand awareness refers to how easily customers can recall or recognize the brand. Breadth of brand awareness refers to the range of purchase and consumption situations where the brand comes to mind. A highly salient brand is one that has both depth and breadth of brand awareness, i.e., such that customers always make sufficient purchases as well as always think of the brand across a variety of settings when it could possibly be employed or consumed. In other words, it is important that the brand not only be “top-of-mind” and have sufficient “mind share” but it must also do so at the right times and right places.

Because of the wide number of settings where advertising can appear—at home, in the store, as well as all places in between—advertising can ensure that the brand stays top-of-mind at the right times and the right places. For example, point-of-purchase advertising can create purchase reminders in a store, whereas media advertising can offer persuasive information or even create consumption reminders in the home. With the “Got Milk?” ad campaign, billboards were placed on homeward-bound commute lanes, radio ads were aired during drive-time, and shelf-takers were strategically placed in food aisles of the store all to remind consumers of the basic message of the TV ads that running out of milk was a pain.

Importantly, the creative content permitted by advertising can help to forge links to the desired purchase or consumption cues. Although sponsorship, product placement, and other forms of promotions are useful to facilitate brand recognition, brand recall requires explicit links to category or needs-based cues. Consequently, more elaborate types of communications as can be found in advertising are often needed to truly shape brand salience in the right way. For example, Campbell Soup’s recent reality-base ad campaign themed “Make It Soup Instead” featured Gordon Elliott, television host of “Door Knock Dinners” on the Food Network, intercepting consumers in their home, at work, and on the street and urging them to enjoy a delicious meal featuring soup rather than other meal and snack options. Strategically, the ad could be seen as an attempt to increase brand salience rather than brand image or attitude.

Brand Meaning

Brand salience is an important first step in building brand equity, but usually not sufficient. For most customers in most situations, other considerations, such as the meaning or image of the brand, also come into play. Although a myriad of different types of brand associations are possible, brand meaning broadly can be distinguished in terms of more functional, performance-related considerations versus more abstract, imagery-related considerations—with a set of specific dimensions within each.

Brand Performance

Brand performance relates to the ways in which the product or service attempts to meet customers’ more functional needs. Thus, brand performance refers to the intrinsic properties of the brand in terms of inherent product or service characteristics. How well does the brand rate on objective assessments of quality? To what extent does the brand satisfy utilitarian, aesthetic, and economic customer needs and wants in the product or service category? In a broad sense, product performance can be related to such dimensions as the primary characteristics and secondary features of a product or service, its reliability, durability, and serviceability, the effectiveness, efficiency and empathy of its service, its style and design, and so on.

The product itself is at the heart of brand equity, as it is the primary influence of what consumers experience with a brand, what they hear about a brand from others, and what the firm can tell customers about the brand in their communications. Designing and delivering a product that fully satisfies consumer needs and wants is a prerequisite for successful marketing, regardless of whether the product is a tangible good, service, organization, etc. To create brand loyalty and resonance, consumers’ experiences with the product must at least meet, if not actually surpass, their expectations. Numerous studies have shown that high-quality brands tend to perform better financially, e.g., yielding higher returns on investment.

Despite the fundamental importance of the actual product to brand performance, advertising can still play an important role. First, advertising helps to clarify the actual consumer benefits associated with product performance—i.e., how the product ingredients or features actually create added value for consumers. This translation is often critical to ensure the relevance of product or service features. Second, advertising can actually transform the product experience (Deighton, 1984; Hoch and Deighton, 1989; Hoch and Ha, 1986). Advertising can suggest hypotheses about product performance which consumers may tend to confirm: clothes may fit better, cars may drive more smoothly and service may seem friendlier as a result of well-designed ads communicating those benefits. Finally, advertising can transcend the actual product or service to link intangible brand associations, as discussed next.

Brand Imagery

The other main type of brand meaning involves brand imagery. Brand imagery deals with the extrinsic properties of the product or service, including the ways in which the brand attempts to meet customers’ more psychological or social needs (Holt, 2004; Levy, 1999; Zaltman, 2003). Brand imagery is how people think about a brand abstractly rather than what they think the brand actually does. Thus, imagery refers to more intangible aspects of the brand. All different kinds of intangibles can be linked to a brand, but four dimensions can be highlighted:

  • User profiles. The type of person or organization who actually uses the brand or a more aspirational, idealized user (e.g., VW’s iconic “Drivers Wanted” campaign reached out to young adults with a strong sense of activity and adventure).
  • Purchase and usage situations. Under what conditions or situations the brand could or should be bought and used (e.g., Corona has run an advertising campaign for years, dubbed by industry experts as “beach in a bottle,” that helps to associate the brand with relaxing, timeless beach vacations).
  • Personality and values. Personality traits and values similar to people (e.g., Levi’s is a brand that may be seen as rugged, whereas Chanel may be seen as sophisticated).
  • History, heritage, and experiences. Associations to the past and certain noteworthy events in the brand history—either distinct personal experiences and episodes or more public and broad-based and shared to a large degree across people (e.g., Coca-Cola’s strong heritage and persona literally made it impossible to change the product when they attempted to do so with New Coke).

Advertising can play an especially important role shaping imagery and helping to link intangible associations to the brand and its product performance. The types of users and situations depicted in advertising send important signals about brand imagery. The tone or mood of advertising helps to define the brand personality (Aaker, 1997; Aaker et al., 2001). Advertising can also provide information about the character and values of the company behind the brand which in turn can be linked to the brand itself (Schumann et al., 1991). Corporate image advertising often has the purpose of improving corporate credibility and reputation which has been shown to impact product evaluations (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Keller and Aaker, 1998).

To produce the most positive brand responses, the underpinning of intense and active brand loyalty, it is important that the brand has some strong, favourable, and unique brand associations that serve as points-of-differences, as well as some points-of-parity that negate competitors points-of-difference (Keller et al., 2002).

Brand Responses

Brand responses refer to how customers respond to the brand and all its marketing activity and other sources of information, i.e., what customers think or feel about the brand. Brand responses can be distinguished according to brand judgements and brand feelings, i.e., in terms of whether they arise more from the “head” or from the “heart.”

Brand Judgements

Brand judgements focus upon customers’ own personal opinions and evaluations with regard tothe brand. Brand judgements involve how customers put together all the different performance and imagery associations for the brand to form different kinds of opinions. Customers may make all types of judgements with respect to a brand (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001), but in terms of creating a strong brand, four dimensions of summary brand judgements are particularly important.

  • Brand quality. Perceptions of overall quality, value, satisfaction, and so on.
  • Brand credibility. The extent to which the brand as a whole is seen as credible in terms of three dimensions—perceived expertise, trustworthiness, and likeability.
  • Brand consideration. The likelihood that customers will actually include the brand in the set of possible options of brands they might buy or use.
  • Brand superiority. The extent to which customers view the brand as unique and better than other brands.

Advertising’s persuasive appeal can be especially important to elicit positive judgements and create a strong “call to action.” By providing engaging product demonstrations or compelling “problem-solution” executions, advertising can create favourable overall brand evaluations and perceptions of quality. As noted above, corporate image or family brand advertising campaigns can create credibility for the corporate brand. Comparative advertising can raise the likelihood of consideration and provide explicit evidence as to brand superiority. These types of advertising appeals can be communicated via direct response, interactive, or media advertising.

Brand Feelings

Brand feelings are customers’ emotional responses and reactions with respect to the brand. Brand feelings also relate to the social currency evoked by the brand. These feelings can be mild or intense and be positive or negative in nature. Six important types of brand-building feelings are (Kahle et al., 1988):

  • Warmth. Warmth refers to more soothing types of feelings—the extent to which the brand makes consumers feel a sense of calm or peacefulness, sentimental, warmhearted, or affectionate about the brand.
  • Fun. Feelings of fun are also upbeat types of feelings when the brand makes consumers feel amused, light-hearted, joyous, playful, cheerful, and so on.
  • Excitement. Excitement relates to more upbeat types of feelings—the extent to which the brand makes consumers feel energized and a feeling that they are experiencing something special.
  • Security. Security feelings occur when the brand produces a feeling of safety, comfort, and self-assurance.
  • Social approval. Social approval is when the brand results in consumers having positive feelings about the reactions of others—i.e., when consumers feel others look favourably on their appearance, behaviour, and so on.
  • Self-respect. Self-respect occurs when the brand makes consumers feel better about themselves, e.g., when consumers feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, or fulfillment.

The first three are more experiential and immediate, increasing in level of intensity. The latter three are more private and enduring, increasing in level of gravity. In either case, feelings are an area where advertising truly excels, an important consideration given the importance of emotional components to a brand.

Advertising can help to elicit both judgement and feelings responses and may be especially critical in linking feelings to the brand (Aaker et al., 1986; Edell and Moore, 1993; Stewart et al., 2007; Chapter 2.4). Creatively designed advertising can elicit strong emotional responses of all kinds. Brands like Hallmark and Kodak create warmth in their advertising, whereas others such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola create fun or even excitement. Advertising for insurance brands such as Allstate conveys a sense of security for their policy-holders, whereas advertising for fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger conveys social approval. Because of the multiple modalities involved of sight, sound, and motion, television advertising is an especially versatile means of evoking emotional responses from consumers.

Brand Relationships

Brand resonance refers to the nature of the relationship that customers have with the brand and the extent to which customers feel that they are “in synch” with it (Fournier, 1998, 2000; Fournier et al., 1998). Brand resonance is characterized in terms of intensity or the depth of the psychological bond that customers have with the brand as well as the level of activity engendered by this loyalty (e.g., repeat purchase rates, the extent to which customers seek out brand information, events, other loyal customers, andsoon). Specifically, brand resonance can be broken down into four dimensions:

  • Behavioural loyalty. How often do customers purchase a brand and how much do they purchase?
  • Attitudinal attachment. Do customers state that they “love” the brand, describe it as one of their favourite possessions, or view it as a “little pleasure” that they look forward to.
  • Sense of community. Do customers feel a kinship or affiliation with other people associated with the brand—fellow brand users or customers or employees or representatives of the company?
  • Active engagement. Are customers willing to invest time, energy, money, or other resources into the brand beyond those expended during purchase or consumption of the brand?

Brand relationships can be usefully characterized in terms of two factors—intensity and activity. Intensity refers to how strong are the attitudinal attachment and sense of community. In other words, how deeply felt is the loyalty? Activity refers to how frequently the consumer buys and uses the brand, as well as engages in other activities not related to purchase and consumption. In other words, in how many different ways does brand loyalty manifest itself in day-to-day consumer behaviour?

The flexibility of advertising can help to promote resonance in several different ways. Advertising can reinforce the attachment a consumer feels toward a brand. When combined with other forms of communication, advertising can also help to form a sense of community and encourage active engagement. Interactive advertising can be especially helpful in facilitating active engagement. A well-designed website can also foster a strong sense of community by linking brand users to each other.

Different Advertising Roles

The basic premise of the customer-based brand equity model is that the true measure of the strength of a brand depends on how consumers think, feel, act, etc. with respect to that brand. Achieving brand resonance requires eliciting the proper cognitive appraisals and emotional reactions to the brand from customers. That, in turn, necessitates establishing brand identity and creating brand meaning in terms of brand performance and brand imagery associations.

A brand with the right identity and meaning can result in a customer believing that the brand is relevant and “my kind of product or service.” The strongest brands will be those brands for which consumers become so attached and passionate that they, in effect, become evangelists or missionaries and attempt to share their beliefs and “spread the word” about the brand.

Clearly, different target market segments will have different patterns of effects with respect to the six building blocks. It may be difficult with certain segments to achieve sufficiently favourable brand images and positive brand responses to build a large degree of resonance. Different constituents will be even more likely to exhibit different building-block patterns, as brand equity will often differ for channel intermediaries, employees, investors, and so on as compared to consumers.

Regardless of the particular segment or constituency involved, advertising plays a critical role each step of the way, although different forms of advertising will have different degrees of success accomplishing different objectives. Traditional broadcast and print media advertising will be especially useful in the lower two levels of the pyramid, i.e., brand identity and image, by creating brand salience, performance, and imagery. More interactive advertising may be especially advantageous at high levels of the pyramid to help build relationships.

Yet, at the same time, any one form of advertising can have multiple effects on brand equity and the components of the customer-based brand equity model. For example, an advertisement linking a brand with a cause (e.g., Avon’s Breast Cancer Crusade) could have multiple effects on brand knowledge: It could build brand awareness via recall and recognition; enhance brand image in terms of attributes such as user imagery (e.g., kind and generous) and brand personality (e.g., sincere); evoke brand feelings (e.g., social approval and self-respect); establish brand attitudes (e.g., credibility judgements such as trustworthy and likeable); and create experiences (e.g., through a sense of community).

Finally, it should also be recognized that the role of advertising is sometimes more than brand-building-it is also designed togenerate trial, induce repeat purchases or increase sales volume or profitability in some other way. Some forms of advertising are especially well suited to offer direct financial benefits, e.g., direct response or internet advertising, but even media advertising when combined with other forms of communications (e.g., promotions) may be able to directly drive sales. Even inthese cases, however, itis still of interest to understand the longer-term impact on brand equity.

Strengthening Advertising Communication Effects

According to a customer-based brand-building perspective, for an advertising exposure of any kind to impact brand equity, it is important that consumer knowledge about the brand change in some way as a result. Brand links to communication effects—performance and imagery associations and judgement and feeling responses—are thus critical to maximize the effects of advertising. Advertising must therefore be carefully designed to maximize the likelihood that the proper communication effects are created.

As noted above, in some cases, communication effects have an immediate impact. Point-of-purchase, interactive, or direct-response advertising often are designed to serve as a reminder of previous advertising or to communicate a simple message in the hopes of resulting in a purchase or the desired consumer brand response at that exact moment. With media advertising, however, exposure and purchase opportunities are typically two distinct points in time and location, often fairly far apart. It is thus important that consumers are able to evoke or access stored brand-related communication effects from past ad exposure in the store or wherever they could make a brand purchase.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, media advertising does not always create strong brand links to the communication effects it engenders, especially with television advertising (Keller, 1993, 1996). After reviewing the nature of the problem, several alternative strategies are proposed as solutions.

Factors Affecting Brand Association Strength

The strength of brand associations that result from exposure to advertising will depend on the quantity and quality of processing that occurs. The more deeply a consumer processes and responds to an ad and evokes brand-related information in the process, the more likely it will be that strong brand associations are created. The challenge in advertising therefore is to employ message, creative, media, and other strategies such that strong and favourable brand associations result.

Advertisers have a vast range of creative strategies and techniques at their disposal to improve consumer motivation and lead to greater involvement and enhanced ad processing on their part, e.g., through the use of fear, sex, music, and so on. It is crucial, however, that these “borrowed interest” tactics grab consumers’ attention for an ad in a way such that the resulting focus of attention and processing is directed in a manner that creates strong brand associations.

Unfortunately, such links are often difficult to create. In particular, TV ads often do not “brand” well. Specifically, weak brand links may exist in memory to the communication effects created by an ad for three main reasons:

  • Ad content and structure. In many cases, attention-getting creative strategies may divert processing from the brand itself. For example, advertising using a carefully selected celebrity may still not create the proper brand links in memory if the celebrity dominates the processing of the ad such that consumers fail to assimilate communication effects with brand knowledge. Moreover, when these attention-getting creative tactics are employed, the position and prominence of the brand in the ad are often downplayed, which may raise processing intensity but also result in attention directed away from the brand. Furthermore, limited brand exposure time in the ad allows little opportunity for elaboration of existing brand knowledge (Baker et al., 2004; Walker and Von Gonten, 1989).
  • Competitive clutter. Competing ads inaproduct category can create interference and consumer confusion as to which ad goes with which brand (Burke and Srull, 1988; Jewell and Unnava, 2003; Keller, 1987, 1991a, 1991b; Kent and Allen, 1994; Kumar and Krishnan, 2004).
  • Consumer involvement. In certain circumstances, consumers may not have any inherent interest in the product or service category or may lack knowledge of the specific brand (e.g., in the case of a low-share brand or a new market entry). The resulting decrease in consumer motivation and ability to process translates to weaker brand links. Similarly, a change in advertising strategy to target a new market segment or add a new attribute, benefit, or usage association to the brand image may also fail to produce strong brand links because consumers lack the ability to easily relate this new advertising information to existing brand knowledge (Keller et al., 1998).

Strategies to Create Stronger Brand Links

Thus, for a variety of reasons, consumers may fail to correctly identify advertising with the advertised brand or, even worse, incorrectly attribute advertising to a competing brand. In these cases, advertising may have worked in the sense that communication effects—associations to performance and imagery as well as cognitive and affective responses—were stored in memory. Yet, advertising may have failed in the sense that these communication effects were not accessible when critical brand-related decisions were made. As advertisers feel more and more pressure to break through ever-increasing commercial clutter and consumer indifference, they especially run the risk of creating disassociated communication effects inadequately linked to the brand.

Although ad repetition and well-designed media schedules can be employed to some extent to give consumers greater opportunities to link brands and ad effects (Vakratsas and Naik, 2007; Chapter 5.4; Danaher 2007; Chapter 5.2), such approaches can be effective, but expensive. Another tactic to achieve ad and point-of-purchase congruence and improve ad recall is to make the brand name and package information prominent in the ad. Unfortunately, less emphasisas a result can then be placed in the ad on supplying persuasive information and creating positive associations so that consumers have a reason why they should purchase the brand.

Three potentially more effective strategies to strengthen brand links that allow for creative freedom in ad execution are brand signatures, ad retrieval cues, and coordinated media, as follows.

Brand Signatures

Perhaps the easiest way to increase the strength of brand links to communication effects is to create a more powerful and compelling brand signature. The brand signature is the manner by which the brand (name, logo, slogan, etc.) is identified at the conclusion of a TV or radio ad or displayed within a print ad. An effective brand signature must creatively engage the consumer and cause him or her to pay more attention to the brand itself to ensure that communication effects are absorbed in the brand network of associations so that they can add value in subsequent consumer decision-making.

An effective brand signature often dynamically and stylistically provides a seamless connection to the ad as a whole. For example, the famous “Got Milk?” campaign often displayed that brand slogan in a manner fitting the ad (e.g., in flames for the “yuppie in hell” ad or in primary school print for the “school lunchroom bully” ad). As another example, the introductory Intel Inside ad campaign in the early 1990s always ended with a swirling image from which the Intel Inside logo dramatically appeared, in effect stamping the end of the ad with Intel Inside in an “in your face” manner.

In some ways, the key issue is what kind of “punctuation mark” does an advertiser want to employ to sign off its advertising—a period or an exclamation mark? In the absence of such strong ad-induced brand links, however, other strategies may be necessary, as follows.

Ad Retrieval Cues

An effective tactic to improve consumer’s motivation and ability to retrieve communication effects when making a brand-related decision is to use advertising retrieval cues. An advertising retrieval cue is visual or verbal information uniquely identified with an ad that is evident when consumers are making a product or service decision (Garretson and Burton, 2005; Keller, 1987, 1991a, 1991b). The purpose is to maximize the probability that consumers who have seen or heard the cued ad will retrieve from long-term memory the communication effects that were stored from earlier processing of that ad.

Ad retrieval cues may consist of a key visual, a catchy slogan, or any unique advertising element that serves as an effective reminder to consumers. For example, in an attempt to remedy the problem they had with mistaken attributions, Quaker Oats placed a photograph of the “Mikey” character from the popular Life cereal ad on the front of the package. More recently, Eveready featured a picture of their pink bunny character on the packages for their Energizer batteries to reduce consumer confusion with Duracell.

Ad retrieval cues can be placed in the store (e.g., on the package or as part of a shelf talker or some other point-of-purchase device), combined with a promotion (e.g., with a free-standing insert (FSI) coupon), included as part of a Yellow Pages directory listing, on a web page, or embedded in any marketing communication option where recall of communication effects can be advantageous to marketers. An ad retrieval cue is most effective when many communication effects are stored in memory but are only weakly associated to the brand because of one or more of the various factors noted above.

Coordinated Media

Print and radio reinforcement of TV ads (in which the video and audio components of a TV ad serve as the basis for the respective type of ads) can be an effective means to leverage existing communication effects from TV ad exposure and more strongly link them to the brand (Edell and Keller, 1989, 1999; Naik and Raman, 2003).

For example, a likeable, attention-getting TV ad can be combined with a print ad featuring a key visual from the TV ad as well as including additional product or service information to further elaborate on the relevant brand claims or promise. Such a strategy would capitalize on the unique strengths of each media to compensate for the respective weaknesses of the other media: the limited amount of information that can be conveyed in a TV ad can be overcome by an explicitly linked print ad that has detailed supporting information; and the limited attention-getting properties of a print ad can be overcome by an explicitly linked TV ad that is favourably evaluated and therefore interest-arousing. The self-paced nature of print ad processing would allow consumers the opportunity to consider the ad and brand in more detail, increasing the likelihood that overall evaluations are formed and strengthening the association of the brand with whatever communication effects are created.

Moreover, note that a potentially useful, although rarely employed, media strategy is to run explicitly linked print or radio ads prior to the accompanying TV ad. The print and radio ads in this case function as teasers and increase consumer motivation to process the more complete TV ad consisting of both audio and video components. Coordinated print and radio teasers and television ads may be another means to create strong brand name links and associations and brand equity.

Finally, as another strategy, different combinations of TV ad excerpts within a campaign (e.g., 15-second spots consisting of highlights from longer 30- or 60-second spots for those campaigns characterized by only one dominant ad, or umbrella ads consisting of highlights from a pool of ads for those campaigns consisting of multiple ad executions) and across campaigns over time (e.g., including key elements from past ad campaigns that are strongly identified with the brand as part of the current ad campaign) also can be helpful for strengthening dormant associations and facilitating the formation of consumer evaluations of and reactions to the ads and their linkage to the brand.


The goal of this chapter was to provide an overview of the various ways by which different types of advertising impact brand equity as well as to suggest strategies to overcome a pervasive advertising problem—weak links or associations in memory from the brand to the communication effects created by advertising for the brand. A key contention of the chapter is that many different forms of advertising exist that can play many different brand-building roles. The customer-based brand equity model and the concept of brand resonance was put forth as a means to help interpret and focus advertising efforts. Given the large number of factors that conspire to produce weak brand name links to communication effects, especially for television advertising, it is also important to consider different strategies to build stronger communication-infused brand knowledge structures. Brand signatures, ad retrieval cues, and coordinated media were suggested as three possible strategies to overcome that deficiency.

Several broad implications emerged from the above discussion. First, all possible types of marketing communications—different forms of advertising and other non-advertising options—can be evaluated in terms of their ability to affect brand equity. In particular, the customer-based brand equity model provides a common denominator by which the effects of different marketing communications can be evaluated: Each communication can be judged in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency by which it affects the brand building blocks—brand salience, performance, imagery, judgements, feelings, and resonance.

Along those lines, Figure 1.4.2 can be used as a blueprint to help interpret communication effects. Any advertising could be assessed subjectively through expert opinion as well as empirically through marketplace measurement. Using the customer-based brand equity model can also be helpful as a “big picture” device to assess how well communication programmes are integrated as a whole.

Understanding the broad range of effects engendered by communications helps to explain why prior advertising research may seem to reveal relatively weak or fragile effects. Unless these measures capture the range of proposed potential outcomes, certain effects could be overlooked. In fact, an empirical test of the communication insights proposed above would involve collecting a broad range of measures tapping into all aspects of the building blocks and relating them back to communication activity.

Another important insight that emerges from the above discussion is that advertising often must be explicitly linked (i.e., cued) to allow for the necessary interactions to create a positive brand image and brand equity. Specifically, the key assertion of the chapter is that marketers often should integrate marketing communications by literally taking visual or verbal information from one communication and using it in different ways in another communication. The rationale is that this information can cue or serve as a reminder to related information. By enhancing consumer motivation, ability, and opportunity to process and retrieve brand-related information, these cues can facilitate the formation of strong, favourable, and unique brand associations. Explicitly integrating media in this manner also increases the likelihood that brand knowledge is used in consumer product and service decisions. In these ways, explicitly integrated media can contribute to brand equity.

It should be recognized that the approach espoused here and the basic spirit of this chapter assumes a very linear view of brand-building. Although in most cases such sequences are the conventional route for brand-building, it may also be the case that consumers sometimes will not follow such obvious patterns (Ray et al., 1973). Along those same lines, it should also be noted that this reasoning and model development is designed to capture more conscious consumer processing effects. Certainly there are examples of non-conscious consumer processing and learning that can result from advertising (Janiszewiski, 1990, 1993).

In closing, the basic message of this chapter is simple: marketers need to strategically evaluate advertising to determine how it can contribute to brand equity. To do so, advertisers need some theoretical and managerial guidelines by which they can determine the effectiveness and efficiency of various communication options both singularly and in combination with other communication options. Chapter 1.3 (Prasad A. Naik, 2007) of this Handbook provides some additional insight on this latter objective (see also Schultz et al. (1993) and Duncan and Moriarty (1997)).


  • Advertising has several functions. It can inform, persuade, and remind consumers about brands, and it can establish relationships and loyalty between the brand and the consumer.
  • High levels of brand equity are advantageous, increasing marketing communication effectiveness (both receptiveness to it, processing it, and acting on it). Improved customer perceptions lead to greater customer loyalty and reduce vulnerability to competitors and price changes. Therefore, brand equity is central to the way advertising works, either as a goal in itself, or as a mediator to other goals. Building strong brands should be a management priority.
  • The customer-based brand equity model introduced in this chapter suggests that brand equity is determined by the differential effect of brand knowledge (i.e., all the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images and experiences that become linked to the brand in the minds of the consumer) on that consumer’s response to marketing for the brand. Consumer knowledge about the brand changes as a result of exposure to advertising for that brand.
  • There are four steps in building a strong brand—identity, meaning, response, and relationship—with each step only achieved once the one’s preceding tare fulfilled. Advertising plays critical role in each of these steps.
  • Brand identity relates to building brand salience and awareness—both depth and breadth—and is seen when customers can recall and recognize the brand, link the brand to certain associations in memory and/or understand what needs it fulfils.
  • Brand meaning can be distinguished in terms of functional, performance-related considerations (e.g., quality) or more abstract, imagery-related considerations (e.g., brand personality, user profiles).
  • Brand responses refer to how customers respond to the brand and its marketing activities and can be distinguished according to brand judgements (to do with quality, credibility, consideration, superiority) and brand feelings (e.g., warmth, fun, security, social approval).
  • The most important building block is brand resonance, which is characterized by high degrees of loyalty, attachment, engagement, community, and affinity between the customer and the brand—in other words, brand relationships. Advertising should aim to reinforce all these aspects by eliciting in customers the proper cognitive appraisals and emotional reactions to the brand.
  • Strategies to create stronger brand links include ad repetition, well-designed media schedules, brand signatures, ad retrieval cues, and media co-ordination.