If you want to know your brand’s full potential, you also need to know which associations with a brand actually make people want to buy it – and to pay more for it. It is not enough that the brand is known and well liked in general (but of course, a good starting point). Still, some brands can be popular for the wrong reasons. They can be well-known and liked by many but yet too few want to buy.
Two researchers at Lund University in Sweden (Bondesson and Anselmsson) have developed unique and very useful analysis tools to find out exactly which brand associations that drive sales and can justify a higher, premium price.
The most revenue driving brand associations in B2C (business to consumers) compile the results of 20 different measurements that cover the range from pure product of pure service companies and approximately 100 different brands including Nike, Felix, Viasat, FM Mattsson, IKEA, Leisure Travel, Red Bull, Tele2, Trygg Hansa, McDonalds and Apple..
The five most revenue driving brand associations are:
- Quality feeling
- The product meets basic needs
It is these brand associations that strongly drive both the willingness to buy and the willingness to pay more. Brand associations like “environmentally friendly” (14), “wide range” (15) and “design” (8) are less important when choosing a brand than what the status of the brand is perceived to represent.
The “quality feeling” almost always ends up in the top half of the most revenue-generating associations. “Quality Feeling” seems to be the “lowest common denominator” for the strong brands that consumers would prefer to buy and pay more for.
The quality feel or the experience of quality is critical if the choice is between a leader / strong brand and a smaller / weaker brand but not to the same extent if the choice is between leading / strong brands. The association can explain why you chose Felix instead of Euro Shopper but not why you chose Felix instead of Heinz.
The “quality feel” does not need to be a major brand association in all categories and contexts, it simply depends on how the category looks like and what role you want your brand to have. The association “reliability” has similar characteristics. It occurs very rarely that it is the strongest sales driving factor in the individual measurements, but very often as one of the 10 or 15 most important.
“Meets basic needs” means that the brand is thought to satisfy a kind of core-benefit category – the food is good, the TV operator has good channels, etc. and the brand is perceived to be good enough compared to the alternatives. It is not surprising that this association ends up high. In most cases, and especially in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), people simply have no time to sacrifice the amount of time and energy on optimizing each election. Instead, we try to avoid making bad choices or choices that make us look bad. “Meets basic needs” is the safe choice, because good enough is just that: Good enough.
The pursuit of making an unique, differentiated brand can often distract attention from actual delivery because they need a category. You risk creating an irrelevant niche and an unprofitable brand position. Your brand becomes that odd type that everyone knows but no one wants to hang out with.
Various trade associations make people want to buy (Driver volume premium) and to accept a higher price (Driver price premium). The three associations that have the strongest impact on premium volume (willingness to buy) are:
- Quality feeling
- Meets basic needs
The strongest influence on willlingness to pay price premium are
- Quality Feeling
The above investments are not surprising but a little further down the lists there is more interesting and clear price and volume associations. The “sense of community”, “uniqueness” and “well-liked advertising” are strong price drivers that get people to accept a higher price but actually affect very little on volume.The exact opposite applies to “Service / staff”, “simplicity” and “line width” are associations that make people want to buy but do not justify a higher price.
It is good to keep in mind that there are different brand associations that drive price and volume depending on if your main challenge is to win or defend market shares (volume premium) or to justify why your goods and / or services cost more than competitors (price premium) .
So even if there are one or two general patterns of brand associations that drive sales, you should not see them as absolute truths. Unique circumstances may apply in each industry and each market and you must find out what applies in your category and your brand. What drives sales in fast food can be quite unimportant for energy drinks.
It is possible with surgical precision link the people to think and feel about your brand (image) of what drives sales and warrant price (strength) – and this way contribute to the profitability of the company (value).
Do not forget – Your brand is NOT STRONG ENOUGH until it helps to sell more or to justify a higher price!