A brand is strong when it condenses the peak performances of a company and makes them tangible over a long period of time, and credibly presents its uniqueness at all brand touchpoints.
Strong brands have clear brand core values, an unequivocal positioning, and a long-term brand strategy. Consistent brand management with the help of brand rules ensures that the brand strategy is consistently applied in operative business. This helps to prevent a brand from overstepping its credibility limits.
A brand strategy always has a content component and a style component that both have to be implemented so that the brand can always be clearly recognized by its brand messages and its brand style. In short: Strong brands give consumers a clear image of the brand and what it stands for.
Strong brands are therefore desirable and highly attractive. This has diverse positive effects on corporate success:
The customer’s price sensitivity is substantially lower, so the brand strength is reflected in profitability and profit margin.
They attract the right employees and ensure that the company has an excellent position in the crucial fight for the best talent.
They are beacons for all relevant decisions. In ever more complex market environments, they provide logical orientation.
A strong brand always has an impact internally as well as externally. It is not only the foundation for success in marketing and communication – rather, it is often a powerful and enthusiastic leadership and management instrument, which provides a clear action framework with defined brand limits, both internally and externally.
Read also: Who needs a brand culture?
A brand is weak when it cannot communicate its values – or when it is incapable of asserting a price premium for the added value it offers.
Why does this happen? Weak brands usually have a low profile, are insecure, and unclear in their communication. At their brand touchpoints they do not deliver a clear brand promise. The result: Neither employees nor customers know what the brand stands for, so they don’t find it attractive.
Brand weakness is often a mark of those brands that consumers consider to be interchangeable. For many people, for example, butter brand x and butter brand y are interchangeable; the same goes for toothpaste or detergent brands. Airlines are interchangeable when travelers look for a cheap direct flight from A to B. The focus here is not on brands like Easyjet or Ryanair, but on the transport. So if a customer has no preference for an airline, its brand offers no discernible added value and can be called a weak brand.
Consistent and sustainable brand management can prevent a brand from deteriorating from a weak brand into brand damage.
When a brand does not consistently live up to its promises and its attractiveness suffers in consequence, we talk about brand damage. In the long run, brand damage leads to loss of brand loyalty and brand trust. In the worst case, the company loses market share and ultimately has to close.
Scandals or bad decisions – as long as they are short lived or only happen once – have little impact on brand attractiveness, because consumers usually forgive such missteps and the brand does not suffer damage.
Brand damage can be caused by external factors (such as sabotage or intentional misinformation) or internal factors. The latter is the case when the communication of brand values is not coherent or a company makes strategic mistakes.
You can relate with some examples of brand damage below.
Oceanic Bank: Scandals revolving around insiders’ abuse, absence of corporate governanceand embezzlement caused the bank substantial damage.
Abercrombie & Fitch: The desirability of the fashion brand developed in Europe because the clothing items were considered souvenirs from the United States. The label’s expansion by opening numerous outlets in larger European cities disabled this brand element, and desirability declined. The fact that the stores preferred to hire young and attractive employees caused considerable public indignation. The decision not to offer plus sizes also earned the company harsh criticism.
Air Berlin: The airline’s brand suffered a total loss. The attempt by management to make the vacation airline also appeal to business travelers and go toe-to-toe with competitors like Lufthansa was out of character. Lots of cancelled flights without compensation exacerbated the situation. The airline’s insolvency and the death of the brand were inevitable
A strong brand is always a support pillar for the company’s business success but if not properly managed, these pillars can be eroded and result in the fall of the brand. It behoves every stakeholder, especially brand managers, to ensure that their brand stays in its position of strength, at all times