Module Title: Stakeholder Brand Management
Understanding Consumer Identity—the Cornerstone of Brand Symbolic Meanings2
Understanding Consumer Identity Helps Brand Communication5
Critical Evaluation of Understanding Consumer Identity7
Belk (1988) has pointed out that the most basic and powerful fact in marketing is that we are what we have. This statement highlighted the importance of consumers’ identities and the relationship between their identities and their consume choices. In marketing practice, the role of consumer identity has never been underestimated. Many studies have proved that consumers’ identities have significant influence on their choices of brands and products. From this perspective, an understanding of consumer identity may help brand managers make wiser decisions and survive intense competition in market.
This essay is an attempt to explain that an understanding of consumer identity can help brand managers in at least two aspects, which are brands’ symbolic meanings and brand communication.
More specifically, the first section will argue that an understanding of consumer identity is the foundation for building the symbolic meanings of a brand. In the second section, the importance of understanding consumer identity when choosing appropriate means of brand communication will be explored. Nevertheless, the over emphasis of consumer identity may also bring some risks to brand management. These risks will be critically evaluated in the final section.
Understanding Consumer Identity—the Cornerstone of Brand Symbolic Meanings Brand managers are responsible for brand management, which is creating a lasting impression of brand and building emotional association between a company’s products and consumers (Hislop, 2001). In other words, brand managers’ work is contributing to building and managing brand. In brand building process, an understanding of consumer identity is the cornerstone for building the symbolic meaning of a brand.
One of the reasons that understanding of consumer identity is essential for building the symbolic meanings is that consumers often use brands as resources to construct and maintain their self-identities (Wattanasuwan, 2005). Therefore knowing consumers identity may enable brand managers to build and delivery the symbolic meanings that are attractive to its target consumers. A considerable literature suggests that consumer choose a certain brand not solely based on its utilities, but more about its symbolic meanings (Kleine, et al, 1995). That means the symbolic meanings of brand are of extreme importance to its market performance since consumers’ choices about brands can be influenced significantly by the symbolic meanings. Different brands may delivery different symbolic meanings to individuals and the society; Consumers choose brands that can fits their identities and express themselves. For instance, a person who stands for animal cruelty-free and vegetarian-friendly may choose cosmetics from The Body Shop, while someone who wants the sense of exclusive and superior may be willing to pay for luxury cosmetics brand like Crème de la Mer. A further example is Chanel’s perfume for women. This brand emphasizes the confidence and elegance of women and states that “This is a men’s world, but it will be nothing without women”. Therefore it attracts female consumers who identify themselves as elegant, confident and independent. From this point of view, a brand’s symbolic meaning should be able to fits its target consumers’ identities in order to persuade them of choosing this brand rather than other alternatives in market. Without the understanding of consumer identity, it would be difficult for brand managers to build attractive symbolic meanings.
Apart from assign appropriate symbolic meanings to brand, an understanding of consumer identity may...