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Book Review: 'Building Strong Brands' by David A. Aaker

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Brands have existed for centuries. But the power of a brand's value hasn’t been recognised or studied up until recently, in the relative context of marketing history. Renowned marketing professor David A. Aaker makes a compelling case for why brands aren't just brands, they are indeed a company’s most important strategic asset that when maximized can lead to strong and sustainable business growth. Aaker references giants like General Electric, Kodak, Healthy Choice, McDonald's, Saturn, helps marketers understand how these brands have been created and managed to deliver multi-million-dollar growth. David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brands is a guidebook for brand management, helping marketers discover the value of a brand as a strategic asset; as the company’s primary competitive advantage.

Aaker insists that brand managers have becoming too focused on brand attributes, and that they should consider emotional and expressive benefits that reveal the self. He goes so far as to suggest thinking of brands as brand-as-person, brand-as-organization, brand-as-symbol. Aaker help marketers understand how to activate the twin concepts of brand expression: brand identity — the brand image brand strategists want to create, and brand position — the part of the brand identity that’s actively communicated. Beyond that, Aaker pushes marketers to recognize that a brand belongs to a larger system of intertwined, overlapping brands set and sub brands. So managing a brand system, to create consistency, cohesiveness, clarity and synergy, combined with the adaptability and changing context and environments, is essential to leverage the best strategic value that brands can provide to its company’s success. Aaker calls for establishing some ten brand equity measures that help track a brand’s equity from all angles and contexts. David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brand is an essential business read because it shows how brands should be treated as the foundation for business strategy, navigating competition and sustainable growth aspirations. It’s a seminal book on brand management and strategy. 

David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brand introduces comprehensive frameworks that help marketers manage their brands. Ones that combine strategic and tactical components, based on decades of real-world cases and academic research, to give a solid foundation. These principles and best practices are revealed in ways that brand managers and marketers can readily adapt them in their brand building and marketing efforts.

Central to Aaker’s thinking is the concept of brand identity, a set of associations and attributes that help differentiate a brand in the consumers’ minds. This would mean that brand managers have to develop and craft distinctive brand identity that can help them stand out in the category, while resonating with consumer tastes, preferences and values.

Concepts like brand architectures, which help marketers think about and plot how brands work under and across a spectrum of context, with other brands, sub brands and mother brands, helps them manage a portfolio of brands within a company. David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brand reveals ways to manage a brand architecture, while appreciating brand management elements like brand hierarchies, brand coherence, brand essence, brand synergy, brand authenticity, brand differentiation, brand relevance, brand resonance and so on. This would also contain the role of understanding brand extensions, brand revitalization, in case of category expansion. Whether that is to tap on a trend, or spread the business to capitalize on growing opportunities and innovation. Aaker refers to a range of old and new brands, from Nike and Coca-Cola to Airbnb, Tesla, dissecting their strategies and brand management approaches to help marketers learn from the best-in-case examples.

David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brand reiterates the power of brands, while recognising the pitfalls most brand marketers fall prey to time and again. Aaker insists that marketing ought to go beyond simply promoting products, and towards creating sustainable brand equities, which deals with establishing a set of carefully chosen unique associations that imprint the brand in people’s minds. From logos to taglines, values to brand experiences. David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brand introduces the brand equity pyramid. It consists of band identity, which deals with logo, name, packaging. Brand meaning, which deals with the functional and emotional benefits a brand can be associated with. Brand relationships, which deals with the way a brand connects with people encompassing trust and preferences. Brand response, which deals with the way people respond to the brand encompassing perceived quality, expectations and perceptions. Brand resonance, which deals with the deep connection between the brand and the consumer. Each of these elements have to work in tandem to build a brand’s equity. In addition, Aaker puts forth the concept of brand assets - the elements that add to the brand equity pyramid. From brand names to trademarks, colors to design cues, all lead up to create a brand’s differentiation, and competitive advantage.

David A. Aaker’s Building Strong Brand is a seminal marketing book, giving marketers a solid foundation on brand management. It explores a variety of principles and frameworks that help build brands, from brand identity to brand differentiation, brand positioning to brand assets, it covers the ground with clarity and depth. The great outtake from this book is it not only lets marketers establish the skills needed to create and manage brands, it improves the value of the role of marketing, in creating brands as a company’s most important strategic asset, delivering competitive advantage and sustainable business growth. It's about how brand strategy feeds business strategy, and that alone makes this book an essential business read. It is a definitive guide for building brands, and businesses seeking to succeed consistently in a competitive world. Get your copy here:

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