Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position

Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position

by Brad VanAuken
Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position

Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position

by Brad VanAuken

Paperback(Second Edition)

    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Monday, October 9
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


Brand managers, marketers, and executives have long turned to the trusted principles in Brand Aid to troubleshoot their branding problems.

A catchy business name and a smart logo may get you a few clicks, but to create a sustaining image for your organization and build continual success will require the perfect branding statement. The essence of an organization begins with establishing its brand; therefore, it is essential to get it right.

With over 30 years of experience building world-class brands, branding expert Brad Vanauken covers topics ranging from research and positioning to brand equity management and architecture strategy. This invaluable guide has collected illuminating case studies, best practices, and the latest research to offer invaluable advice on every aspect of brand management, including:

  • The 6 most powerful sources of brand differentiation
  • 5 elements that trigger brand insistence
  • Turning brand strategy into advertising
  • Online branding
  • Social responsibility, sustainability, and storytelling
  • 60 nontraditional marketing techniques

An organization cannot afford to get their branding wrong. With the treasure trove of techniques, templates, and rules of thumb found in Brand Aid, it won’t!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400235506
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 08/17/2021
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,111,342
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Brad VanAuken is the president and founder of BrandForward, Inc., and former director of brand management and marketing for Hallmark Cards.

Read an Excerpt

brand aid

a quick reference guide to solving your branding problems and strengthening your market position

By Brad VanAuken


Copyright © 2015 Brad VanAuken
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8144-3474-1


a brand is a friend

BUSINESS LEADERS talk about the importance of maintaining strong brand equity, but is there consensus on what brand equity is? Some people say it's everything associated with the brand that adds to or subtracts from the value it provides to a product or service. Others emphasize the financial value of the brand asset. Still others stress the consumer loyalty or price premium generated by brand equity. Some even talk about the permission and flexibility a brand gives an organization to extend into new product and ser vice categories. While all of these opinions are very important parts of brand equity, I think the following story best illustrates what brand equity is.

Imagine you are having lunch with a longtime and very good friend. Several times throughout the lunch, she makes disparaging and sarcastic remarks that make you feel bad. You think to yourself, "This just isn't like her. She must be having a bad day." You meet with her again a week or two later, and again she acts ornery and negative. You think to yourself, "Something must be going on in her life that she's really struggling with. Maybe she is having difficulties with her job or her health or her marriage or her children." You may even ask her if everything is all right. She snaps back, "Of course it is."

Your interaction with her continues in this vein over the next couple of months. You continue to try to be supportive, but she's definitely getting on your nerves. After many meetings and much interaction, you finally decide that she's a changed person and someone with whom you prefer to spend less and less time. You may get to this point after a few months, or perhaps even after a year or more. She doesn't change, and eventually the relationship peters out.

Now consider for a moment that the person you first had lunch with is the same person as before, with one exception: She is a total stranger to you. You haven't met her previously and she is not your dear friend. I would guess that after enduring many caustic comments and being insulted a few times at that lunch, your first impression wouldn't be very positive. In fact, you'd probably be inclined not to get together with that person again. You'd probably walk away from that lunch thinking, "What a miserable person. I hope I don't run into her again."

In both of these scenarios it is the same person behaving the same way in the same situation. Yet in the first scenario, you are very quick to forgive the behavior. In fact, you feel a lot of concern toward her. In the second scenario, you can't wait for the lunch to be over and you hope never to see the person again.

In the first scenario, the person was a longtime good friend. She had a lot of equity with you. In the second scenario, she had no equity at all. You see, if people or brands have a lot of equity—that is, if you know, like, and trust them—you will "cut them a lot of slack" even if they repeatedly fail to meet your expectations. If a person, product, service, or organization has no equity with you, no emotional connection, and no trust, then you are much less inclined to forgive unmet expectations.

Brand equity creates a relationship and a strong bond that grows over time. It is often so strong that it compensates for performance flaws, whether an out-of-stock situation, poor customer service, a product that falls apart, inconvenient store hours, or a higher-than-average-price. In the end, you want to deliver good quality and good value, innovation, relevant differentiation, convenience, and accessibility with your brand. However, we must never forget that building brand equity is like building a close friendship. It requires a consistent relationship over time, trust, and an emotional connection.


understanding the language of branding

IT IS IMPORTANT to establish a common brand management vocabulary in your organization. Establishing this common vocabulary will ensure that people can communicate with fewer misunderstandings. More important, it will help communicate and reinforce key brand management principles.

I worked with organizations in which different managers used different terms to describe positioning the brand. Terms ranged from "essence" and "promise" to "position" and "unique value proposition." This caused great confusion. I worked with other organizations that struggled with the differences among master brand, family brand, parent brand, umbrella brand, corporate brand, brand, subbrand, endorsed brand, product brand, etc. The aim is to agree on one set of terms and to simplify the brand architecture.


The American Marketing Association describes a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition."

More important, a brand is the source of a promise to the consumer. It promises relevant differentiated benefits. Everything an organization does should be focused on enhancing delivery against its brand's promise.

Combining a few different definitions, a brand is the name and symbols that identify:

• The source of a relationship with the consumer

• The source of a promise to the consumer

• The unique source of products and services

• The single concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect (according to brand management experts Al Ries and Laura Ries, in their book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding)

• The sum total of each customer's experience with your organization

Finally, another way to think about brands is that they are personifications of organizations and their products and services. In this way, brands can hold certain values, have specific personalities, possess admirable qualities, stand for something, make promises, and create emotional connections with people.

Brand Equity

Brand equity is the commercial value of all associations and expectations (positive and negative) that people have of an organization and its products and services due to all experiences of, communications with, and perceptions of the brand over time. This value can be measured in several ways: as the economic value of the brand asset itself, as the price premium (to the end consumer or the trade) that the brand commands, as the long-term consumer loyalty the brand evokes, or as the market share gains it results in, among many others. From an economist's perspective, brand equity is the power of the brand to shift the consumer demand curve of a product or service (to achieve a price premium or a market share gain).

To use a metaphor, brand equity is like a pond. People may not know how long the pond has been around or when it first filled with water, but they know that it supports life, from ducks to deer. It also may provide recreation, irrigation, even human drinking water. Clearly it is a valuable resource. But many people take the pond for granted. It seems as if nothing can diminish its supply of water, yet we sometimes notice that it rises with the spring rains or lowers after a long drought or overuse for irrigation.

Similarly, brand equity is a reservoir of goodwill. Brand building activities consistently pursued over time will ensure that the reservoir remains full. Neglecting those activities or taking actions that might deplete those reserves will reduce the reservoir, imperceptibly at first, but soon all too noticeably until it is too late and all that is left is mud.

This illustrates a chronic difficulty in brand management. Brand equity is critically important to a company's success, yet because of its reservoir-like nature, it is often taken for granted, overly drawn upon, and not adequately replenished, especially in times of crisis or to meet short-term needs.


Brand image is the totality of perceptions resulting from all experience with and knowledge of the brand. It is how consumers perceive the brand.


Brand associations are anything consumers associate with the brand in their minds. As David Aaker, "guru" of brand management, points out, these associations could be organizational, product related, symbolic, or personified. If there is a strong brand connection with a specific retail outlet, the associations could also be based on the retail experience.

Other brand equity components not listed here but covered in detail in Chapters 8 and 18 include awareness, accessibility, value, relevant differentiation, emotional connection, preference, usage, loyalty, and vitality.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is the way the brand is perceived within a given competitive set in the consumer's mind. Ideally, it is a function of the brand's promise and how the brand compares with other choices with regard to quality, with innovation, perceived leadership, value, prestige, trust, safety, reliability, performance, convenience, concern for customers, social responsibility, and tech no logical superiority. Relevant differentiation is the most important aspect of brand positioning.

One could argue that brand essence, promise, archetype, and personality are all a part of the brand positioning. Given that, brand positioning is very similar to what I refer to as brand design in Chapter 3.

Brand positioning elements can be intentional and crafted by the marketer—for instance, as written in the brand positioning statement. The brand essence, promise, archetype, and personality can also exist "in the mind of the consumer." Ideally, what is in consumer's minds is congruent with the intended brand positioning. If not, hopefully the brand management team is actively managing the brand so that congruence will occur.


This is the heart and soul of a brand—a brand's fundamental nature or quality. Usually stated in two to three words, a brand's essence is the one constant across product categories and throughout the world. Some examples are:

Nike: Authentic Athletic Performance

Hallmark: Caring Shared

Disney: Fun Family Entertainment

Disney World: Magical Fun

Starbucks: Rewarding Everyday Moments

The Nature Conservancy: Saving Great Places

Typically, it is rare for an organization's brand essence and slogan to be the same. For instance, Nike's essence—Authentic Athletic Performance—was translated to the following two slogans: "Just do it!" and "I can." The Nature Conservancy's brand essence, however, also served as its previous slogans: "Saving the Last Great Places" and "Saving the Last Great Places on Earth." Its current slogan is "Protecting nature. Preserving life."

Kevin Keller, brand expert and author of the popular book Strategic Brand Management, has coined the term "brand mantra," which is very closely related to brand essence. The "mantra" concept reinforces the role of brand essence in internal communication. According to Keller:

[Brand mantra should] define the category of business for the brand and set brand boundaries. It should also clarify what is unique about the brand. It should be memorable. As a result it should be short, crisp, and vivid in meaning. Ideally, the brand mantra would also stake out ground that is personally meaningful and relevant to as many employees as possible.


This term has been used in a variety of ways; however, it is similar to the brand's essence. It is the core stuff of which the brand is made, including its core values, competencies, and passions.


To be successfully positioned in the marketplace, a brand must promise differentiated benefits that are relevant and compelling to the consumer. The benefits can be functional, experiential, emotional, or self-expressive. A brand promise is often stated as:

Only [brand name] delivers [benefit] in [product or service category].

Sometimes, with corporate brands, it is stated as:

[Brand name] is the (trusted/quality/innovative) leader in [benefit] in the [product or service category].

To be believable, brand promises require compelling proof points (and what advertising professionals call "reasons to believe") in support of the brand's promise. A brand promise must:

• Address important consumer needs

• Leverage your organization's strengths

• Give you a competitive advantage through differentiation

• Inspire, energize, and mobilize your people

• Drive every organizational decision, system, action, and process

• Manifest itself in your organization's products and services

As respected marketing consultant Kristin Zhivago once said:

The simple truth about branding—a brand is not an icon, a slogan, or a mission statement. It is a promise—a promise your company can keep. First you find out, using research, what promises your customers want companies like yours to make and keep, using the products, processes, and people in your company. Then you look at your competition and decide which promise would give you the best competitive advantage. This is the promise you make and keep in every marketing activity, every action, every corporate decision, every customer interaction. You promote it internally and externally. The promise drives budgets and stops arguments. If everyone in the company knows what the promise is, and knows that they will be rewarded or punished depending on the personal commitment to the promise, politics and personal turf issues start to disappear.

The brand promise should drive organizationally, mission, and strategy; communication; operations, systems, and logistics; products and services; and values and behaviors.


A brand's unique value proposition is what makes it unique and compelling to its target customers. In this way, a brand's unique value proposition is similar to its promise. One could say that unique value propositions are very important to brands and that brands should promise and deliver on those unique value propositions.


Brand personality refers to adjectives that describe the brand (such as fun, kind, sexy, safe, sincere, sophisticated, cheerful, old-fashioned, reliable, progressive, etc.). How consumers perceive a brand's personality is often discovered through qualitative research by asking people to describe the brand as if it were a person or an animal.


If the brand personality is composed of a set of adjectives that describe the brand as if it were a person, the brand archetype goes a level deeper to identify the primary quality or motivation that underlies the brand's view of the world and its behavior. In The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, Margaret Mark and Carol S. Peterson focus on twelve archetypes that drive the brand. In his book Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sachs provides examples of seven archetypes—the pioneer, the rebel, the magician, the jester, the captain, the defender, and the muse. We use twenty-seven different archetypes when we work with clients. Example archetypes include achiever, advocate, explorer, guide, healer, poet, sage, trickster, and wizard, among others.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is a combination of visual, auditory, and other sensory components that create recognition, represent the brand promise, provide differentiation, create communications synergy, and are proprietary. Some people define brand identity more broadly to include almost everything in a brand's design, including essence, promise, personality, and positioning. The more specific definition used in this book reflects the most common usage of the term, especially as used by firms focused on the creation of brand identity systems and standards.

Names and nomenclature, logotypes, symbols and other graphic devices, distinctive shapes and colors, brand voice and visual style, sounds, jingles and other mnemonic devices, typography, theme lines or slogans, and characters that are uniquely associated with a brand are all components of a brand's identity. Textures, scents, flavors, and other sensory elements also can be components of a brand's identity.


Brand portfolio is the mix of brands and subbrands owned by an organization. This portfolio should be actively managed to ensure effective, efficient brand management. For example, P&G, Unilever, and Kraft Foods Group all have a very large portfolios of brands; General Motors manages Buick, Cadillac, and other brands; Hallmark manages the Hallmark, Shoebox, and Crayola brands, among others; Darden restaurant group manages the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V's, and Yard House brands. Marriott brands include Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, JW Marriott, the Ritz-Carlton, and others.


Excerpted from brand aid by Brad VanAuken. Copyright © 2015 Brad VanAuken. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword VII

Preface XI

Acknowledgments XIX


1 A Brand Is a Friend 2

2 Understanding the Language of Branding 5

3 Brand Management Process: An Overview 15


4 Understanding the Consumer 22

5 Understanding the Competition 37

6 Brand Design 40

7 Brand Identity System and Standards 66


8 Driving the Consumer from Brand

Awareness to Brand Insistence 82

9 Brand Advertising 108

10 Nontraditional Marketing Approaches That Work 133

11 Online Brand Building 153

12 Developing a Brand Building Organization 169

13 Integrated Brand Marketing 183

14 Creating the Total Brand Experience 188


15 Brand Extension 200

16 Global Branding 211


17 Brand Research 222

18 Brand Equity Measurement 236


19 How Organization Age and Size

Affect Brand Management Issues 254

20 Legal Issues in Brand Management 258


21 Common Brand Problems 272

22 Keys to Success in Brand Building: A Summary 287

Appendix A: Brand Audits 293

Appendix B: Online Brand Management and Advertising Resources 301

Appendix C: References/Further Readings 306

Notes 317

Index 323

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews