An Overview of Brand Values and Associations (Part 3)

What are Brand Values?

As mentioned in previous article, brand values represent what the brand stands for, for example luxurious, innovative, reliable, safe or trustworthy.  These values help to make the brand distinct, in the marketplace and are often supported by logos, symbols, color schemes and even characters, to assist the consumer to recognize the brand.

Brands are often underpinned by core values, such as integrity, helpfulness, respect and responsibility that highlight their appeal to the consumer.

Whilst the brand values may be conceptualized and promoted by the brand owner, the consumer will decide whether they buy into them – the brand values and consumer perception must align for a successful outcome, so careful thought is required to ensure that the brand values are considered authentic.

The type of dilemma that a brand manager may face is illustrated by the potential cross over between sportswear and casual apparel – is their brand a sporting brand or a fashion brand?  It is probably okay to be a sporting brand that is considered fashionable, but can a fashion brand be sporting?

Would it have the authentic athletic performance to sustain the proposition?  For sure, consumers requiring strong athletic performance would judge the brand on delivery against the stated brand values and this could result in a poor reputation, if they were unsatisfied.

They may start to associate our Brand ‘X’ with inferior performance, which could damage the brand.

What are Associations?

Brand associations are connections made by consumers between a brand and one of more things, such as

  • A time
  • A place
  • An experience
  • Emotions
  • A perception of reliability
  • A perception of luxury
  • A perception of value for money

To provide a tangible example of how it works, I was eating in a diner in Rhode Island a couple of years ago and noticed that the ketchup bottle (from a famous brand) had a few words on the label talking about how their product had been a part of American family barbecues for many years – clearly looking to associate summer (a time), the backyard or garden (a place), an experience (family gathering) and emotions (happiness).   I thought it a well-constructed and targeted promotional piece.

It is often said that the consumer owns the brand equity (by believing it and buying into it) and if we accept this as the case, then the associations they make are an integral part of successful brands.

Of course, it is equally true that negative brand associations can very quickly degrade brand equity and reduce its value, so the image of the brand, claims about its performance and other aspects should be very carefully curated to ensure a positive outcome.


Brand values lead to the consumer associations that make or break a brand and must be safeguarded by authenticity in decision making – it takes years to build good associations and yet they can be destroyed in seconds.

The Oxford Management Centre portfolio of training courses covers, Strategic Brand Positioning and MarketingStrategic Brand ManagementStrategic Brand Development and Performance ManagementDeveloping Brand and Reputation through Strategic Engagement, that will provide participants with the fundamental understanding of how to manage brands strategically, as well as providing a useful set of tools and techniques to help you achieve their goals.

Oxford Management Centre
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