The brand image is the complete impression that a consumer has of a product. This is important because a brand cannot be created unless it has an acceptable image. People have to like the brand, they have to be comfortable with it. The brand must create the right images and impressions when a consumer hears the brand’s name. If this doesn’t happen, the consumer will not purchase the product. Image involves the integration and the entirety of all the attributes and benefits of a product. Image involves the functional and mental connections that a consumer has with the product. It is important because brand image creates how a consumer “sees” the product. Image is a critical part of branding a product because if products are not seen in a good way, they will not be purchased. Brand image is a critical concept for the social media era.
Because there are so many products in the market place, it is image that sets a brand apart. A successful brand is created in social media when a friendship is created between the consumer and the product. The brand image is a major tool in creating that friendship.
A brand image has created an iconic brand in sneakers. This same image saved this iconic brand in bad times. In the Social Media era the best way to understand a brand is to understand that brands have human qualities. Few people live charmed lives. Most people have things happen in their life in which they are proud of. These same people have things happen to them in which they are embarrassed. Brands are the same way. An iconic brand in sneakers were created through its image. Image also saved this brand from destruction.
To understand how this happened, image must be understood. A brand is created through 4 tiers: image, identity, positioning, and differentiation. Image and identity are separate, but they are integrated and they impact one another. They are separate, but yet they are interchangeable. The best way to explain the concepts of image and identity is through a brand of sneakers that became an icon.
Image is passive and identity is proactive. Image is something that is interpretive. A consumer is given a group of images and the consumer formulates a definition of what that image is. Identity is aggressive. A brand decides what it is and communicates this to the market. These two concepts are critical in understanding how a brand of sneakers became an icon, and how that brand sustained itself when things unraveled.
In the 1960’s sneakers was an unimportant fashion staple. A good pair could be purchased for $5. A track coach devised a specialized shoe to assist runners. This specialization redefined the sneaker market. From this specialization on function, the brand evolved into a high style fashion shoe.
The sneaker created an image: the image was now “cool” shoes. To be cool, you had to own a pair of these sneakers. The branding then developed extreme value for these sneakers. This company lost its way in the branding of their sneakers. You now had to pay for cool. The sneakers now were sold for over $200. This meant that only a certain young person could afford them. It also meant that a certain young person couldn’t afford them. Both groups of kids wanted to be cool.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, kids started killing each other for sneakers. The image of the brand was misinterpreted. The company never intended for kids to kill each other for their cool sneakers. The company had a dilemma. They had to retain their cool image, but their brand would cease to exist unless kids stopped killing one another.
The brand used two methods to save their brand. They used their identity and they used their spokesman, who was an iconic basketball player. The company was started by a college professor. This professor designed a special running shoe to do one thing—to help people. This was the identity of the company—to help people. In healthy personality, an identity is created when a person defines just who they are. The company defined themselves as good people doing good things. This was the company’s identity. To survive the crisis, they had to retain their cool image but also be seen as good people doing good things. This is somewhat of a contradiction in terms. How could they do this?
They did it through the use of their spokesman, a very articulate professional basketball player. This player was definition of cool. He was handsome, he was articulate, and he played on a basketball team that won 4 world championships in 5 years. He wore the shoes that created the championships. He was also a man from small town America, raised with strong family values. He was horrified that kids would kill each other for his shoes.
He started going to schools and addressing kids. He made commercials pleading with kids to stop killing for sneakers. This expanded the image. The image was now that cool has values and respect. The CEO demanded the designers of the sneakers to find cool designs at a price tag within the range of all kids. The brand was preserved through image and identity reacting and integrating with one another. Through the integration of image and identity, this brand has become one of the most iconic in American history.