A Comprehensive Guide to Brand Association (With Strategies)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Various brands have different meanings for different people, but in some instances, a brand may have characteristics that make them clear to their customers. Most customers remember brands by recalling the unique characteristics that make them recognizable, such as celebrity ambassadors, images, experiences, and media influencers. Understanding brand association and the strategies to make people remember a brand can help you design an effective marketing strategy. In this article, we explore this concept, outline its types, discuss its importance, highlight strategies to build relationships, and provide helpful examples to guide you.

What is brand association?

Brand association refers to the mental connection customers make between brands and concepts. It can mean the images or symbols that come to mind when you think of a brand or the benefits people get from patronizing a company. People may also associate brands with commercial characters, athletes, adult beverages, celebrities, and other popular entities. In some cases, big brands may create subcategories that people associate with them. For instance, a car manufacturer can have other unique brand offerings associated with it.

Essentially, a company attempts to build relationships with customers by ensuring that they relate the brand to a positive concept. These associations help create awareness of the brand's quality while building equity and value. Usually, a company can improve sales and remain unique from other competitors with a positive association.

Related: What Is Employer Branding? (Plus How to Build a Brand)

Types of brand association

The different types of the brand association include:

Association based on attributes

Association based on attributes refers to a descriptive feature of a product or service, which is one of its characteristics. This distinctive characteristic sets it apart from competitors and is the key part of most marketing and advertising campaigns. This feature enhances brand recall and helps others relate to the product while also influencing purchasing decisions.

These attributes may be physical compositions or external features, such as packaging or price. For instance, people may associate a company with providing discounts to its customers. Companies may also use these unique features as their taglines to promote the product. For example, the tagline "it melts in your mouth, not in your hand" is a description that helps the customers associate this characteristic with the brand and creates a long-lasting association.

Association based on benefits

This kind of association depends on the benefits that customers associate with a brand or product. They may be functional benefits of a particular product or service or experimental benefits related to the customer's feelings after using it. The benefits may also be symbolic, such as a benefit that helps customers achieve social goals. Companies in the cosmetic industry rely on this kind of benefit. For example, companies don't necessarily focus on how their customers look, but on how they feel after using their products.

Brand association based on benefits may shift responsibility from companies to customers. While companies may attempt to influence customers' decisions with targeted campaigns and strategic placements, they can't control how they feel after using their products.

Association based on attitude

After conducting an overall evaluation, the customers determine the brand attitudes. This type of association is abstract and may depend on the product's attributes. You may also associate these attributes to a particular lifestyle, such as being environmentally conscious, fitness-oriented, or a celebrity in entertainment or sports. An example of association based on attitude is a fitness company that uses celebrity endorsements to create an association for their products in the customer's mind.

They may work with top professionals in the sports industry to ensure customers associate their products with good performance. As a result, the company projects an image that their customers have a higher chance of succeeding or being the best in sports by using their products.

Association based on interest

Many companies use interest as an association factor for their customers. It's a basic criterion that appeals to the customers' consciousness and intellect. The company uses its major goals to generate interest in customers' minds and position the brand accordingly. For example, the company may commit to environmental sustainability by connecting with others interested in protecting the environment.

Association by celebrity

Association by a celebrity is the most common type for promoting products. The company uses the celebrity's image to create demand and help sell the products. Companies take extra care when selecting a personality to represent their brand. For example, a beauty brand may select a young celebrity, while an anti-wrinkle product may select a relatively older celebrity. Similarly, a luxury wristwatch brand may select business tycoons as their brand ambassador.

Association by a celebrity may help improve sales and convert prospects to customers quickly. Conversely, it may make some customers who don't like the celebrity boycott the product, irrespective of its functions or quality. As a result, it's important companies carefully select celebrities as ambassadors while employing multiple personalities to increase brand appeal.

Related: Complete Guide on How to Become a Brand Ambassador

What is the importance of building brand association?

Building positive association for a brand is a vital factor for creating a brand identity, making it important for the following reasons:

  • Familiarity: When companies associate their brands with images, people, or phrases, it may help customers easily remember the brand and the value it offers. Also, it helps businesses release new products under the same name.

  • Positive image: Positive association helps create a good reputation for a company and its products and services. A good reputation may translate to better sales and increased brand loyalty.

  • Differentiation from competitors: Being creative with the images and visuals of the company's brand can help differentiate products from those of competitors. It may also help improve brand loyalty, as customers can easily recognize the brand.

  • Quality assurance: Positive association can help assure customers of the quality of the company's products and services. Assuring customers of quality products or services can help improve loyalty and sales.

Related: How to Establish a Personal Brand

Strategies to build positive brand association

Building positive associations for a brand is a continuous process because it constantly shapes customers' perspectives. Here are some strategies that help to build a positive association for a brand:

Have a cohesive branding strategy

Having a framework to guide the brand-building process is essential in making positive associations. It's advisable to have a strong identity highlighting the brand's vision, values, mission, voice, personality, and unique positioning. A clear identity tells the brand's story using its colours, logo, and slogan. The brand message is essential for communicating the brand's value and unique attributes. It's important for the brand to have a voice. You can create a brand voice by communicating with customers and making impressions. Communicating with customers can help a company know how the people feel about the brand and improve where necessary.

Read more: What Are Branding Strategies? (With Definition and Benefits)

Nurture customer interactions

Interaction with customers both physically and online is a big factor in a positive association for a brand. It's important to carefully consider interactions with customers through email, social media, phone conversations, website, or in-person meetings. These interactions influence how customers perceive a brand. It's advisable to have excellent customer service and implement relationship mechanisms to improve customer experience.

Build partnerships

Creating relationships with influencers and other brands is essential in maintaining a positive reputation for a brand. It's advisable for brands to carefully select who they partner with because customers may associate the person or company with the brand. Brands may consider building relationships with public figures, celebrities, or companies that share similar interests and values.

Customers may expect the brand to be vocal in political issues and social justice campaigns through its social media platforms. It's beneficial to have an active media team or collaborate with positive influencers. If the influencer makes comments or performs actions that aren't socially acceptable, companies may consider removing them from the campaigns. It's also essential for companies to be cautious when trying to maintain a positive association for the brand.

Be proactive

It's useful for brands to prepare proactively to address eventualities that may affect their identity and image. For example, they may create a crisis management structure leveraging social media platforms to establish communication with customers to help preserve the brand's integrity and maintain a positive reputation. Having a management framework ensures they identify issues early, address them quickly, and mitigate any negative effects to the relationship with business partners and customers.

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