How does a Melbourne based custom apparel brand experiencing double jeopardy (Sharp 2014) build customer-based brand equity? This essay aims to apply Keller’s brand resonance model and criteria for choosing brand elements against the brand PrintLocker Custom T-Shirts and analyse the efficacy of current branding efforts to achieve resonance and identify potential for future brand building.
Critique of brand resonance model
The first stage of brand development, brand identity, recognizes brand salience; the depth and breadth of brand awareness (Keller 2001). PrintLocker’s inclusion of “Custom T-shirts” in the company name creates brand knowledge and ease of category identification. This identity element however is a category POP shared with many brands within the product category (Keller 2001), therefore making Print Locker not top-of-mind at the salience level of the CBBE model, a common issue for SMEs that tend to focus on short-term business strategies that can neglect long-term branding goals (Odoom et al. 2017).
The second stage of brand development, brand meaning, explores performance and imagery associations (Keller 2001). PrintLocker’s imagery associations are favourable and unique through their emphasis on eco-friendly, sustainable, corporate responsibility and support of fundraising campaigns that position a POD in the product category. Furthermore, the brand’s primary characteristics associate experiential benefits to consumers through delivery options, flexible apparel design services across a high quality, ethically sourced product range, and “focused customer service”. These attributes reinforce positive brand performance associations and secondary features of social approval attributed to team apparel (Keller 2001). The brand’s user/usage image associations are teams, friend groups, and families as featured on PrintLocker’s social media to reinforce those associations. Furthermore, the usage situations are associated with events or occasions, a niche market that may never allow exceptional brand growth. (Keller 2001).
The third stage of brand development, brand responses, investigates if consumer judgements and feelings are positive (Keller 2001). The overwhelmingly positive feedback of 4.9 stars from 136 Google reviews and across social media indicate positive brand judgements that are essential in maintaining brand consideration and parity with larger brands within the product category. Social media engagement is low, likely a symptom of double jeopardy, but Instagram posts depicting consumers wearing PrintLocker products in specific usage situations and overall social media engagement suggests consumer emotional responses of warmth, fun, social approval, and social currency evoked among consumers using the free store and fundraiser function (Keller, Swaminathan 2019).
The fourth stage of brand development explores brand resonance, the nature of the relationship between consumer and brand and to what extent the consumer feel in sync with the brand (Keller 2001). The evidence suggests PrintLocker has not reached resonance. The intensity of PrintLocker’s sense of community is limited, as is the community itself, but the positive and active engagement on social media and google reviews by consumers evangelising potential product usage situations indicates positive brand responses to the brand meaning reinforced by PrintLocker’s brand image associations (Keller 2001). This furthermore indicates attitudinal attachment that holds potential for building a stronger sense of community and behavioural loyalty, regardless of limited purchase frequency, within PrintLocker’s limited market share.
The six criteria for choosing brand elements
Brand elements are trademarkable devices that serve to identify and differentiate the brand and should enhance brand awareness, build strong, favourable, and unique associations; or elicit positive brand judgments and feelings. (Keller & Swaminathan 2019).
PrintLocker’s logo and brand name are not exceptionally distinctive from competitors within the product category. These elements fail to go beyond surface concepts and create memorable associations that are easily recognised and recalled (Vandergalien 2019).
The brand messaging featured on PrintLocker’s website, “getting the look for your team or group is easy” effectively imparts meaningfulness through descriptive and persuasive information (Keller 2001) that consistently reiterates the same ideas to build associations (Hall 2020). Furthermore, the website features accreditation bodies of quality and corporate responsibility that leverage third party secondary associations of credibility (Keller, Swaminathan 2019), just as PrintLocker uses fundraising facilitation as a brand energizer to attach excitement to the brand; these choices of brand elements also position PrintLocker as “being a player in world’s social issues” (Aaker 2010). This is an advantageous unique association that provides a POD for a brand in a position of double jeopardy.
The name and logo of PrintLocker are aesthetically pleasing, and social media engagement indicates perceived likability (Keller 2001). The URL features verbally rich imagery that builds strong product and service focused associations, the secondary brand associations from product usage situations previously mentioned are mostly focused in social media and build favourable associations, but not necessarily unique from competitors key ideas and values (Vandergalien 2019).
The mix and match of the brand name and URL has geographic transferability and a clear path across product categories to engage new customers (Ad Age Collective Expert Panel 2020). The issue may arise in SEO when searching for search terms to the effect of “custom T-shirts” and suggests a brand building challenge to develop brand knowledge of the offered product range.
PrintLocker’s brand elements possess adaptability by nature of the products and services offered. The store is online and flexible, facilitating consumer designed face masks, leveraging environmental factors while keeping the meaning simple enough to form consistent and seamless associations in time poor consumers (D’Lacey 2014).
However, the issue arises in protectability, the brand name is not unique to the product category (Keller 2001). The search term “custom T-shirts” pulls ups results of multiple brands with that element. The small size of the brand suggests insufficient resources to protect brand elements legally.
PrintLocker has not yet reached brand resonance, but it is possible to develop strong relationships within the brand’s limited market. However, PrintLocker’s choice of brand identity elements suggest positioning to offset inherent salience issues. PrintLocker’s brand element mix has positioned performance and imagery associations and establishing a POD through corporate responsibility and quality that has elicited positive, accessible brand responses in google reviews and social media engagement; therefore confirming active engagement and attitudinal attachment among consumers that holds potential to build a strong sense of community and reap the benefits of true brand resonance.
All images used in the presentation are the property of the copyright holder PrintLocker and were used for academic purposes only under fair dealing. The images have not been modified.
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