Although extensive academic research (Czellar, 2004; Nandan, 2004; Keller&Hoeffer, 2003; Aaker, 2004; Kaputa, 2006; Griffen, 2002) has explored consumer perceptions, little research has assessed the impact of brand identity strategies on consumer perceptions, which was the purpose of this dissertation. Kotler and Keller (2006:275) assert the importance of understanding how the brand is perceived by consumers and what impact a brand identity strategy has on consumer perceptions. These perceptions can be described as a brand image which refers to a brand’s subjective or perceived attributes in relation to other brands. This perceived image of the brand does not belong to the product but is the property of the consumer’s mental perceptions and in some instances can differ widely from a brand’s true physical characteristics. By determining the consumer perceptions of a brand, this dissertation investigated the impact of a brand identity strategy on consumer perceptions. The research problem then exists in the possibility of differences between the perceptions of the brand, namely the brand image (reality) and the desired identity that the company sets out to establish. The literature review demonstrated that it is not only the brand identity strategy (which the organisation creates), but also the consumer’s perceived image of the product (the state of the consumer’s mental perceptions), that has impact on the way the brand is perceived. The closer the perceived image of the brand is to the organisation’s aspired brand identity, the less the differences and more successful the brand identity strategy. These differences constituted the research problem. The primary research objective was to determine the impact of the brand identity strategy of a consumer product on consumer perceptions. The following secondary research objectives were identified: • to determine what desired perceptions the company wanted to establish with its current brand identity strategy, • to assess whether differences existed between the brand image, (the perceptions in the minds of the consumers), and the brand identity strategy (the way the brand managers want the consumers to think and feel about the brand). Taking the purpose of the study and the objectives into account, a qualitative research was conducted, which was exploratory in nature. Text data analysis was the method used to analyse the content and context of the data collected by means of an open-ended questionnaire. The data was collected in two phases. In the initial part of the study, focus groups were conducted among members of the target market to gain an initial understanding of consumer perceptions of the brand. The focus groups assisted the author in developing questions that were used in the open-ended questionnaire in the second phase. In this way, relevant and meaningful data was retrieved ensuring that the research objectives were met. A comparison study was conducted by means of the focus groups to assess whether the responses were of similar nature compared with the responses derived from the questionnaire. It was concluded that a brand identity strategy facilitates the shaping of a mental image by consumers and thereby leveraging it to gain a competitive advantage. According to Dempsey (2004:32), it begins with understanding what the brand means to the consumers (brand image) and what the brand sets out to convey (brand identity) to the consumer. Many organisations know how they want to be viewed and what mental space they want to capture, but find it challenging to maintain a consistent brand identity at all brand contact points. The differences between the brand identity strategy and the consumer perceptions clearly revealed a significant impact of the brand identity strategy on consumer perceptions. Therefore, it can be concluded that the brand identity strategy impacts on consumer perceptions for the specific brand in the study with some brand identity elements having a stronger influence on forming perception than others. Once there was an understanding of how the brand is perceived by target consumers and how the brand is planned to be perceived in the future, the author identified the possible differences that needed to be bridged between the two and offered recommendations and key shifts required to move from the current perceptions to the ideal brand identity.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2008.