Branding constitutes the cornerstone of modern marketing. Every product, big or small, features its own emblem and a brand name, which helps it stand out among the competitors in hopes of making itself known and memorable to the customers. Global brands become associated with quality, allowing the companies to increase sales and derive more profits by selling the name of the brand to the customer, playing on the subconscious and biased perceptions of quality.
At the same time, few companies realize the true meaning behind the brand. A brand, first and foremost, is a promise made to the customer, which sets up certain expectations for the brand owner and the products and services provided by them. A traveller booking a room at Hilton expects the quality of service the hotel chain is well-known for. A businessperson buying an Apple product wants to see the impeccable performance, innovation, and security associated with the brand. Identifying the promise that the company makes, thus, is critical for informing the branding strategy in the market. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the article titled “What Does Your Corporate Brand Stand For?” by Stephen A. Greyser and Mats Urde, which addresses the issues outlined above.
The article by Greyser and Urde (2019) starts by acknowledging the ability of companies to understand and promote product brands. At the same time, they draw an important distinction between product brands and corporate brand names. The former is a subcategory of the latter, as a corporate brand defines not only one product but the entirety of the company’s product line, including daughter companies attached to it. Greyser and Urde (2019) identify a corporate brand not only by its visual appearance (logo) but also by the sounds, voice, attitude, slogan, and flagship product.
The article then proposes a framework tool in order to discover the company’s corporate brand and what it stands for. It is called the Matrix framework, which covers the internal and external elements of the brand name, as well as those in between these two large groups, thus forming a complete and cohesive identity (Greyser & Urde, 2019). Internal elements are the organization’s vision and mission, whereas the external parameters are largely defined by the customers’ perceptions of the brand. In between them lies the brand’s core, which constitutes the promise made to customers (Greyser & Urde, 2019).
The matrix, thus, is comprised of 9 boxes, with brand promise located in the centre. The factors surrounding it are as follows (Greyser & Urde, 2019):
- External: Value proposition, relationships, position in the market;
- Internal: Vision and mission, culture, competencies;
- Internal/External: Expression, personality, and Brand Core.
When using the framework in order to evaluate a corporate brand, Greyser and Urde (2019) offer certain guidelines in order to maximize their efficiency. The primary qualities to look for during the evaluation are conciseness, straightforwardness, key characteristic concepts, authenticity, and timelessness. In order to present the method in its application, the article conducts an analysis of the Nobel Peace Prize as an example of a famous brand, showing that the framework can be used both in for-profit and non-profit endeavours (Greyser & Urde, 2019). The evidence of effectiveness in applying the Matrix is further developed by the examples of companies such as Cargotec, Bona, and Intrum, achieving the target goals of strengthening the brand’s name, supporting business development, and changing the corporate image (Greyser & Urde, 2019).
Corporate Branding in Relation to Key Concepts
The central piece of the Matrix framework covered by Greyser & Urde (2019) is the idea of a brand promise. It is critical to the corporate identity in the eyes of its customers. A promise constitutes the total proposition the company makes to whoever considers buying a product or a service (“ACT 2A,” 2019). It includes, but is not limited to, features and attributes, benefits, services, support, and values placed into the product (“ACT 2A,” 2019). It constitutes the set of facts and beliefs an average customer knows about the company and its products without conducting in-depth research.
The implications for marketing practitioners are clear: the importance of the promise is intrinsically connected to the concept of conscious and subconscious thinking, which revolves around the idea that the majority of peoples’ purchasing intents are governed by the subconscious (“ACT 2A,” 2019). Kahneman (2011) identifies subconscious thinking as a system that operates on autopilot, is fast, implicit, effortless, associative, and difficult to control and modify. It is also responsible for impulsive purchases in most individuals. The conscious thinking process, which is inherently critical, logic-based, and self-aware, constitutes only 10% of the overall thinking pattern. While Kahneman (2011) acknowledges the importance of both systems for different products, he connects the concept of promise with the first system, as a promise is something that does not have an inherent logical value and supposes a modicum of trust. Delivering on said promise, however, is what helps move the system in favour of a corporate brand.
Personal Reactions and Recommendations
When I read the article, I understood the principles behind the Matrix system in relation to both the idea of promises made to customers and its connection to the subconscious parts of the brain. Greyser and Urde (2019) correctly pinpoint that the overall corporate brand name is based on a great variety of factors beyond a product or service quality, emphasizing the way to cultivate a specific image in the customers’ minds, thus creating “knowledge” as a mix of truths made to cater to personal biases.
At the same time, I felt that the article was disconnected from reality. It offered examples of companies that are supposedly famous and important, but ones I have never heard of. At the same time, it did not showcase the sheer power of a corporate brand to generate profits out of itself alone. It does not explain how exactly would a stronger corporate name create revenue, with the benefits being vaguely implied by greater exposure and increases in market share. Without numbers, however, the theory does a poor job of representing itself. Based on these impressions, I propose several recommendations for the article to expand on:
- Showcase the effectiveness of an appropriate corporate brand strategy versus a poor one, utilizing companies that work in the same segment and provide similar products. For example, the difference between a Disneyland (a famous brand name) and Six Flags, both of which provide tourist attractions, is nearly 900%, despite services being relatively similar to one another (“ACT 2A,” 2019). The discrepancy between annual passport prices is derived through exposure and brand name alone.
- Establish the usefulness of the Matrix framework for smaller brand names. It is unclear whether the tool can be implemented in the scope of a smaller company, as the examples featured ventures with well-established brand names and a history of over 100 years of service.
- Focus on the “bad promises.” Contrast is necessary for the reader to identify the good from the bad. In order to support the legitimacy of the proposed framework, some examples must be dedicated to what happens if brand promises are neglected.
Following these recommendations would provide a more well-rounded view of corporate brand identity and the efficiency of the Matrix framework.
Greyser, S. A., & Urde, M. (2019). What does your corporate brand stand for? Harvard Business Review. Web.
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
ACT 2A-General branding slides. (2019). Web.