Evaluate the relative brand positioning

I) Introduction

This assignment is to evaluate the comparative brand positioning, image, and effectiveness of Toyota, Nissan and Standard Motor. These three companies were chosen because their brands are well known and are easily recognizable to most people. More over, all three companies contend in the same market segment - -i. e. the mainstream motor vehicle market - - and essentially aim for the same goal group - - the mainstream automotive clients in each country where they contend. This enables for meaningful assessment and evaluation of the relative brand positioning/image/effectiveness.

Since Toyota is the clear success among the list of three brands, we will target our work on Toyota to see what they does differently to make them outperform their competitors in conditions of brand positioning, brand image and brand performance.

Academic ideas and research findings from recognized academic papers and options will be used as the various tools for the evaluation.

The paper will end with advice of future way for improvement for the three brands.

II) Brand Position or Brand Positioning

"Brand positioning reaches the heart and soul of marketing strategy. It's the "act of creating the company's offer and image such that it occupies a definite and value place in the prospective customer's brains. " As the name means, positioning means finding the proper "location" in the brains of group of consumers or market section, in order that they think about a service or product in the "right" or desired way to increase potential profit to the firm. Good brand setting helps to guide online marketing strategy by clarifying what a brand is all about, how it is exclusive and how it is different to competitive brands, and just why consumers should purchase and use it. " (Keller) web page 98

As Keller talked about, the objective of brand placement is to secure a distinct and value place for the merchandise in the consumers' brain so that they think of the brand in a desirable way and the reason behind choosing the brand when they make a purchase decision,

We begins the evaluation with the very fundamental of branding, which is the brand name itself. Brand names are proxies of product information (Kohli & Suri, 2000/Brand Titles That Work: a report of the effectiveness of different kinds of brand names, Marketing Management Journal, Semester/Winter 2000). Brands include 5 different types; namely, generic (e. g. Aspirin), descriptive (e. g. Kleen 'N Fresh), suggestive (e. g. American Air travel), arbitrary (e. g. Red Bull energy drink), and coined name (e. g. Kodak). Matching to Kohli & Suri paper, descriptive and suggestive brands have certain significant meanings to consumers and could help initial setting of the brands and could be easier to remember. Out of the three brands under analysis, only GM (Basic Motor) gets the interpretation related to the product category (motor vehicle), whereas both Toyota and Nissan are coined labels (i. e. invented brands without any interpretation). This simple truth is unsurprising as GM came up to the market first, so they had the good thing about choosing a brand name that is important to consumers and relevant to the merchandise category.

Next, we will discuss the analysis of brand setting. There are several tools for analyzing brand positioning; namely, multi-dimensional scaling, factor research, discriminant evaluation, multi-attribute compositional models etc. However, we use Product Feature Model by Carol F. Gwin and Carl R. Gwin (Product Feature Model: a tool for assessing brand positioning, Journal of MARKETING CONCEPT and Practice) as the tool for analysis, as we believe that it is appropriate for the automotive industry because consumers will generally compare the features (benefits) of different automotive brands prior to making the ultimate purchase decision. The idea of this model is the fact that under a budget limitation, consumers will choose a brandname based on maximizing utilities (or satisfaction) from the product attributes. Therefore, a brandname that can command word more identified positive product features that are critical to brand choice for the reason that product category, will probably to win in the market place. The question is then, what are the main element product features that affect brand choice of a car? Certainly, reliability, quality, value for money, fuel efficiency are the major ones. Then, out of the three brands (Toyota, Nissan and GM), who may have have scored highest in these features. The answer is very clear. Toyota has obtained high in the belief of consumers on each one of these attributes. This is the explanation why Toyota has been very successful in increasing market talk about worldwide.

Although GM logo with its signage declaring "The Symbol of Excellence", which is obviously the brand setting GM is trying to generate. However, consumers do not understand that way. They don't feel that GM cars are great than Toyota automobiles. Actually, they assume that Toyota automobiles are of top quality, more reliable and provide better value for money. This is the brand positioning issue of GM - - i. e. they have a positioning assertion that they cannot deliver (i. e. unable to convince people to believe that it).

Nissan brand positioning problem is that the brand stands for something different atlanta divorce attorneys market. Matching to Tag Perry, Nissan North American Director, Brand Management and Research, "the Nissan image was fuzzy because our brand stood for something different in every market. And, we were different over time. In the U. S. , we used to be always a sports-car company, then a sedan company, a pick up truck company. Our product characteristics and personalities weren't woven jointly into a coherent picture of what Nissan means"

(source: Lippincott Mercer: Magazines: Brand management in real world http://www. lippincottmercer. com/publications/s96_realworld. shtml)

In brief, Nissan has no real placement, except that it's another well-known Japanese motor vehicle brand.

According to Financial Times Information Limited (Financial Times Information Limited, Index Terms: Vehicle & Light Obligation Motor Vehicle, Record Quantity: A20060509-4657-EIW, 0, XML, EIW, copyright 2006), John Birnsteel, Consulting Director at Venture IG which includes worked with motor vehicle brands including Audi, commented about just how Toyota contacted the brand positioning when they launched Lexus this way ". . . . . . Toyota isn't simply a product brand. It is a corporate brand as well and it did a good job of market segmentation. The upmarket, performance Lexus brand avoids any negative association with a Japanese mid-market car"

On the other hands, he commented with some concern that "a homogenization of the US brands, including Ford and GM, leaves them available to further harm from new entrants" GM markets luxury Cadillac right down to the entry-level Chevrolet, all under one corporate and business brand GM. The question is - - Will be the brand personalities, images of Cadillac and Chevrolet the same? Definitely not; then, how could one effectively job two unique images, personalities under the same brand?

III) Brand Image

"Brand image is consumer understanding of and tastes for a brandname, measured by the many types of brand organizations held in storage area - - either performance-related or imagery-related qualities or benefits".

(reference point: from wording book. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ) webpage 636

Given the fact that certain images or perceptions have a higher impact towards buying action than others, marketing practitioners have always confronted the question of how to objectively gauge the power of different brands as far as brand images are worried, especially when considering of the fact that all the brands have a certain group of images with different degree of power and weakness in comparison to those of their competitors, because brand images will come from different resources - - genuine encounters of using the product, marketing and sales communications, words of oral cavity etc. Therefore, the most effective way appears to be the measuring of relationship between brand images and customer commitment, as customer loyalty will finally lead to get. (Soruce: Romaniuk & Sharp, Measuring brand perceptions: Testing variety and quality/Journal of Targeting, Way of measuring and Research of Marketing Vol. 11, 3, pages 218-229). It is useless for a brand to score high on certain images that are not critical towards building customer loyalty. It is better to score on top of dimensions that donate to building customer commitment - - the essence of brand building.

Romaniuk & Sharp found that there have been certain perceptions that functioned more or less like triggers for sale - - i. e. if customers carry those specific perceptions about the brand, they will buy it. For example, if consumers think that Coke is the real thing (authentic cola drink), they'll buy it, whether or not rival products style better or not. This is the reason why Coca Cola failed when they launched New Coke, even although flavor of New Coke was analyzed in a blind test to flavor better than original Coke and Pepsi.

Now, using the studies and theory above, we will assess Toyota, Nissan and GM and try to make clear why Toyota outperforms their rivals in the global motor vehicle market.

Obviously, Toyota possesses the majority of the brand images or perceptions that are considered triggers for sale of automobiles. Since automobiles are a high-ticket item, value for money is certainly a solid trigger for sale, specifically for average consumers who cannot manage to change vehicles very often. Obviously, the notion of good value for the money derives from the consistency and quality of Toyota cars which have been proven in many markets world-wide from the stand point of zero-maintenance cost, less break-down of engine unit, good gas efficiency, etc. Both Nissan and GM cannot match Toyota on these requirements.

Actually, the image of quality, trustworthiness, good value for the money is not at all something just perceptual (i. e. intangible), but there's a solid reason behind it, which is the progressive Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS is a culture and group of ideas (Toyota Way) that enables Toyota to run its factories a lot more efficient than any of its competitors in conditions of cost, efficiency and quality. This is actually the competitive advantages that none of the competitors can match at this time. (Source: Competitive Advantage: the Toyota Way/Business Strategy Review, Size 14 Concern 4, Winter 2003).

Not only Toyota ratings high on hard traits of brand images, they also proved helpful hard to command word the positive perception of certain critical soft brand images like as an environmentally-friendly car machine, as they know that the craze of the world is moving towards green marketing. Jon Williams, Western Marketing Director of Toyota, said "From the very the surface of the company, there's a knowledge that for a worldwide car maker to succeed in the long term, it has to respect the environment and develop technology that are environment friendly. " This is why for the unveiling of Prius cross types car and Prius is fast becoming the icon of a greener way to drive. (Source: Financial Times Information Limited, Index Terms: Automotive & Light Obligation Motor Vehicle, Record Quantity: A20060509-4657-EIW, 0, XML, EIW, copyright 2006).

Toyota action is good conclusions by Kim A. Nelson that lots of consumers with strong cultural responsibility principles is only going to buy products from companies that operate their business with the entire society's wellness at heart, especially when it comes to environment. (Kim A. Nelson 2004, Consumer Decision Making and Image Theory: Understanding Value-Laden Decisions, Journal of Consumer Mindset, 14 (1&2), 28-40)

IV) Brand Effectiveness

The problem of measuring the potency of a brand has always been a central concern in marketing because companies make investments big money in brand building activities and; hence, they would like to understand how effective their brand is. Or, in other words, they would like to know whether they will receive a good return off their investment in the brand.

One way to measure brand performance is to measure the brand equity. Brand equity is a representation of how strong a brand is and can be viewed as a financial device to gauge the value of the brand. Brand equity includes brand organizations (brand images), brand devotion, brand understanding, and the rest of the brand assets such as perceived quality etc. In a nutshell, brand equity can be viewed as the biased habit a consumer has for a branded product versus an unbranded equivalent.

For example, if a consumer is eager to pay $ 100 for a top with POLO brand whereas he is willing to just pay $50 for the unbranded t-shirt with the same materials, the excess $50 is actually paid for the value of the brand collateral (Wayne B. Faircloth, Louis M. Capella, Bruce L. Alford/The Effect of Brand Attitude and Brand Image on Brand Collateral/Journal of Marketing Theory And Practice, Summer season 2001)

The next question then is how can we measure brand equity? For the intended purpose of our analysis, we use the model developed by David A. Aaker as the tool for calculating brand equity of Toyota, Nissan and GM. (David A. Aaker, 1996/Measuring Brand Collateral Across Products and Market segments/California Management Review Vol. 38, No. 3, Planting season 1996).

Under the model, Aaker uses ten pieces of methods grouped into five categories to measure the brand equity of each brand the following:-

  1. Brand loyalty Measures
    • Price Premium
    • Satisfaction/Loyalty
  2. Perceived Quality/Authority Measures
    • Perceived Quality
    • Leadership
  3. Association/Differentiation Measures
    • Perceived Value
    • Brand Personality
    • Group Associations
  4. Understanding Measures
    • Brand Awareness
  5. Market Habit Measures
    • Market Share
    • Price and Circulation Indices

Based on these measures, our group seems that Toyota outperforms Nissan and GM by way of a even margin in virtually all the 10 measures, as had been examined before in the brand positioning and brand image sections. Therefore, we can carefully conclude that Toyota brand collateral is much better than Nissan and GM. This bottom line can be reinforced by the strong performance and widening market share of Toyota worldwide. In other words, we can comfortably say that in terms of brand success, Toyota has out-classed both Nissan and GM, even though GM has been around the market a long time before Toyota.

V) Finish & Recommendations

From the analysis above, it is obvious that Toyota has out-performed Nissan and GM in Brand Placement, Brand Image and Brand Success. This is the reason that Toyota has received the un-disputed title of best car machine in the world.

For future route of the brand, Toyota must maintain their status quo (being the world's best car manufacturer) and keep their positive brand images and perceptions intact through continuous innovation and improvements so that their rivals cannot get up.

The immediate job of Nissan is to identify their brand setting. With the hard competition in the global motor vehicle market, Nissan must set up a clear identification of what they want their brand to stand for. Unless they could carve out a unique and compelling setting, Nissan will be an underdog compared with its main Japanese competitors (Toyota and Honda) and they have to be competitive on price, which would undermine their profitability.

Nissan needs to find a way to make a single and sturdy global brand placement. The brand cannot are a symbol of something different in every market because it will finally confuse consumers and make global marketing extremely difficult.

GM needs to do a spirit searching to discover if they still want to have all their products (from luxury Cadillac to entry-level Chevrolet) to be within the same umbrella commercial make of GM. How could they effectively build-up the brand personality of GM if they didn't change their branding strategy? Is it possible to have several different images and personalities within one brand?

Alternatively, if indeed they made a decision to change their branding strategy, how could they communicate to the consumers?

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