This report aims to critically evaluate the brand image, positioning and effectiveness of brands, using as a mechanism three newspaper brands: The Guardian, The Times and The Sun. Another aspect that will be discussed in this report is the effectiveness of these brands in relation to each other. These brands are well established in the sector of print news and all of them have a strong brand image in the market. As far as it concerns brand positioning The Sun and The Times have seemed to have done a good research on the market and competitors. They have segmented the market and successfully established a U.S.P which is promoted to the target audience. Measuring effectiveness was the hardest part on this assignment, because none of the existing theories has a proved way on how to measure the effectiveness of a brand.
Newspapers are perceived as, cherished, believable, intellectual, appealing, trustworthy, much valued by their readers. The purpose is to entertain, incite debate, verify, dispute and amend opinions. In addition to this, all these elements are present in an extremely emotional environment. Reading a newspaper is not only meant for gathering information, the reader also goes through an intense experience in a qualitative way. (Newspaper Marketing Agency, Millward Brown)
During the past few years research has been carried out regarding brand image, brand positioning and brand effectiveness. The brands image and brands positioning are terms that integrate. According to Kotler (1988) and Herzog (1963), brand image is the perception of the brand regarding the values it carries in the consumers’ mind. This perception is not an encounter solely by itself, many elements are utilized by marketers to convey and build a specific image for the particular brand. Thus the marketers and the company work together to stimulate and promote the image to create what is known as brand identity.
Brand positioning is the strategy that mainly focuses on the company and the marketers. This strategy concentrates on the process of delivering and promoting the right brand identity to the target audience. As a result, this will achieve the sought brand image. (Park et.al., 1986)
Kotler, describes brand image as the sum of beliefs on the consumers’ mind regarding a particular brand. According to Herzog (1963), brand image is the set of impressions that consumer collects from different sources, when they are all combined, they outline a brand personality. Late researchers such as Ditcher (1985) have considered brand image, as the total impression for the brand and not the individual characteristics of the product.
According to Keller (1993), brand equity or brand effectiveness occurs when the costumer is totally familiar with the brand and therefore associates some strong, unique, memorable emotions towards the brand.
Brand image usually consists of brand name, logo and features (which for our select brands is: The Times with Black and White colours, The Guardian with the blue colour, The Sun with red colour), and its main functions, which for Times and Guardian is the content, with informative news and for The Sun is the entertaining way of presenting the news.
The decision of the colour on the brand logo is another really important factor. Mandel and Johnson (2002), suggests that red colour (as Sun’s logo) is associated with feelings such as: exciting, powerful, cheerful. Wexner (1954), adventure and love (Jacobs et al., 1991), these connotations reflect the brand personality, help the consumer to engage with the brand and are mostly applicable in fulfilling sensory- social needs.
On the other hand the blue colour (as used for The Guardian’s logo) is associated with sincere, dependable and trustworthy feelings (Jacobs et al., 1991), which enhance the image and perception of the brand, thus help in building an emotional bond with the brand and are mostly applicable in fulfilling functional needs.
According to (Jacobs et al., 1991), the colour black (as Times logo), is associated with luxury, expensive and powerful feelings. These implications suggest that the reader of The Times is one that will reflect the superiority brand image of the paper.
Based on the above theories it is observed that the colours that are chosen for the above newspapers reflect their personality.
The Times, having chosen the colour black, wants to be perceived as an expensive, luxury and powerful newspaper and that is the reason why they chose the slogan “Join the debate”, which makes you think that the reader is an important part of the society, a powerful person, that will spend money on getting sophisticated and feeds on accurate news. (The Times website, http://www.timesonline.co.uk, cited 2008)
The Guardian, having chosen the colour blue, is trying to be perceived as a sincere, dependable and trustworthy newspaper. These insinuations are reflected upon the consumer needs. The connection with the slogan “Think…” mirrors a kind of person that is seeking trustworthy and independent journalism. (The Guardian website, http://www.guardian.co.uk, cited 2008)
In contrast, The Sun has utilized the colour red, which illustrates that the newspaper wants to be perceived as strong, exciting and cheerful. The paper plays on the emotional feelings of the reader, via the bold impact of the slogan “We love it”, which is associated with strong feelings. (The Sun website, http://www.thesun.co.uk, cited 2008)
In order for the customer to perceive a specific image for a brand, it is almost necessary for them to be built on the foundations of relationships with the particular brand. This set of associations, organized in a meaningful way, is the way in which the consumer perceives the brand image (Aaker, 1991). In addition, to protect a brand legally it is essential, the brand name needs to be unique and distinctive. (Abraham, 2005)
For instance, The Times is associated with high education and status and is perceived as a newspaper for high class executives and for those interested in political and economical global scenario. While, The Sun is associated with low price, sex and gossip factors and is perceived as a lower class entertaining newspaper. The Guardian is associated with interesting articles that a large portion of people can read and is perceived as the newspaper for all.
Those associations, if are made by the targeted group and match the identity of the brand are successful, then the brand has achieved the goal of positioning.
According to Winchester and Romaniuk (2003), there is a ‘bureaucratic’ approach that is considered to be a negative quality for a brand from the customer perspective. While the brand image may reveal the attributes of the brand, there may be a difference in individualistic view on the image. There may be chances that some see it in a positive manner but there would always be a section of people who consider the same as negative, thus giving an insight on the difference of opinion on the same brand position.
For example, The Sun wants to be perceived as a fresh, energetic, family, influential, mobilising, of value, with scale, modern British newspaper. Though, when realized that this will be really difficult due to the content, it decided to promote firstly the ‘off value’ element, and that happens because the image they try to promote in the first place didn’t match the product itself, with a result the goals not to be objective. This would be the point that the brand identity in brand positioning wouldn’t be delivered correctly to the recipients and the brand image would be faulty.(Mark Goodison, The Sun 2008 CONFIDENTIAL & SENTIVIVE INFORMATION – NOT TO BE RELEASED)
This is the reason why Wood and Pierson (2006), and other researchers point out the importance of brand positioning. According to Wood and Pierson (2006), brand positioning is at the heart of marketing strategy.
Nandan (2004) suggests that, brand positioning is the process that engages the consumer in buying a particular product or service, which enables the specific products to stand out in today’s competitive market. The individuality of the brand is purely focused on how the brand is being delivered to the right audience.
Brand positioning consists of three crucial elements (identification of possible competitive advantages, select the strongest advantages and effectively communicate them, deliver this message to the appropriate target group), which influences the buying behaviour of the consumer. (Kotler, 1988)
When a company is planning the positioning of its brand the first thing they need to do it’s a market research to identify the competitors and see what are their U.S.P’s. Looking at the newspaper’s market The Times are competing mostly with Guardian and Independent, and The Sun with Daily mail.
The second step is to identify the strengths of their own brand and define a unique characteristic that is strong enough to compete with the competitors. The U.S.P for The Sun is the price and page 3, for The Times it is the high status and sophisticated content and for The Guardian, the innovative format and investigative content.
The third step is to segment the market and identify the appropriate target audience, having in mind what are the elements of your brand that are able to satisfy their needs and how you are related to this group.
Having defined all the above the last step is effectively communicate the message to the selected audience, via advertising, promotion and P.R.
Great emphasis is placed on the importance of understanding that brand image and brand positioning are terms that interrelate. The consumers establish that brand image in their minds as a mixture of real and perceived attributes Wood and Pierson (2006). A successful brand should create an image for its product that, in the consumer’s mind is associated with the quality, the Unique Selling Point of the product and the superiority towards the competitor. (Vranesvic and Stancec, 2003)
Considering Kotler’s theory on positioning, we observe that Times have focused on two elements of positioning. Identifying possible competitive advantages and deliver this message to the appropriate target group.
The Times identifies the U.S.P (unique selling point) and P.O.D (point of difference) of the brand, which is the sophisticated, business and serious content that appeals to the socio-economic group of ABC1, at the age range of 25-44. In addition, The Times targets readership of business people, both men and women, (with particular emphasis on men aged between 30-50 years and fit in the AB socio-economic group).
Furthermore, The Times established their brand image in the extremely competitive market of newspapers as ‘the serious newspaper for top people’. That move may have restricted the readership from other groups of the market, such as the C2DE. (BRAD, 2008)
However, considering that newspapers make money from advertising that is the best way to reach a specific and pre-selected target audience. The strong brand positioning of The Times, achieved to match the real brand image with the brand perception in the consumer’s mind.
Even though the newspaper has not put sufficient emphasis on promotion and advertising, The Times is still a well known brand amongst its regular targeted audience. To increase and attract more readers The Times would need to utilize more effective advertising mediums to increase their popularity.
On the other hand, The Guardian, in the previous years has struggled to establish a unique feature amongst its competitors. Recently The Guardian has recreated and positioned itself by adapting an innovated format (with broadsheet paper, serious news and lots of pictures) via promoting independent journalism. The target group for The Guardian remains the same, after the re-positioning, trying to target the ABC1 group 20 years old and above that are in full time work.
As The Guardian targets a variety of readers, it is difficult to differentiate its content in order to approach a segmented target audience. As an effect the P.O.D is suffering when communicating with the right audience. Also, even though the newspaper repositioned, the promotion and advertising was not strong enough to establish the new brand image to the consumers’ perception. (BRAD, 2008)
In comparison, The Sun has taken into account all the elements of Kotler’s theory. The newspaper, created the brand image based on its P.O.D’s, as being the cheapest tabloid newspaper with the popular page 3 content. Accordingly, that image was well promoted through TV, other newspapers, billboards, and radio to the targeted audience, BC1C2DE group.
Therefore, by following the correct steps and establishing the product’s uniqueness, The Sun was able to communicate its strongest advantages thereby delivering the message to the right target audience. The Sun achieved to be dominant in the newspaper market, having the highest readership and being able to attract advertisements due to its appeal to a specific, lower class target group. (BRAD, ABC, NRS, 2008)
In evaluating the brands’ relative positioning, it’s obvious that the positioning always depends on the product. An example by (Vranesvic and Stancec, 2003), states that a successful brand is one that is able to integrate quality and U.S.P and P.O.D’s in the consumer’s mind making it easy for the consumer to differentiate the specific brand from the competitors. This may be accurate for a lot of products and brands but it doesn’t really apply to newspaper brands. The reason being is that it is really difficult to measure quality in newspapers. Quality is something substantial in the newspaper industry.
Then again the feeling that a newspaper gives you is what matters on these brands’ positioning. The brands are conceptualized as relationships. The brand’s symbolic values and functional attributes can relate with the consumers’ psychological needs. This will result in the consumers’ feeling that the brand express it’s self image and that will build strong consumer relationships.
For example, The Times, offer the reader the feeling of being an important part of the business society and belonging to a high class group of people. The relationship with the brand offers the consumer a satisfaction of the self actualization need. The Sun is mostly based on satisfying the curiosity and the need for entertainment and gossip for the lower class people. That special bond makes the consumers feel emotionally warm and excited for the brand.
The emotional bond with a brand is an important element in measuring brand effectiveness, because if the consumer has strong feelings and emotional attachments with a brand that means that, this brand firstly would be in the evoked set and secondly this brand would be on the first preferences when buying.
Regarding effectiveness, unfortunately, there is no research been done that its findings were not been questioned. Marketers and practitioners are still trying to find an accurate way to measure effectiveness. This happens because the effectiveness of a brand depends on lot of different factors, such as image, positioning, equity, advertising, etc.(Zambardino and Goodfellow, 2007)
As far as it concerns image, the brand is effective when the brand identity set by the marketers, matches the perceived image in the consumers’ mind and the associations made with the brand are positive and realistic. In order to achieve the desired associations for the product, companies design advertising campaigns that should promote the desired image for the brand.
Considering the three newspapers, The Sun, is the one that has put big effort in advertising. The past few months is running an advertising campaign called ‘All for just 30p’, and with that campaign is trying to make associations for the band such as ‘off value, wide range of content, for all, and value for money’. In this respect compared to the other three brands, The Sun is the most effective newspaper regarding the brand image and positioning, because it’s the only one to well promote the desired imaged through advertising mix, in TV, newspapers and radio and desired brand identity is reflected on the brand image.
Another way of measuring the effectiveness of those brands is to measure their relative brand equity. Brand equity expresses the value of a product compared to as if the same product didn’t have a brand name. Therefore brand equity is based on the added value of the product because of the brand name. Equity consists of brand awareness and brand image. (Aaker, 1991; Ailawadi et.al, 2003)
Having a strong brand awareness, means that the product is easily recognized and recalled by the public and especially by the target audience and therefore at the decision making process the product will be at least at the consideration set. (Baker et.al, 1986). From another perspective Ramaseshan and Tsao (2007), believe that when consumers are at the decision making process they do not always or want to have extensive information on the product. According to Berry (2000), brand awareness is built on the basis of the company’s controlled communications such as advertising, name, logo and appearance. All the selected brands have strong brand awareness, with The Times coming first as being a pioneer, global newspaper and years in the newspaper industry.
Brand recall goes hand in hand with brand awareness which is usually occurs when a customer is making a purchase or using a service. Brand recall is the prime objective of the communication made to create brand awareness. (Lee and Ang, 2003)
Having a strong brand image, means that the favorability associations and the uniqueness associations are well positioned under the consumers’ mind (Keller, 1993). So, considering what was said above on brand image it’s easy to understand that in comparison of the selected brands, The Times and The Sun have the most effective brand image as far as it concerns the uniqueness associations.
In conclusion, it is obvious that when trying to measure the effectiveness of a brand it’s necessary to take under consideration many different parameters. Furthermore, to the literature we can see that apart from the findings in journals regarding effectiveness such as image, awareness, associations, positioning equity, another important factor nowadays, is the price. According to (Knutson et. al) in their research on branding and neuroscience, when consumers are buying a product where the price is high they feel a pain (neurological response) in the brain.
As the price drops, the neurological pain is reduced. In relation to this finding the sun is logically more preferred due to the low price. It offers for the high range of content when the product has a well established image, positioning and it’s advertised to keep the consumers’ interest, such as The Sun, the price is a really important factor to boost the sales i.e. The Sun, which is the newspaper with the higher readership in UK.
So according to what was analyzed above, The Sun seems to be the most effective newspaper in relation to the chosen brands. This is why it’s the most loved and most hated (Simms, 2006) newspaper at the same time. Because its image is so clear that the consumer can either love it or hate it.