How has George at Asda brand/branding and image, increased over the last two years and help it become successful?

The task that has been assigned was to carry out research on a specific topic of interest and the purpose of this is to display a competence enough to carry out research in the future. In the first part of this assignment it will be shown that three topics were researched briefly in order to find a suitable topic of research that fit in with certain boundaries. These boundaries limited the topic choice due to the fact that there is a word limit of five thousand words which limits research to an extent and the other is the research used must be secondary research only.

After this the researcher will look at the reason for the selection of the chosen topic and then the reasoning behind the discarding of the other two topics will be discussed. The assignment will go through various chapters, looking at the theory relating to the question, how the theory and research was gathered, the research that brought about the question and the information on it and finally concluding the assignment with suggestions for follow up research.

Rational

There were three topics that had been picked out and looked at briefly in order to find a sufficient topic of research. These were:

1. Why has St. Mirren Football Club suffered such major financial problems?

2. The growth of Tesco supermarket chain?

3. How has George at Asda brand/branding and image, increased over the last two years and help it become successful?

Out of these three chosen subjects the researcher decided to research the third choice: How has George at Asda brand/branding and image, increased over the last two years and help it become successful?

The reasoning behind the choice was that the researcher has worked for the supermarket chain for a few years and has been interested by the success that was seen over the years with in the George department in Asda. It also has an academic connection as the researcher has a back ground in business and is currently studying a degree in Marketing.

The previous research carried out on this topic has shown a good amount of information available on this subject although most of it is from internet sources and newspapers due to the fact it is a relevantly new topic so published articles on this topic have been hard to find. Also reviewing different internet site although the information may be biased there has been an abundance of good review of the George clothing line.

“Marks & Spencer has been knocked off its pinnacle as Britain’s biggest clothing retailer by Wal-Mart’s supermarket Asda.” (Terry Macalister, The Guardian, Monday August 23, 2004)

This article helped to demonstrate the growth of the brand of George at Asda and the success of George brand so far.

Other Areas looked at

The first of the two areas that was dismissed was “Why has St. Mirren Football Club suffered such major financial problems?” even though this subject is of great personal interest in the researcher the information availability of this particular topic was extremely poor. The only information that was found to be available was primary research which breaks the boundaries of the assignment. So it was deemed that is topic was unsuitable due to lack of information available to the researcher with the given boundaries.

The second of the two areas that was dismissed was “The growth of Tesco supermarket chain?” This topic was eliminated for quite a few reasons. Firstly the researcher found it hard to get into researching this topic due to at lack of interest in the topic. Although this is not important in an academic view it was felt that the researcher would struggle to form any real meaningful opinion on the topic.

Secondly and the main reason for the dismissal of the topic was that it would be too difficult to research. It was found that this topic had a bad case of information overload and there was just too much information to look into. It would be difficult to keep within the Five thousand word limit; if the topic was to be researched properly it could not be done in such a small amount. Many web sites were looked at when investigating this topic and it was found that a lot of the information on Tesco’s growth was by Tesco itself which makes the information biased and tints the value.

“Britain’s biggest supermarket group Tesco has today reported third quarter sales growth of 17.5 per cent, figures which beat all analysts’ forecasts and showed once again the ever widening gulf between Tesco and rivals such as Sainsbury and Safeway.” (www.foodanddrinkeurope.com, 25/11/2003)

This quote is taken off a web site called foodanddrinkeurope.com and it is writing in am unbiased manner but it is going on facts that have been supplied by Tesco it’s self which makes the information biased and of little use and this is what was mainly seen when researching this topic.

Aims and Objectives

Aim

It was decided that the question that would be use and researched was:

“How has George at Asda brand/branding and image, increased over the last two years and help it become successful?”

Objectives

* Gain an insight into a brief history of branding.

This is so it can be seen how branding came about and how it became what it is today

* What is branding?

Giving a definition of branding to help understand it

* What is the importance of branding to consumers?

This helps establish why consumers may choose the George Brand

* The Retail Brand

Exploring own labels

* The 5 dimensions of brand image (Foxall & Goldsmith,1994:61)

* The clothing and footwear sector

* The Build up in reputation of George at Asda in the last few years

Conclusion/Probable Outcome

The predicted outcome is that George at Asda’s brand image has help establish a good quality of product but at a cheap enough price and has build them out so that they can compete with a high street market. Also that they have managed to shrug the image of traditional supermarket clothing and made it into a type of designer make in a way. It is also seen that the George clothing line is strong enough to stand alone with out the supermarket part in many places in the world.

Month Early Mid Late

October

Start Brainstorming to generate initial ideas for topics.

Choose topics

Decide on three topics and research each to decide which is best.

Start devising aims and objectives

Finish off aims and objectives and choose topic for main research.

November

Gain feedback from tutor on aims and objective and start laying out dissertation.

Start adapting aims and objectives report to fit as chapter one.

Start writing main body chapter 2 literature review

Finish chapter 2 and start putting together secondary research and cutting it down to go into chapter 4.

December

Finish chapter 4 and start formulating suggestions for recommendations in the conclusion

Write conclusion. And check over chapters 1,2 and 4

Once all chapters except 3 have been written and double checked. Write up chapter 3 methodology.

January

Get tutor to review dissertation and ask for suggestions. If none are given or can be given, check once more and submit.

Submit on the 13th

Chapter 2 – Literature Review

This chapter will review literature on the various theoretical points, which surround the topic of this assignment, namely Brand/Branding and Image.

The history of branding as well as, definitions and the importance of branding will be discussed. There will also be discussions on the Retail brand relating to own labeling and image and the measurement of image.

A History of Branding

Since ancient times, branding has been utilized by people as a form of differentiation of ownership or production of goods. It has been used to identify for example, ownership of cattle and producers of pottery. Early man went from branding livestock to branding many other items, which, they felt should identify ownership. In terms of production, branding was important. For example, potters left marks recognisable as their own on their pieces of pottery to supply a means by which customers could not only identify their work but also provide a system allowing customers to escape purchasing goods they did not want to (Speck ; Sutherland, 1977:64)

With particular reference to branding of cattle, the word ‘brand’ originates from the word ‘brandr’ from the language of Old Norse. This word means to burn which is exactly how cattle were branded (Hagen, 1967:14)

Nowadays, the word ‘brand’ means something very different. This huge turnaround has only come about in the last century along with the rapid progress and development of marketing and retailing in response to the industrial revolution worldwide.

Definition of a Brand

A brand can be defined as:

“A name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of these intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors,” Bennett (1988:156)

However,

“…the modern brand has outgrown the mechanical aspects of product differentiation. Today’s great brands are personalities.” Arnold (1992:202)

As it is proposed,

“…a product is something that is made, in a factory: a brand is something that is bought, by a customer. A product can be copied by a competitor; a brand is unique” King (1984:32)

Arnold (1992:20) suggests that where consumers would have once listed a portrait of symbols, terms, signs or designs when asked to summarise a branded product they would now list adjectives relating to the attributes of the brand. He concludes that, therefore, branding can be associated with consumers’ perceptions and buyer behaviour.

Branding has developed into a complex marketing tool requiring the simultaneous management and upkeep of a combination of factors to stimulate consumer loyalty to a brand. The ability to identify the particular factors which, when combined are effective in projecting a magnetism which draws consumers into purchasing the branded product, and a knowledge of these specific factors and how to mix them is essential for success (Buzzell & Quelch, 1992:4)

It was seen during research that the next topic even though it is not included in the original aims and objectives it was found that it was relevant to the chosen question.

The Importance of Brands to Consumers

Mudie & Cottam (1993:10) suggest that a brand could be likened to a ‘contract’ between the organization and the consumer. The concept of the brand as a contract implies a guarantee of consumer satisfaction usually through high quality and high value. This should then permit increased consumer confidence in their final purchasing decision.

The following is a list of three ways in which brands are important to consumers and ways in which brands help consumers:

* “Brand names tell the buyer something about product quality,” (Cateora, 1990:260).

A consumer will know what to expect from a branded product they have used before or one which has been recommended to them by someone who’s opinions they value.

* “Brand names also increase the shopper’s efficiency.” (Cateora, 1990:260)

for example, if supermarkets were filled with generic products, shopping would take a long time as consumers would tend to take time reading labels until they came to a purchasing decision whereas, with branded products they already perceive to know something about the quality of the product and what to expect from it. This hypothesis can be applied to any purchasing or retail situation.

* “Brand names help call consumers’ attention to new products that might benefit them” (Cateora, 1990:260).

When a company who produces branded products develops a new product, consumers’ of the existing branded products of this company would be made aware of the new product and tempted to try it under the impression that its benefits would be similar to that of the existing products.

The Retail Brand

Terry Leahy, Marketing director of Tesco, observes in ‘The Emergence of Retail Brand Power’ (1994:121) that:

“Retailers have now recognized that a supermarket need not be just a place to buy a selection of brands. Instead, the shop itself, its location, its atmosphere, the service it offers, the range of goods and prices, can become the brand, and retailers can begin to extract the benefits which investment in branding can bring. The value which the store name acquires can be transferred to a range of goods which themselves reinforce the image of the store.”

Retailing was once simply about selling products with the aim of making profit. Nowadays, it has evolved into something much more complex. Retailers now aim to establish a reputable identity, a brand, identity, and to create a brand personality and positive image and then make a profit.

Own Label Retailers

A form of retail brands, own labels tend to have a different name from that of the retailer (Foxall & Goldsmith, 1994:129). The own brands are manufactured to the retailer’s requirements and standards and are completely exclusive to the retailer, (Dibb et al, 1994:217). The most famous example is retailer Marks ; Spencer. Their own label products are sold under their brand name of St. Michael. What is fairly unique about this strategy is that often it is only the own brands, which are sold through the retailer.

The next 2 topics have been included due to there major involvement with this assignment even though it was over looked originally further reading proved there involvement.

Image

Image has been referred to as:

“…a visual representation of reality…,” O’Sullivan et al (1983:27)

This definition has debatably been brought up to date so that image means:

“…a fabrication or public impression created to appeal to the audience rather than to reproduce reality: as the reality rarely matches up to the image,” O’Sullivan (1994:16).

Image as Reputation

Boorstin (1995) wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review called ‘The Image,’ this article concentrated on the theory that there is a common acceptance of image as being akin to reputation by many consumers. This theory implies that harmony of what appears to be true and what is actually true is a major issue.

“Images are not isolated empirical beliefs about a product or a brand but are systems of inferences which may have only a tenuous and indirect relationship to fact…” Macfeate (1994:10)

A consumer may take either a true or false view about a product or a brand and pass it on until there are literally hundreds of similar views only changed slightly as they are passed on from one consumer to another. Consumers can conjure up a very complex image of a product or brand from very little stimulus. A picture of who would use it, what kind of car the user would have, where the user would live, what qualities the user would have etc… is all very easily created consumers from just that little bit of stimulus.

The next topic on Brand relationships has a major relevance to the chosen question, it was not include original but comes up with a few interesting points that help answer the question thus its inclusion.

Brand Relationships

Quality and value has become increasingly important to consumers and the pressure on companies to guarantee consumer satisfaction is huge. The relationship between the consumer and the company, or the ‘pact’ as Levine (1993:232) suggests, is extremely delicate. Companies must tentatively control their communications and take care not to make any blunders or consumers will respond in the most damaging way – they will switch to a competing brand.

A brand relationship is simultaneously built upon brand loyalty and strengthened by it. Duncan ; Moriarty (1997:42) state that by concentrating on building a brand relationship, a company will benefit through what is called ‘lifetime customer value’ (LTCV).

There are several advantages of LTCV:

1. As time passes, the loyal customer will spend more with each purchase and on an annual basis.

2. As time passes, the loyal customer will not be deterred by high prices. It was discovered that loyal customers tend to pay between 7 and 10% more than non-loyal customers in am assessment of MRCA panel data.

3. Loyal customers pass ‘the good news onto family and friends.

4. Loyal customers require little service and assistance from the company’s employees, already having a knowledge of how the company operates.

5. The characteristics of loyal customers are well known to companies and they can then effectively target them with specialized means of advertising.

Duncan ; Moriarty (1997:42).

Duncan ; Moriarty (1997:44) summarise how LTCV is beneficial to the company and to the consumer below: (Note the below information is set out different from place of reference)

TO THE COMPANY TO THE CONSUMER

Buys more per year Reduces risk.

Less costly to sell to Simplifies choices

Less costly to service Saves search time

Willing to pay higher prices More efficient transactions

Provides valuable feedback Eliminates switching costs

Makes referrals Minimises cost of educating

Convenient test pool Recognised by company

Source: Duncan ; Moriarty (1997:44).

McKenna (1991:45) suggests that how consumers are linked to a brand is a significant element of brand relationships. There are four different connections:

* Social.

These connections have been around the longest and are more likely to be used to build any kind of relationship than any other link (McKenna, 1991:45).

* Psychological.

These connections are mostly used in consumer and brand relationships: brand identity, brand image, brand personality and so forth (McKenna, 1991:45).

* Financial.

These links are things such as financial services and benefits for consumers who regularly purchase a product for example, the use of a Frequent Flyer Programme by airlines (McKenna, 1991:45).

* Structural.

These links are physical in nature. Modern versions of structural connections are systems such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and on-line computer links between consumers and companies (McKenna, 1991:45).

The 5 Dimensions of Brand Image

It is suggested that there are five dimensions of brand image (Foxall ;Goldsmith, 1994:61):

* Brand Personality.

The personality of a brand portrays ‘who’ the brand is. Jones (1986:30) suggests that a brand can become an ‘old friend.’ The brand creates an ‘impression’ on the consumer through its personality (Foxall ; Goldsmith, 1994:61).

* Connotations of the Brand.

This involves what the brand suggests to the consumer. The brand may remind the consumer of something related or entirely unrelated (Foxall ; Goldsmith, 1994:61).

* Advantages of the Brand.

Consumers consider the benefits the brand provides and assesses it in terms of what advantages the brand may hold over other brands (Foxall ; Goldsmith, 1994:61).

* Using Situations.

The use of some brands only happens when certain situations arise. This can be at specific points in the year, in the day, even at particular places (Foxall ; Goldsmith, 1994:61).

* Brand Users.

A significant element of brand image is who consumers perceive to use the brand (Foxall ; Goldsmith, 1994:61).

Many marketers play on this, simultaneously implying that if the consumer uses a specific brand it:

“a) acts as a symbol of what kind of person you are, or

b) You can become more like a desirable consumer type by using the brand,” Sirgy (1982:288).

Chapter 3 – Methodology

In order to achieve the objectives the researcher has looked at theorists who have different views on this particular subject, such as Foxall ; Goldsmith, (1994) and Duncan ; Moriarty, (1997). Many different textbooks were reviewed to find the best relating theories to the particular question. Textbooks such as, The Management and Marketing of services and Consumer Psychology for marketing. Most of the textbooks looked at involved marketing due to its major involvement with the question. Also newspapers have been used for updated information on the topic and back dated newspapers have been used to help give a well rounded view. The particular newspapers that have been used are; the business section, of The Herald, The Times and The Guardian.

Also the economist has been used to supply up to date views. The final source that was used is the internet this is the final source due to the fact that the information that was available on this topic was sometimes false, due to the fact that anyone can publish information on the internet credible or not. One of the web sites looked at by the researcher was tdctrade.com and this site tended to use information supplied but recognised bodies such as TNS Fashion Trak instead of the information coming form the company itself. Some sites that were use contained bias material however the bias material was not used only relevant facts about the companies were used to help provide back ground information.

Chapter 4 – Secondary Evidence

Clothing and Footwear Sectors

Major players within this sector have changed over time it once was M;S, C;A, Debenhams, BHS and Littlewoods (Retailing in the UK, Key Note Ltd, 1997:115). But now some of those names have fallen behind and some have even disappeared completely, C;A no longer exists; it now involves supermarkets such as Tesco and of course Asda.

Growth in this sector is due to the growth of more and more supermarkets and department stores introducing clothing ranges alongside their more traditional merchandise.

Companies have been using brand building to develop separate images and enhance them through the sale of accessories and footwear.

More companies are also taking notice that there is an advantage in increasing their stock of menswear. Over the last few years, menswear has been the most dynamic area of clothing with new designers making fashionable clothing more affordable to the increasingly style conscious male shopper (Menswear Retailing, Mintel 1999:1)

This article is being used to point out just one of the ways in which Asda have managed to built George clothing up by investing in current trends and changing with them Asda have managed to gain a greater share in the over all market not just in women’s fashion but also menswear and children’s wear.

When this assignment first started it was chosen by the researcher that the question would be “How has George at Asda brand/branding and image, increased over the last two years and help it become successful?” but as the research has gone on it has become clear to the researcher that this question has to be changed. The growth of the image and brand of George at Asda and how it has became successful has to be looked at closer and cannot just be put down to its more recent success over the last two year. In actual fact the image and brand of Asda has been key to its development since its beginning in 1990.

The following Information was taken from an Asda information pack from Asda house. In 1990 Asda enlisted the help of George Davies, the founder of the Next clothing chain. With Asda George Davies created George Davies at Asda, what is know known as George clothing within Asda, he brought his high street style to the supermarket chain and helped Asda gain a reputation due to association. Due to Mr. Davies previous company he carried an already existing mark of quality that was known with the Next clothing lines, this mark was carried over in to his new venture with Asda. So with this Asda managed to capitalise on an existing reputation and from there started to build. They had George Davies design clothes for them that had the same look and feel as the high street makes but with one major difference, a much cheaper price tag.

Asda used own labeling to brand their clothing range capitalising on the George Davies name and keeping the image of their clothes different to that of the rest of their merchandise, but at the same time they were using their already established reputation to help their clothing range. Published in the Economist in September of 2004

“Five years ago only about 8% of Asda’s customers bought clothes; now one in three do.” (The Economist, September 23rd 2004)

This quote shows just how fast the George clothing line has risen in the last few year, even with a slow start, but has manage to continue capitalising on the reputation of its retail store, Asda. It is Asda’s mix of good quality and value for money that has help it to the top as well but it also relies on it relationships with its consumers. Mudie & Cottam (1993:10) suggested that a brand could be likened to a ‘contract’ between the organisation and the consumer; this point is one this Asda seem to focus on not only in their clothing but all round their store. They pride themselves on bring the best quality, and being the best value for money. Using this in their clothing line has helped them move thousands and thousands of units of stock and according to Asda.co.uk it is now round about a �1 billion a year business.

The establishment of the George brand helps the loyal customers to know what they are buying, as well as, saving them time by cutting down their search and it can also give them a feeling of security and safety, reducing the risks, because they know what they are getting with this certain brand. Asda have take the option of promoting their brand as a cheap afford about option, top high street fashion, at low prices, and it has worked. People are buying into the brand because of its value for money and this is one of the main reasons for its recent take over of clothes retail.

In August 2004, The Guardian printed an article with this headline “Asda overtakes M&S as UK’s top clothing retailer” (Terry Macalister, 2004) this article talks about how George at Asda had taken over as the number one clothes retailer in the UK. This was the success that built up from building their brand image. Their brand was strong enough to not only compete with the high street market but managing to even come out on top. Asda use their loyal customers to their advantage with the 5 dimensions of brand image asda seem to follow these. Firstly brand personality they have established an impression on the consumer allowing their brand to become a familiar brand an ‘old friend’ if u will.

Then connotations of the brand takes place here they have placed both the idea of Asda and what it stands for the low prices, great value for money, etc and also the fashion the fact that it is high street fashion and is just like a high street shop. Following on is the advantages of the brand this is were they need to give the consumer something they need to give the benefits of the brand, such as their tough wearing children’s wear, means that they don’t need to replace the clothes as often, or the fact that the prices are so low that they can afford an entire out fit for the same price as a top.

Usage situations is pretty wide spread by catering different lines such as school wear for kids or suits and ties for evening dress for men, it opens up the appeal. For example if a mother is buying clothes for her children to go to school she might see something she might wear on a night out then when she has to buy a new out fit for a night out she will consider shopping their. Finally, brand users this will be discussed more in the conclusion due to it being the one of the five that Asda falls short on.

Chapter 5 – Conclusion and Recommendations

In this finally chapter the researcher will give their finding to the entire research and make suggestions on ways that George at Asda can use its branding and change it for the better. Then recommendations for further research will be given. The first conclusions taken from the research done is that Asda have manage to establish a brand that is associated with the Asda Supermarket chain and all of it promises of low prices and value for money but a lot managed to associate it will the image of top high fashion. This duel image is one of the main reasons for its success because it stands for quality and value for money in the Asda way, but the look and feel of the clothes compared with the same types of fashion you find on the high street is the same type of fashion.

This means that more people will buy clothes from asda but not only due to its good value for money factor but also because the fashion is up to date. That seems to have been the key with the Asda brand is keeping it up to date with not only the latest fashions but the latest trends as well, such as high demand for menswear and tough wearing kids clothes. It was also seen that Asda used their original designer’s reputation to help launch their clothing line in the first place giving them a kick start. It has been proven that George at Asda has been successful but it has also shown that it was not a sudden rise to the top it to them 14 years of developing a brand and establishing it within the main stream of high street fashion.

At the end of the previous chapter it was stated that the 5th of the 5 dimensions of brand image would be looked at in this chapter this is because it is more relevant to this chapter because it is a main point of weakness and there are recommendation for it. Brand users this is one that Asda falls short on even though they have the family image and the idea of clothes for the whole family that misses out a huge market for the non family orientated people, for example teenagers, single adults looking for a partner, basically the range from roughly 13, 14 to 29, 30, so early teens through to early thirties.

This is a huge market to be broken into but it would involve the brand changing its image which would freshen up the brand and bring in new customers but it could also cause old loyal customers to leave and go to rivals. So what they need to look at is creating another brand name to compete in this target market this way the original brand it not affected but it allows the new brand name the kick start or having a good reputation. However it was not discovered if they managed to make it in a stand alone store as the stores are to new to gain sufficient research to determine if they will succeed or not. It also could not be known if they managed to transform their brand into a designer make in a way, for this primary research would be needed to investigate further.