A Battle of Brand Perceptions.

All Brands Have Meaning

Whether carefully and strategically considered or by default, all brands hold associated meanings in the market place. Well considered brands establish a competitive brand proposition (their brand strategy) with layers of meaning to both differentiate themselves from their competitors and to connect with their audience. These kinds of brands reinforce their meaning through the sum of all their actions or brand touch points.

A Snapshot of Brand Association

The  people at Brand Tags have been busy building a comprehensive  list of more than 1.7 million associations that people have with brands. The result is a unique opportunity for those brands to compare the meaning and messages of their brand communication strategies with the brand associations of a cross-section of the market.

Audi Vs BMW

While I was browsing their site I came across a comparison of the brand associations between two German Luxury, Automotive brands Audi & BMW.


A Comparison of Brand Associations

As you would expect, both car brands have a high level of association with German-made, expensive, luxury and quality. When comparing either of these brands with cars manufactured in Japan, the US or Korea, these brand attributes would be seen as a high advantage. However, when you compare these two brands to each other, German-made, expensive, luxury and quality as brand attributes are really no more than table-stakes. These brand attributes merely represent what a consumer expects from either brand. The real differentiation comes with the other strong brand attributes.

The Audi Brand

Audi’s investment in aligning their brand with the values of the Olympic games continues to pay-off. Through their sponsorship of the 2010 US Alpine Olympic Team and smart campaign placements deliver a remarkably high level of association with this pinnacle of Winter Olympic sporting events. The shared symbol of interconnecting rings provides a powerful visual link that reinforces the brand relationship. As a brand it is closely associated with an image of ‘cool, nice and classy.’ The appearance of individual Audi models in the list of top brand associations including the Quatro, TT and A4 suggests the brand has successfully built a differentiated market proposition for each of the brands in its product portfolio. Further, the description of the “Audi rings” reflects a high level of awareness and association of the visual properties in Audi’s brand identity.

The BMW Brand

BMW shares further brand associations with Audi including “fast, nice, class & cool.” The concern for BMW is the combination of other associations that play out distinctly in the list creating a less than aspirational image of “rich, yuppie, or snob.” Whilst no brand should wish to be all things to all people, Automotive brands are very conscious of the role cars play in the image their customers project of themselves to the market. I imagine these negative brand associations are really not much of a concern for BMW, since all brands have a certain amount of negative brand associations to some people. What I did find Interesting on the brand attributes chart was how the BMW the brand is associated with being “overpriced” and the Audi brand is not. Especially since both brands have comparable products that fall in the same price ranges. So as I look at the chart, my question is, what does BMW have to do to change their overarching brand perception to eliminate all the negative associations? It seems that much of this comes from stereotypes that were created a couple of decades ago. I doubt if you did a brand perception survey of the BMW brand in 1970 you would have received the same negative results, (yuppie, overpriced, snob, asshole).

I’m also curious how Brand Tags developed these associations. Is this a global snapshot, or is it regional? Or was it built exclusively from the tag engine on their website? If it is the latter then it is probably global. For a real treat go to the brand tags site, and click the “What Ever They Say It Is” link. Then click both the Audi and BMW tags to see the full weighted list of all user brand perceptions.

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