The Evolving Nature of Branding
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, consistent quality was an extremely important attribute to consumers who lived in a world where the quality of goods might be low or fluctuating; where government inspection and control of goods had not begun and where self policing of industries was non-extant. Late-twentieth-century consumers have come to take consistent quality for granted. This does not imply that consumers are not interested in quality; indeed many products and brands from cars to bread come in varying quality ranges. The consumer can choose the quality level that suits their budget and personal wants. But they no longer must worry about fluctuations across products and brands sold at the same price and presumably quality levels. Thus, quality has become a necessary, but not sufficient condition for purchase.

Brand as Company
Here, the brand has a complex identity and there are many points of contact between the consumer and the brand. Because the brand equals the company, all stakeholders must perceive the brand (company) in the same fashion. The company can no longer present one image to the media and another to stockholders or consumers. Communications from the firm must be integrated throughout all of their operations. Communication is not, however, unidirectional. It flows from the consumer to the firm as well as from the firm to the consumer so that a dialog is established between the two.

Any retailer might sell furniture, but only IKEA has organized its stores to maximize the service component for shoppers. Through modular planning of cabinets, furniture and other architectural features and co-ordination of fabrics, colors and styles across departments, IKEA enables shoppers to co-design and co-construct new concepts in living and to customize their living spaces.

As the company becomes the brand, communication must expand to present the same message at all of the points of contact. Numerous stakeholders interact with different parts of the firm. Any individual could be a consumer of the brand, a media reporter about the company, an owner of the brand through stock purchase or a regulator of the company in an elected, regulatory capacity.

Consumers have grown familiar with the IKEA concept of value, environmentalism and feel comfortable dealing with this firm. The personality of IKEA is communicated through staff and all communication points with the consumer, whether advertising, internet sites or public relations activities. The company must create a continuing dialogue with customers in all of their potential roles.
The Evolving Nature of Branding: Consumer and Managerial Considerations Dr. M. McEnally University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Prof. L. de Chernatony The Open University


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