Third level of the pyramid develops a consumer response to the brand. Keller proposes two building blocks for this tier, namely brand judgments and brand feelings. Judgments about a brand emerge from a consumer pulling together different performance and imagery associations. These judgments combine into a consumer’s opinion of a brand and whilst there are multiple judgments that an individual can make, Keller believes there are four that companies must pay attention to in their brand-building efforts. They are the perceived quality of the brand; brand credibility (the extent to which the brand is perceived as having expertise, being trustworthy and likable); brand consideration (the brand must be relevant to the consumer so that they are likely to purchase or use it); and brand superiority (the extent to which consumers view the brand as being unique and better than other brands).
Maintaining brand judgement is particularly important when a company embarks on brand extension as what counted as quality, credibility, consideration and superiority in one market can evaporate as the brand extends its product line and/or market reach. Baby food manufacturer Gerber tried to enter the adult food market in the 1970s by producing small helpings of fruits, vegetables, desserts, etc in the same jars it used for infant food. Unable to garner credibility (adult food is very different to baby food), consideration (how many adults would think about buying food for themselves that is packaged in a well-established baby-food jar) and superiority (many other brands specialize in adult food) for its new product range, Gerber quickly ditched which was widely regarded as a spectacular failure.
Whereas brand judgments can be fairly logical, brand feelings are consumers’ emotional responses to the brand. Keller identifies six brand-building feelings that he regards as important emotions that a consumer can have towards a brand, namely warmth, fun, excitement, security, social approval and self-respect.
The first three are experiential and immediate and increase in the level of intensity whilst the latter three are private and enduring and increase in the level of gravity. These responses are likely to come together in different combinations for individual consumers and the distinct brands they are relating to.
What is important for the brand manager and strategist is that responses are positive and come to mind when a consumer thinks about the brand.
Telecommunication companies often depict the emotional rewards of making a call such as a child bringing joy to his or her geographically-distant grandparents by speaking to them on the phone. Fun is a major component of brand communication with well-known South African examples such as Castrol’s “Boet and Swaer” and “Mad About Oil” campaigns and Vodacom’s “Yebo Gogo” and “Meerkat” campaign. Volvo plays on the brand feeling of security by emphasizing the safety of its cars. Investment management firm Allan Gray also targets the feeling of security by emphasizing the long-term performance of the investments it makes on behalf of its clients.
The final tier of the pyramid deals with the consumer’s relationship with the brand and here Keller introduces the sixth building block which he calls brand resonance. Resonance is characterized by the intensity of the psychological bond that customers have with the brand and their level of engagement with the brand. The challenge for the brand manager and strategist is to develop the bond and increase the number of interactions (repeat purchases of a product or service) through the development of marketing programmes that fully satisfy all the customers’ needs, provides them with a sense of community built around the brand and even empowers them to act as brand champions.
Along with Apple, Harley-Davidson is a brand that succeeds in creating a strong and lasting bond with its customers. The motorcycle manufacturer’s primary vehicle for achieving this is the global Harley Owners Group, known affectionately as HOG, which organizes regular events for its more than 600,000 members. Executive from the company often join these rides, which can number up to 25,000 riders, which successfully reinforce the brand’s message of freedom, individualism, self-expression, etc as well as building the sense of community that the brand creates. Harley-Davidson customer are famously loyal with over 45 percent of owners having previously owned one of the brand’s distinctive motorcycles.
In wrapping up this review of the pyramid model, it is useful to heed Keller’s advice not to take shortcuts: “The length of time to build a strong brand will therefore be directly proportional to the amount of time it takes to create sufficient awareness and understanding so that firmly held and felt beliefs and attitudes about the brand are formed that can serve as the foundation for brand equity.”