This was developed by David A Aaker, leading brand theorist, in his 1996 book Building Strong Brands. Aaker developed a planning model which outlines four dimensions of brand identity:
Brand as product
can be a single product, or set of products, which will affect the type of associations of the brand that customers experience. For customers, the attributes directly related to the purchase or use of a product can be both functional benefits and emotional benefits. Examples may be Kleenex tissues, or Band Aid, or Gillette razors. A product-related attribute can create a value proposition by offering extras like features or services. Aaker argues, however, that the goal of linking a brand with a product is for customers to remember the brand when they have a need that can be met by the product's attributes.
Brand as an organization
focuses on organizational attributes such as, for example, innovation, quality, and safety, that are created by people, culture, values, and programmes within the company. Aaker states that organizational attributes are more enduring and resistant to competitors than product attributes. Examples may be IBM, Kodak, and Exxon.
Brand as a person
where the brand is perceived as having a personal dimension, with a unique personality similar to an individual. Aaker cites three ways a brand personality can create a stronger brand: a) a vehicle for customers to express their own personalities; b) forming the basis of a relationship between customers and the brand; and c) helping to communicate a product or service attribute in a personal way. An example may be Tiger Woods exemplifying mastery, Mercedes exemplifying elegant status and accomplishment, Apple exemplifying innovation, or Nike conveying energy and determination to succeed.
Brand as a symbol
Aaker describes this dimension as three types of symbols: a) visual imagery, b) metaphors, and c) the brand heritage. A memorable symbol can provide cohesion and structure to a brand identity and make it much easier to gain recognition and recall. Its presence can be a key ingredient of brand development and its absence can be a substantial handicap. Elevating symbols to the status of being part of the identity reflects their potential power. Examples could be the Olympic rings for a movement or where a symbol epitomizes the company, such as the Ronald McDonald clown for McDonald's, the Jolly Green Giant, or the meerkats in Comparethemarket.com
The purpose of the brand identity planning system is to use the different brand elements and patterns that can help enrich and differentiate a brand identity. Aaker summarized his Brand Identity System as a model.
Each brand can employ one or many of these dimensions of identity. Each organization should, however, consider all of the dimensions in the development of a differentiated brand identity.
Brand identity consists of a core identity and an extended identity. The former represents the timeless essence of the brand. This is central to both the meaning and success of the brand, and contains the associations that are most likely to remain constant. The extended identity includes elements that provide ‘texture and completeness’.