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Be strategic with your brand associations

Brands are the sum of all of the images, interactions, and perceptions that people have around it. In order to protect brands, marketers need to be careful when driving associations. A few ways that you an associate your brand include advertisements, sponsorship, channel sales, and ownership.


Wherever marketers place ads create an association between the product and where the ad is placed. It may not be as an influential association as channel or ownership, but it can have a large impact. Super Bowl ads are one place that charge a premium for association, $5 million for a 30 second spot in the 2017 Super Bowl.

However, the magazine, TV station, TV show, radio show, website, social channel, influencer, all have an affect on how a brand can be perceived and received by the marketplace. Additionally, whomever is chosen as the spokesperson to represent the brand in advertisements can bring their own positive or negative associations with them.

Tiger Woods, the Verizon Guy, and Flo, and other spokespeople can add life to a brand but can also damage it. Case in point: Jared from Subway.


Sponsorship can be a looser brand association, depending on how often brands are seen together. Make sure that what your brand is sponsoring mirrors the brand image you have created and want to maintain. By developing active engagements with consumers through co-sponsored products (like Kraft Shredded Mozzarella with Philadelphia), events, and more people will receive additional touch points with your brand.

Brand associations within a companies product lines may offer synergies. Like Kraft associating it’s brand with one of their sub-brands Philadelphia. They can also associate sub-brand to sub-brand, like when P&G developed Puffs with Vicks

Brands can also be associated with completely different categories and industries. For example, several brands may go in together to sponsor an event. Not only will your brand be associated with what you are promoting, but tangentially with the other brands as well. For example, when I ran Tough Mudder some of the sponsors were Dos Equis and Muscle Milk. Both brands are now associated with Tought Mudder, but also somewhat associated with each other.

Channel sales

Where your product is selling, from brick-and-mortar stores to online, can drive associations with your brand as well. Making sure that where consumers interact with you stays true to your brand can be difficult, so retailers should be more selective when choosing where to sell their items. Selling your brand at Nordstrom versus Costco can help drive different kinds of associations with your brand, just make sure they make sense.

For example, Dollar Shave Club is an online retailer only. Their business model and stance against larger store razors make selling in-store an unlikely option for them and would negate their brand image. Similarly, companies can expand their associations when and where it makes sense. Gatorade is a sports drink product, so being sold near stadiums and sporting events only adds to their brand associations.

This can be great for brands looking to grow. Target selects brands to carry in stores so that they promote other companies in conjunction with their own.

Ownership and acquisition

Who owns the company can have a large impact on a brand’s perception. When two brands are associated with such closeness, it can cause an incongruence with customers when they have differing associations with each brand.

When Walmart purchased ModCloth (and other fashion brands), consumers were upset because their perception of ModCloth did not involve the “everyday low prices” attitude of Walmart. While it was a strategic on ModCloth’s decision to keep themselves viable as a company, aligning a buyer and the acquired companies image can help ease the sense of incompatibility.

Merging or buying companies can go well or poorly. The tech industry is famous for these types of moves, which can pan out in the long-run or go the way of Vine.

What other ways have brands been affected through associations?

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