Brand Resonance Model: Why Marketers Should Care

There are so many articles about brand awareness, brand equity, and brand loyalty, but just a few explaining brand resonance or brand resonance model. 

Is it because brand resonance doesn’t matter? The answer is the other way around.

Today, let’s talk about brand resonance: what it means, why marketers (and brands) should care, and how to build brand resonance. 

What is brand resonance?

Think about this: When something resonates with us, we connect with it on a very deep level. 

Brand resonance is the same. It indicates how well we relate to a specific brand and how intense our relationship is with the brand. 

We may grow up with that brand. We love it. We want to talk about it and share it with others. It makes us feel good, comfortable, happy, joyful and even loved. It’s the only brand we trust and want to buy/use over and over again. 

To this point, Disney is an excellent example. You can read what Disney means to Kaitlyn Dorson, blogger at Sisters & Disney, to see how this brand is special to many people. 

[Disney] is one of the “places” where I know I can find joy and that never ceases to make me smile. When I am going through my day-to-day schedule, I know that I can always find rest and a little sunshine in listening to some classic Disney music or in looking at some pictures of my favorite spots in Disneyland. When I am going through a rough time or a stressful day, I know that my spirits can be lifted when I hear that familiar introductory “When You Wish Upon a Star” music that accompanies a beautiful castle and the Disney logo. 

When brand resonance occurs, it means customers feel completely “in sync” with a brand

Keller brand resonance model

In the book Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity, marketing professor Kevin L. Keller proposed a model for brand resonance, which now becomes popular in the marketing area. 

Brand Resonance Model
Source: Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity by Kevin L. Keller (2012)

Let me explain this model to you. 

Brand development

On the left side of the triangle, Keller defines brand building as an ascending, sequential series of four steps: 

  • Step 1: Ensure customers recognize the brand or specific products (Brand identity). This answers the question, “Who are you?” 
  • Step 2: Use tangible and intangible brand elements to establish brand meaning in customers’ minds (Brand meaning). This answers the question, “What are you?”
  • Step 3: Evoke customers’ feelings and opinions (Brand responses). This answers the question, “What do I think or feel about you?”
  • Step 4: Convert customers’ responses into an intense, active, loyal relationship between customers and the brand (Brand relationships). This answers the question, “How much of a connection would I like to have with you?” 

Notice the order of these four steps, from identity to meaning to responses to relationships. We can’t establish meaning unless we’ve created identity. Responses can’t occur unless we’ve developed the right meaning. And we can’t form a relationship with customers unless we’ve triggered the proper responses from them. 

As marketers, we need to do something to communicate our brand with customers. We have to teach our customers who our brand is, what it stands for, and why it’s unique. We have to give them the meaning of our brand so they can know how much it’s relevant to them.

Here’s the thing: We may tell customers, “this is what our brand means,” but they might not think like that. So, everything in this brand development stage depends on customers. They are the ones who are making these decisions in terms of the identity, the meaning, the response, and the relationship. 

Look at the brand development process from the bottom to the top: All starts with fundamental activities, then mindset, then emotions and feelings, and finally relationships, which are much more oriented and behavioral. 

Branding objective at each brand development stage 

On the right side of the pyramid is branding objectives corresponding to branding development stages. These objectives are what brands should try to achieve. 

The first objective is brand awareness. But it’s not just any kind of awareness; instead, very deep and broad brand awareness. 

Then, we set our points of parity where we’re similar to others and points of difference where we’re different. In doing so, we try to get positive, accessible reactions from customers and ultimately move customers to the resonance level. 

Brand resonance pyramid 

The center pyramid represents six brand building blocks: brand salience, brand performance, brand imagery, brand feelings, brand judgment, and brand resonance. All these blocks build on top of each other. 

The next section will dig deeper into these six building blocks.

Six brand building blocks

1. Brand salience

When we say that something is salient, we mean it’s important. It really matters.

When we say someone makes a salient point, we mean their point is excellent.

So brand salience means a brand becomes relevant to us. We know it out there and easily recognize it among others and recall it under various circumstances. 

Brand salience measures the depth and breadth of brand awareness.

  • The depth of brand awareness: Is it easy for a brand element to come to customers’ minds? Is it possible for it to do that?
  • The breadth of brand awareness: In which situations does a brand come to customers’ minds?

Some questions that can help measure brand salience: 

  • What brands of product or service category can you think of? 
  • Have you ever heard of these brands?
  • Which brands do you choose under the following situations…?
  • How frequently do you think of this brand?

2. Brand performance 

Brand performance measures how well a product or service fulfills customers’ functional needs. It describes product quality, including ingredients and supplementary features, reliability, durability, customer service, style, design, effectiveness, efficiency, and price. 

Some questions that can help measure brand performance:

  • How reliable is this brand?
  • How durable is this brand?
  • How is its customer service experience? 
  • Does it completely satisfy your requirements? 

3. Brand imagery 

Brand imagery refers to the way customers think about a brand abstractly. It depends on brands’ attempts to meet customers’ psychological or social needs. 

Imagery indicates more intangible aspects of a brand. Customers can establish associations with the brand from their experience or through advertising, or from other sources of information. 

Read how this customer thought about Harley-Davidson, and you’ll know the power of brand imagery. 

Growing up I wanted to ride a Harley. It wasn’t a fad, or a phase, or the thing everyone was doing. My dad’s friends restored classic cars, and they even rebuilt the engine on his ‘56 Chevy pickup. So, I grew up with classic American muscle cars, and in my eyes I always saw Harley-Davidson as synonymous with classic American muscle. Even as an adult, before I started riding, Harley’s were my gold-standard motorcycle. Was I naive? Of course I was. But if my naivete isn’t hurting anyone else, I think that’s OK.

Some questions that can help measure brand imagery:

  • To what extent do people you admire and respect use this brand?
  • How much do you like people who use this brand?
  • To what extent do you feel you grew up with this brand?

4. Brand judgments

Brand judgments are customers’ personal opinions about the brand. They may evaluate your brand in terms of quality, credibility, considerations, and superiority.

Some questions that can help measure brand imagery:

  • How did this product perform?
  • What is your overall opinion of this brand? 
  • What is your assessment of the product quality of this brand?
  • How much do you like this brand?
  • How unique is this brand?

5. Brand feelings

Brand feelings are customers’ emotional responses and reactions to a brand. These feelings can be mild or intense and can be positive or negative. 

Some questions that can help measure brand imagery:

  • How do you feel about this brand?
  • Does this brand bring you joy, excitement, happiness, or security?
  • Did you feel emotionally connected with this brand’s advertising campaign?

6. Brand resonance

As said earlier, brand resonance describes the extent to which customers feel they are “in sync” with a brand. 

Brand resonance can be measured in terms of four aspects: 

  • Brand loyalty: I buy this brand whenever I can.
  • Attachment: This brand is special to me. 
  • Community: This is a brand used by people like me.
  • Engagement: I really like to talk about this brand to others. 

Why brand resonance is important

When your brand achieves this resonance, you can connect with customers in a more profound way and may get the benefit of the doubt. 

When customers feel resonated with a brand, they’ll continue to choose and incorporate the brand into their life. 

With true brand resonance, you can gain significant brand equity, meaning strong customer engagement and loyalty. 

That’s why a lot of people prefer Mac OS to Windows even though it’s much more expensive. 


Final thought: How to build brand resonance

As you can see from Keller’s brand resonance model, there are four steps to build brand resonance: 

  • Establish breadth and depth of brand awareness
  • Create points-of-parity and points-of-difference 
  • Elicit positive, accessible brand responses
  • Forge intense, active brand relationships 

Easy? Never. It may take you years of trying a lot of things to build a brand and make it resonate with customers. But it’s worth every penny. 

Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.

— Steve Forbes

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