Strategic brand management refers to the process by which a company aims to manage its brand image through the preparation of innovative policies. This procedure includes several factors like planning, implementing and controlling marketing programmes to manage brand equity. It is important for an enterprise to follow certain essential steps like determining and evaluating a brand position, devising appropriate policies and then applying them in marketing activities. For this, an organisation conducts brand audit which is a process carried out to gain an insight into the current state of a brand and offer possible recommendations to enhance this position in a future context. The present report is based on a brand audit of House of Fraser which is a departmental store having outlets spread across Ireland and the UK. Also, it includes comprehensive research around the brand to capture the relevant aspects related to the company.
Importance of brand and its value to consumers and society
A brand is a wholesome experience driven by customers or society that differentiates the products or services rendered by an organisation from its rivals in the eyes of people. The brand is a popular term in business, advertising and marketing which seeks to represent the image of any product or company within the marketplace. In the modern world, people are surrounded by a number of brands which they utilise or experience in a routine manner in their daily lives. In this regard, House of Fraser wanted the customers to have an exceptional time coming to the brand stores due to the enjoyable experience they derive within the store. They possessed the belief that this form of customer service would lure a large number of people to visit the stores on a daily basis just to have the quality experience. Also, the company regarded this as the stepping stone to building a strong brand image and position in the market such that they could instil a sense of loyalty and trust among customers. Further, this company kept on increasing the range of beauty products to captivate consumers of all age groups and retain them for a longer time. House of Fraser also provided big size advertising posters for newly refurbished outlets so as to have a massive impact upon people.
Yet, contrary to all the efforts of the company, the brand name and position of HOF declined severely which caused significant fall in revenues as well as profits. This initiated the economic collapse of financial markets from 2008. With the continuous recession, families within global markets began tightening their budget and looking for cheaper alternatives from competitors such as ASDA and Sainsbury's which operated at the lower market end. The condition of the organisation worsened with the upcoming years. Consequently, the enterprise signed a Complete Voluntary Agreement (CVA) with creditors in 2018 to assure that HOF would pay off their debts over a fixed time period.
The audit of House of Fraser is carried out through the implementation of the Customer Brand Based Equity Model which is abbreviated as CBBE. It is a model which is helpful in building brand equity by analysing people of UK so that more and more investment could be made to develop effective strategies. Such strategies tend to build a reliable brand image of House of Fraser among customers to retain them for a long duration of time in future. CBBE model is explained in the context of HOF below:-
Level 1- Brand Identity
This level of the CBBE model attempts to identify the perception of people towards the House of Fraser. The brand identity of any product takes place when the audience is totally aware of the organisation as a destination for shopping. It can be considered as the foundation upon which the brand is built. It can be said that House of Fraser has always been willing to offer an enjoyable in-store experience for customers. Yet many public posts displaying the willingness of a company to shut its maximum stores and relocate the others have shaken the confidence of customers. Yet, the old customers of the brand are still attached to the enterprise and willing to purchase products from them.
But this quantum of people is diminishing day-by-day. This has led to a massive decline of this brand in the market thereby affecting the purchase behaviour of consumers. People have now begun to shift to substitute brands like ASDA, ALDI, LIDL, Sainsbury's. House of Fraser now enjoys a much lower proportion of adults buying from their departmental stores. This implies the worsening position of the brand in the market against rivals like Debenhams and John Lewis which have half the number of outlets as House of Fraser. Customers who give priority to quality and price or are brand conscious are not willing to turn into HOF outlets. The people who are still purchasing their products are from A/B class. The organisation also possess a fair proportion of lower-class customers. Yet the shift of customers towards other brands as well as lack of initiative from the company to invest in a refurbishment of stores have led to shrinking in market share as well as fall in profits. This has compelled the company to continuously keep on closing HOF stores across the UK.
Level 2- Brand Meaning
This level focuses upon the act of getting to know more about the brand so that familiarity with House of Fraser is established in the marketplace. This level reflects that once the customer is acquainted with the product, they are willing to gather more details about the same. The factor of reliability is established with the House of Fraser only by way of collecting additional information which is valid and relevant. This includes elements such as exchange rate, market size, market potential, regulation and subsidies which are to be provided to investors for getting assistance in establishing a connection with customers. The performance of this company in the UK market is evaluated overtime so that features of trust and reliability could be established. The experiences of existing investors could be taken into account so that brand personality could be developed. For a business to become successful in the market, it is necessary that the brand is valued among customers in the market and its share in the marketplace keeps on expanding over years.
In this regard, House of Fraser failed to embrace the rise of e-commerce within the retail industry. It is acknowledged that the convenience of online deliveries at a rapid pace and the ease with which customers can incur money online was ignored by House of Fraser for a long duration of time. At present, one-fifth of UK retail business is carried out online and this proportion is expected to grow more in upcoming years. The brick-and-mortar stores of House of Fraser have not been successful in building a connection with clients. Further, the whole process of integrated brand communication was ignored by an enterprise. This process refers to the planning process related to the consistency as well as the relevance of the brand strategy of the company inclusive of all points of contact to get connected with potential customers. The brand audit of House of Fraser thus revealed that there was highly ineffective communication of the enterprise with the target audience which led to the fall of a company within the UK marketplace.
Level 3- Brand Response
This level of the CBBE model is concerned with the response of existing investors which can be categorised on the basis of their judgement and feelings. The positive response for House of Fraser is being achieved through availing a quantum of return on their investment. It has been ascertained that a higher amount of feeling associated with judgement is helpful in the formulation of the positive outlook of the brand. In the context of the UK, there should be a minimum number of judgements so that positive brand equity can be formed. The people who have invested in the market of UK have been satisfied with the number of returns which is being availed by them.
The retailer has been continuously suffering from issues associated with cash flows. As per 'Management Today', company's cash and cash equivalents significantly reduced from £125.4m in January 2016 to £72.9m in January 2017 and then to even lower C&CE approximating to £7.4m in January 2018. Further, the company went through a loss of £44m loss in 2017 which largely indicates the lack of a healthy and effective relationship with customers. It appeared as if House of Fraser was about to get a much-needed cash injection from C. Banner, the Chinese owner of Hamley’s. C. Banner showed the willingness to buy a controlling stake in House of Fraser Group for a sum total of £70 million. However, when their share prices themselves declined by 70%, C. Banner took their hands out of the plan and stated that it was “impractical and inadvisable” to further continue with the deal. This reflected that the brand response was ineffective and this was yet another reason that fostered the organisation to close the maximum of its stores, refurbish some and relocate the remaining ones.
Level 4- Brand Resonance
It is very crucial for brand UK to reach this level in terms of brand equity as very few are able to achieve this level in the pyramid. The investor who has been part of brand UK at this level will be able to connect on the social and psychological grounds. The resonance can be broken down on numerous segments the most crucial of them is loyalty in which a person will show repetition in behaviour and will invest in the country repeatedly. There is a sense of attachment and are not only investing themselves but are also encouraging people around to be a part of the economy of the United Kingdom.
As per the above-mentioned report, it has been concluded that Brand Audit is a systematic process to know the fundamental positioning of a particular brand of a company in a marketplace. With help of this process company remarkably increase their return on investment and gain other financial benefits. In this present report, Formative theory of Customer Brand Based Equity Model is included which throws light on building a strong powerful brand and evaluating the strength of a particular brand within the marketplace. With the help of this model, a company can effectively convert its struggling brand image into a successful one.
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