Frameworks for assessing competitive advantage (Day & Wensley, 1988) describe the brand image as a resource, a possible source of advantage. It is a resource that managers have long understood to be important. Aaker (1989) reported a study where, out of 32 potential strategic competitive advantages, managers ranked reputation first and name recognition third in importance. Recent activities in the marketplace show an increased interest in brand image as a resource both by reliance on brand extension for growth and by acquisition of well-known consumer brand names (Aaker & Keller, 1990; Tauber, 1988). Clearly it is not the brand name itself that provides a resource to be managed but the mental representation that has come to be known as brand image. Although the concept of brand image is among the most central in marketing, marketers are hard pressed to agree on what the term means (Dobni & Zinkhan, 1990), and its literature is characterized by a variety of interesting empirical findings predicated on a diverse array of conceptual frameworks. For example, the brand image has been described as a category (Boush, 1993a, 1993b; Boush & Loken, 1991), a schema (Bridges, 1990), and part of a belief hierarchy (Reynolds & Gutman, 1984). Taken individually, these structure-based perspectives offer theoretical consistency; however, many questions relevant to managing the brand are never addressed. The literature on brand image is also characterized by a narrow focus on the brand images held by consumers, excluding the way a brand image may influence decisions made by competitors, retailers, and other stakeholders. The purpose of this chapter is to synthesize what we know about brand image and to provide an integrated framework for conducting additional research. Such a framework should be comprehensive in the sense that
all important elements of brand image can be included within it and fruitful in its suggestion of untested relationships. The focus throughout this chapter is on what brand image can do for the firm. With that perspective in mind, a model is presented that relates the content and structure of brand image to the strategic functions brand image performs. After defining brand image, the model is presented first in an overview and then with a description of its components in greater detail. Because the focus of this chapter is the strategic functions brand image can serve, those functions are described first. From that point the components of the model are described so as to trace the content and structure of brand image back to its sources. The implications of changing brand image, and of explicitly considering market segments, then will be discussed. The final section will summarizes what we know and what we need to know about brand image to manage it better.