Creating Brand Value - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Creating Brand Value

Course Number 1916

Senior Lecturer Jill J. Avery
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 sessions
Exam or project

Career Focus

This course is designed for students who plan to create, unlock, or invest in value created through brands in the consumer and retail space. It is appropriate for:

  • Marketing professionals charged with creating, nurturing, and managing brand value;
  • Entrepreneurs looking to create their own consumer-driven brands;
  • Consumer/retail general managers and consultants engaged in stewarding brand strategy; and
  • Venture capital, private equity, or investment management investors seeking to identify brand asset potential and value brand equity.

Educational Objectives

In the consumer/retail space, brands are often companies’ most valuable assets and sources of their sustainable competitive advantage. But, managing brands to achieve their full value potential has never been more difficult. Consumers are increasingly diverse, skeptical of marketing, and empowered by digital technologies that easily connect them to others who share their tastes. They co-create the meaning of the brands that shape their lives and play a participatory role in brand management that can make them allies or adversaries. The contemporary brandscape is crowded with new competitors vying to stake claims to rich, meaning-laden value propositions that reflect and leverage the zeitgeist. Iconic brands are toppled everyday by young upstarts telling new types of stories in authentic ways. Firms are aggressively buying consumers’ brand loyalty at the same time they are firing their customers. Customer relationship management (CRM) investments have failed to deliver on their promise and are often hurting rather than helping the development of strong consumer-brand relationships. Brand managers are losing control as consumers hijack brand meaning and engage in open-source branding. And, the next brand crisis is just around the corner in a 24/7 news cycle driven by social media.

This course takes a contemporary view of branding as a collective and collaborative meaning-making process among firms, consumers, and other cultural producers, and of brands as meaning-based, relational assets that must be carefully designed, curated, and negotiated to unlock their considerable value. As branding becomes more participatory, experiential, and experimental, the role of the brand manager requires cultural and relational prowess. Today’s managers must be able to author resonant stories that spark conversations that capture attention, generate engagement, and provide culturally-relevant meaning to consumers. Learnings will focus on how brands and the stories that define them can be crafted and communicated in ways that nurture relationships that create value for both consumers and firms.

Course Content and Organization

The course is organized into six modules:

Module 1:  The Value of Brands
Key questions will include:

  • What, exactly, is a brand? What “jobs” do brands do?
  • How do brands create value for consumers and for firms?
  • How does one create an iconic brand?
  • How relevant are brands in today’s marketplace and what are the forces that are making brands more or less relevant to consumers?
  • What are the elements that make up consumer-based brand equity?

Module 2:  Brand Storytelling
Key Questions will include:

  • How is brand meaning created and who are the multiple authors that narrate it? How can brand managers best manage brand co-creation alongside consumers?
  • What makes a good brand story? How can managers use cultural branding to craft culturally resonant brand narratives?
  • How can brand managers use consumer research to inform their brand storytelling?
  • In today’s competitive marketplace, how can managers best position brands to create maximum value? Which types of value propositions hold the most promise?
  • Which types of brand stories go viral? How can brand managers build virality into their storytelling?
  • How should brands be best managed over time for continued growth? What are the opportunities and challenges associated with brand extension, brand revitalization, and brand repositioning?
  • How effective is social mission branding? Under which conditions will consumers value a brand with a social mission?
  • Should brands be political? Under which conditions does this lead to a stronger and/or a weaker brand?

Module 3:  Brand Portfolio Strategy and Brand Architecture
Key Questions will include:

  • How can brand portfolio strategy and brand architecture increase the value of a firm’s brands?
  • What's the best way for brands to go global? How are global brands best managed?
  • Under which conditions should a firm pursue a global branding strategy versus a portfolio of local brands?
  • How should brand managers evaluate linking their brands to the brands of others? Which types of brand partnerships make sense?

Module 4:  Negotiating Consumer-Brand Relationships
Key Questions will include:

  • What roles do brands play as relational partners? How do different relational roles contribute to differential costs and benefits to firms?
  • How does a consumer-brand relationship form and evolve over time? Why do some relationships decline and dissolve while others intensify and endure?
  • What is brand loyalty and how does it manifest itself? How is it best nurtured and negotiated?
  • What is customer relationship management (CRM) and how do brands and their consumers enact their relationships? How is artificial intelligence changing these relationships?
  • Under which conditions is brand equity diminished or destroyed? What can managers do to prevent and/or mitigate this?
  • How should managers handle brand crises?
  • Who is responsible for an unprofitable relationship? Should firms “fire” their customers? Under which conditions?

Module 5:  Managing Influencers and Brand Communities
Key Questions will include:

  • What is the role of influencer marketing in building brands? What works and what doesn't? Are paid influencers as valuable as volunteers?
  • Why do consumers become influencers and/or join brand communities? What types of value do they provide?
  • How can brand communities be crowdsourced to help build brands?
  • How are brand communities valuable to and dangerous for brands? How are they best managed?
  • What happens when consumers hijack brand meaning? How can brand managers work with online and offline influencers brand communities to create rather than destroy value?

Module 6:  Brand Valuation
Key Questions will include:

  • What are best practices for brand valuation? How does one value a brand asset?
  • How do brands create shareholder value? How can a strong brand increase returns, reduce variability in cash flows, and insulate a company from market downturns? How can brands be used to manage a firm’s risk exposure?
  • Why should CEOs, corporate boards, and investors invest in brands? What is the return-on-investment (ROI) of branding?
  • What happens when companies don’t invest in their brands?