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Managing and Communicating Functional and Symbolic Brands

Establishing a strong connection with customers is essential in the marketing world. Symbolic and functional brands fall into the same broad category. Symbolic brands emphasize abstract and emotional connections, whereas functional brands concentrate on practical advantages and tangibly present qualities (Copadis, 2023). This essay is divided into parts A and B. Part A gives the difference between functional and symbolic brands and discusses the strategies required to manage these brands effectively. Part B explores the techniques and strategies for communicating functional and symbolic brands, supporting the discussion with relevant theories and examples. Functional brands target customers’ practical needs and provide measurable benefits. In contrast, symbolic brands go above and beyond functional features to appeal to customers’ emotions and sense of self. For marketers to effectively manage and communicate their brand offerings, they must have a solid understanding of the two types of brands.

The difference between functional and symbolic brands

Functional and symbolic brands differ in the degree to which they emphasize tangible benefits or intangible associations; functional brands prioritize addressing particular needs and providing pragmatic solutions, whereas symbolic brands seek to establish emotional connections and appeal to consumers’ aspirations and identity. Functional brands prioritize usable advantages and tangibly observable traits to meet particular needs and offer concrete solutions to consumers’ problems. These companies cater to consumers’ logical decision-making by providing dependable, solid, high-performing goods and services. Functional brands emphasize the features and advantages of their products, focusing on elements like effectiveness, efficiency, convenience, and cost-effectiveness (Kim and Song, 2019).

In the market for home appliances, examples of functional brands include Bosch, Samsung, and Whirlpool, which highlight dependability, energy efficiency, and cutting-edge features to increase convenience. Similarly, Apple and Sony strongly emphasize their electronic devices’ speed, storage space, and battery life appeal to users who value functionality and performance. On the other hand, Symbolic brands emphasize intangible and emotional associations to forge a stronger emotional bond with consumers. These brands tap into aspirations, self-expression, and personal identity, giving consumers a sense of purpose, community, and social standing. High-end cosmetic companies, sports car producers, and luxury fashion labels are symbolic brands that place a premium on abstract concepts like status, prestige, and self-expression. By distinguishing between functional and symbolic brands, businesses may develop marketing, management, and communication plans for these brands that are successful and take into account the varied consumer motivations and aspirations.

Strategies for managing these brands

Marketers can effectively manage symbolic and functional marks using various strategies, including brand alignment. That ensures consistency between brand elements like positioning, messaging, image, and customer experience. Identifying and positioning key differentiators to satisfy emotional and practical needs is crucial for creating a cohesive brand identity and customer experience. In terms of messaging, brand alignment necessitates the creation of a cohesive story that communicates the brand’s core values and passions. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to pinpoint critical messages pertinent to the actual components and symbols of the brand and to deliver them consistently across various channels and touchpoints. While the emotional appeal and sense of identity of symbolic brands should also be understood, the message for functional brands should communicate the usable advantages of the brand. The aesthetics and personality of the entire brand will be complemented by these visual components, making them consistent with both the literal and symbolic qualities of the brand (Wallace, 2019).

Brand alignment should also include the customer experience to ensure that every interaction with the brand reflects its intended image and fulfills its promises. That entails matching the positioning and values of the brand with customer service, product packaging, and store design. Whether it is a symbolic brand aiming to create a luxurious and exclusive experience or a functional brand emphasizing dependability, consistency in the customer experience helps establish trust and strengthens the brand identity. Clear brand standards and guidelines must be implemented to align the brand successfully.

According to these guidelines, the ideal positioning, messaging, visual components, and customer experience standards should be adhered to consistently across all brand communications and touchpoints. It is essential to regularly monitor and assess the brand’s performance concerning these standards to ensure ongoing brand alignment and make necessary adjustments. Both symbolic and functional brands can develop a unified, alluring brand identity that appeals to their target market by putting into practice a thorough brand alignment strategy. This procedure progresses brand acknowledgment, client dependability, and advertise separation by guaranteeing consistency in situating, informing, visuals, and client encounters.

Another critical technique is coordinated promoting communication (IMC), which can oversee functional and typical brands by guaranteeing a bound together and steady brand message over different promoting channels. By planning and combining all components of showcasing communications, coordinates promoting communications (IMC) aims to communicate a steady and bound together brand message to the target onlookers. It plays a critical part in overseeing famous and functional brands by briefly displaying the brand’s esteem suggestion, benefits, and passionate association. IMC starts by characterizing the target group of onlookers of a particular target gathering and investigating their needs and interface. That makes a difference in adjusting the brand message and deciding the ideal marketing strategy to target the specified onlookers’ sections. According to Konovalova (2019), advertising, public relations, sales promotions, direct marketing, and digital communication channels are essential for IMC. One of IMC’s key benefits is its capacity to give customers a seamless and consistent brand experience. By integrating all communication efforts, it ensures that the message spread through advertising is consistent with the brand’s reputation in other marketing channels. IMC can highlight the functional brands’ observable advantages, features, and dependability while emphasizing the desired emotional associations and aspirational values for symbolic brands.

IMC also has the potential to improve brand recall and recognition. The brand becomes more memorable and recognizable to the target audience by consistently delivering the brand message across a variety of channels. Customer loyalty and brand awareness may rise as a result. IMC enables the allocation of marketing funds and resource optimization. By integrating various communication elements, brands can ensure that their efforts and messaging are consistent and supportive. By doing so, you avoid wasting money on redundant efforts and make the most of your marketing budget. A distinct brand message that aligns with the brand’s positioning and values is necessary for integrated marketing communication (IMC) to be implemented successfully. The effectiveness of IMC must be continuously monitored and evaluated. This strategy results from higher brand recognition, client loyalty, and market differentiation.

Functional or symbolic brands can be managed by keeping a close eye on them and modifying marketing strategies in response to altering consumer preferences. Brand managers must stay current on market trends and customer preferences to maintain the brand appealing and relevant to its target market. It is necessary to define key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to assess the accomplishment of marketing objectives and monitor the brand’s performance. Data on customer behavior, market dynamics, and the competitive environment are routinely obtained and analyzed for monitoring and strategy adaptation. As a result, brand managers can keep up with evolving customer wants, fresh trends, and competitive activity. Adapting a strategy requires being adaptable and sensitive as the business environment evolves. It can be necessary to alter how information is disseminated, the products provided, or even the communication routes (Dawar and Bagga, 2015).

Changing tactics makes it feasible to keep a brand relevant and in step with shifting consumer tastes. The dynamic nature of markets and customer behavior is the foundation for monitoring and changing strategies. Brand managers must respond quickly to market developments to stay relevant and achieve a competitive edge. For instance, Coca-Cola routinely conducts market research and consumer surveys to learn about changing consumer trends and preferences. This information has helped Coca-Cola roll out new flavors and product variations in response to changing consumer preferences. They have also modified their communication strategies to reach and engage younger demographics by utilizing digital platforms and social media. Coca-Cola has kept its position as a global beverage industry leader by actively monitoring and changing its strategies.

Ultimately, continuous innovation and differentiation are crucial for managing symbolic and functional brands, allowing them to remain relevant, change with the market, and satisfy shifting consumer needs. Continuous innovation consistently launches new, enhanced features, products, or services to satisfy customers’ shifting needs. It entails staying one step ahead of rivals by foreseeing market trends, conducting careful market research, and utilizing client feedback. Innovation for functional brands may concentrate on advancing the functionality and performance of the products as well as incorporating new technologies. Symbolic brands can innovate by incorporating fresh design cues, developing distinctive brand experiences, or entering untapped markets.

On the other hand, differentiation entails positioning the brand to distinguish it from rivals. A strong brand identity, a distinctive brand personality, exceptional customer service, or distinctive product features can all help with this. Functional brands can differentiate themselves by offering better quality, longevity, or value. Symbolic brands set themselves apart by making aspirational and emotional appeals, developing a distinctive brand experience, or collaborating with significant individuals or occasions.

Brands must thoroughly understand their target market’s changing needs and preferences to implement continuous innovation and differentiation successfully. It is, therefore, necessary to conduct market research, keep an eye on business trends, and actively seek out and respond to ongoing customer feedback. Creating an innovative culture within the company is also crucial for inspiring staff members to think creatively, investigate novel concepts, and take calculated risks. The exchange of insights and ideas that result in novel product concepts and marketing strategies can be facilitated by cross-functional collaboration between teams from research and development to marketing and sales.

For maintaining a competitive edge, it is also essential to regularly assess and analyze rivals’ products and market trends. As a result, companies can spot market gaps and seize chances for differentiation. By consistently innovating and setting their products, services, and brand experiences apart from the competition, brands can adjust to shifting consumer tastes and remain relevant in a cutthroat industry. Persistent development and peculiarity are vital in overseeing notorious and functional brands. These strategies allow companies to keep their competitive edge, alter to moving client needs, and remain one step ahead of the competition. Brands can secure long-term victory and protect a driving position in their marketplaces by grasping a culture of advancement and peculiarity.


Techniques and strategies for communicating functional and symbolic brands with theories and examples

To successfully communicate functional and symbolic brands, marketers must utilize several approaches and methodologies particular to their brand situating and target statistic. Functional brands ought to prioritize communicating benefits, their concrete benefits, and interface, though famous brands ought to center on employing a more intangible and passionate procedure to capture associations of their character and needs (Heding, Knudtzen, and Bjerre, 2020). This section looks at different techniques and approaches that can be utilized to communicate valuable and typical marks.

Techniques and Strategies for Communicating Functional Brands:

It is vital to highlight the benefits of the items to convey to clients how the brand can meet their needs. Clients can subsequently comprehend the concrete esteem recommendation and how it can meet their needs. Applicable brands can stand out from the competition and draw clients who esteem usefulness and common sense by highlighting their particular highlights and capabilities. The information-processing theory contends that consumers are cognitively gathering and evaluating information before deciding what to buy. Marketers can appeal to consumers’ logical decision-making processes and give them the necessary information to make decisions by providing comprehensive information about the functional aspects of the brand, such as efficiency, effectiveness, convenience, and value for money. Consider Dyson, a company known for its cutting-edge vacuum cleaners and which successfully markets its practical brand. The innovative features of Dyson devices, such as their powerful suction, cutting-edge filtration systems, and ergonomic designs, are highly valued. Dyson emphasizes these aspects in marketing campaigns, product demonstrations, and internet material to successfully express the practical benefits of their vacuum cleaners. That attracts clients that value sensible and efficient cleaning solutions. Functional brands like Dyson can successfully differentiate themselves in the market by emphasizing product features and benefits and providing customers with the knowledge they need to make educated decisions.

Another effective strategy for promoting functional brands is to provide comparisons and evidence that show the brand’s superior performance, dependability, and reliability. That can be achieved through conducting product trials and tests, exhibiting client testimonials, and presenting facts or figures highlighting the brand’s functioning and competitive edge over competitors. According to the social proof hypothesis, consumers are more likely to believe in and choose a brand if they can find proof of other people’s success. Marketers can use social proof to increase credibility and trust among consumers by offering comparisons and data showing a functional brand’s superior performance and dependability. That will ultimately have an impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. For instance, in the mobile phone sector, Samsung effectively conveys the superiority of its brand through comparisons and supporting data. Samsung frequently shows side-by-side comparisons of its phones’ features and performance with those of rivals in its advertisements and marketing campaigns (Becker, Lee, and Nobre, 2018).

The functionality and dependability of Samsung’s brand are highlighted by highlighting elements like camera quality, processing speed, and battery life. Additionally, user evaluations and ratings on websites and social media platforms enhance the brand’s credibility by demonstrating satisfied customers. Comparative analysis and supporting data are two powerful tools that functional brands can use to demonstrate their superior performance and dependability. This strategy appeals to consumers’ logical decision-making process by offering palpable proof that satisfies their practical needs and demands. Functional brands can build a solid foundation of credibility and trust among their target audience by comparing themselves to competitors and providing evidence through customer testimonials, reviews, and data. That aids in attracting new clients while also keeping hold of current ones who value the features and advantages the brand offers.

Techniques and Strategies for Communicating Symbolic Brands:

A helpful strategy for promoting incredible companies is creating brand stories that stir feelings and lock in shoppers more profoundly. Making brand stories is fundamental for talking about fantastic brands. This strategy involves making a story that accentuates the brand’s values, mission, and passionate offer instead of its highlights and points of interest. By making a coherent and compelling brand story that candidly locks in clients, notorious brands can reinforce their sense of personality and brand dependability. The center of the concept of narrating in promoting is the idea that stories have a powerful impact on people’s feelings and can help within the arrangement of profound associations. Token brands utilize this idea by making stories that reflect shoppers’ objectives, values, and personal characters. By stirring sentiments and cultivating a sense of realness and significance, famous companies may store up a committed taking after and stand out within the commercial center.

An excellent example of a company that expertly communicates its iconic identity through engaging brand tales is Nike. Nike encourages and empowers customers with their “Just Do It” ad, which features athletes’ triumphs and limits-pushing stories. Nike creates narratives that honor daring, courage, and sportsmanship to support customers striving for greatness and personal achievement. By creating brand tales and stories that elicit emotions and engage consumers on a deeper level, iconic brands may successfully communicate their intangible values and meanings to their target audiences. These tales encourage sentiments of longing and belonging in the audience while establishing a solid corporate identity and emotional connection. By reflecting on their beliefs, mission, and the change they aim to make worldwide, iconic companies may enthuse and drive consumers. By doing this, they win over more customers and distinguish themselves from the competitors.

Utilizing visual and aesthetic elements consistent with the brand identity and evoking the appropriate emotional response from the consumer is another effective method for iconic brand communication. Effective use of visual and aesthetic aspects is crucial to communicating iconic brands because they can trigger emotions, produce a desired ambiance, and express a desired image and brand identity. Using brand visual components, including logos, colors, typography, and shapes, a memorable and identifiable visual identity is developed that captures the soul of an iconic brand. According to the visual brand theory, images significantly impact people’s emotional reactions and are highly influential. Iconic brands profit from this concept by selecting and developing visual elements corresponding to the desired emotional associations. Visual components act as potent cues for customers to make connections between concepts, elicit feelings, and reinforce the brand’s symbolic meaning (Austin, 2023).

Apple, one of the most recognizable symbolic brands, effectively conveys its intended message using aesthetic and visual elements. The elegant and straightforward designs of Apple products showcase the brand’s dedication to innovation, beauty, and simplicity. The Apple logo has come to stand for contemporary design and cutting-edge technology thanks to its distinctive and instantly recognizable design. These elements combine to create a cohesive, potent visual identity that communicates Apple’s symbolism as a business that values sophistication, innovation, and simplicity. Symbolic brands can effectively communicate their desired emotional associations and convey their brand identity using visual and aesthetic elements. These components act as potent cues that elicit feelings, produce a visual language, and enhance the experience of a brand as a whole. These visual components support and strengthen the symbolic meaning associated with the brand in consumers’ minds when used consistently across various touchpoints, including packaging, advertising, website design, and retail spaces. Therefore, symbolic brands can effectively communicate their desired emotional associations and brand values through the strategic use of visual and aesthetic elements.


For efficient management and communication, functional and symbolic brands require different strategies. While symbolic brands focus on abstract ideas and emotional associations, functional brands emphasize concrete advantages. Marketers can distinguish between these brands using tactics like brand alignment, integrated marketing communication, continuous innovation, and differentiation. Customers can be engaged, strong brand connections can be made, and customer loyalty can be increased by adjusting communication strategies to the characteristics and motivations of the target audience.

Reference list

Austin, A. (2023). How to create a consistent business aesthetic for your brand. [online] Artlist Blog. Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2023].

Becker, K., Lee, J.W. and Nobre, H.M. (2018). The Concept of Luxury Brands and the Relationship Between Consumer and Luxury Brands. [online] Available at:

Copadis, A. (2023). Building Strong Customer Relationships: The Key to Long-Term Sales Success. [online] Elastic Sales Blog. Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2023].

Dawar, N. and Bagga, C. (2015). A Better Way to Map Brand Strategy. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at:

Heding, T., Knudtzen, C.F. and Bjerre, M. (2020). Brand Management: Mastering Research, Theory and Practice. [online] Routledge. Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2023].

Kim, D.H. and Song, D. (2019). Can brand experience shorten consumers’ psychological distance toward the brand? The effect of brand experience on consumers’ construal level. Journal of Brand Management, [online] 26(3), pp.255–267. Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2023].

Konovalova, A. (2019). What Is Promotional Marketing? (+6 Ways to Use It). [online] Available at:

Wallace, C. (2019). What is Brand Alignment? [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2023].


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