What Is Brand Association? Brand Association In A Nutshell

Brand association is one of the most significant psychological influences on a consumer’s purchase intent. Although it is often the difference between a consumer choosing one product over a competitor’s product, it is a relatively complex topic that few businesses understand well. Brand association describes the mental connection between a brand and a concept. Put another way, it is the thoughts that enter a consumer’s mind whenever they think about a brand.

Understanding brand association

With that in mind, brand activation can simply be defined as the mental connection a consumer makes between a brand and some other factor, such as a concept, person, interest, experience, emotion, activity, or image. 

Brand activation moves beyond traditional key performance indicators such as consideration, usage, and awareness. To that end, marketers strive to create mental connections that are favorable, robust, immediate, and link the brand with positive attributes to build value. Note that brand activation can also be negative when the associations consumers make with the brand are not in sync with its core identity, message, and values. 

Foundational elements of brand association

Positive brand association is built on a few simple but very important elements:


Since many advertising campaigns occur exclusively via visual mediums, businesses can position their brand using symbols, logos, designs, or any other visual element to induce positive associations. 

Coca-Cola incorporated an image of Santa Claus at Christmas on its product labels including seasonally appropriate features such as falling snow. This meant consumers associated the company with the festive cheer and happy memories that occur once a year in December.


When used correctly, the choice of words is also a powerful driver of brand association. Language should reflect the company’s industry, core message, brand persona, and use the correct tone and vocabulary to ensure brand consistency.

The phrase “taste the rainbow” by candy company Skittles allows its fans to associate the brand with a beautiful rainbow that can be eaten. Volkswagen’s famous Think Small ad campaign in the late 1950s created an association between its vehicles and a more convenient size.


Personification is used by brands to attribute human traits and characteristics to nonhuman, inanimate objects. The most oft-cited example is Wilson, the iconic volleyball that Tom Hanks befriends in the 2000 movie Cast Away.

Another notable example of personification can be seen in Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign. Here, the company ran a series of advertisements where two people represented personified versions of a Mac and PC. This allowed Apple to highlight the advantages of the Mac over its competitor by giving the product human qualities such as youth, intelligence, humor, and personality.

Examples of brand association at work

Consider the following list of companies and the thoughts that spring to mind for most consumers:

  1. Google – search engine, answers, information.
  2. Microsoft – Windows, software, personal computers.
  3. Nikeperformance, athletes, victory, sport, the swoosh logo.
  4. Tesla – electric vehicles, vision, the future.
  5. Disney – family movies, imagination, fantasy, children’s characters.
  6. BMW – driving performance, luxury, workmanship.
  7. Budweiser – patriotism, hard work, resourcefulness.
  8. Dove – beauty, purity, empowerment, diversity. 
  9. Skittles – every color of the rainbow. 
  10. Patagonia – adventure, sustainability, ruggedness, activism, awareness.

Key takeaways:

  • Brand association describes the mental connection between a brand and a concept. In other words, it describes the thoughts that enter a consumer’s mind whenever they think about a brand.
  • Brand association is built on three core foundational elements: visuals, language, and personification.
  • Brand association is immediately apparent when thinking of companies such as Google, Microsoft, Tesla, Patagonia, and BMW.

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Connected Business Concepts

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.
Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.
Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.
Writing a copy is the art of crafting catchy texts to persuade a particular demographic. “A copy” is the written content aimed at converting impressions to clicks and converting clicks to high sales. Any form of writing that persuasively requests an action from your audience is called copywriting.
Buzz marketing leverages the power of word-of-mouth advertising to create products or services with enough novelty that they go viral. In many cases, buzz marketing leverages on versatile content that can easily scale and be readapted to various contexts and fear of missing out (FOMO) to amplify the effect of word-of-mouth campaigns.
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.
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