In marketing, a company or other organization will often seek to cultivate a particular brand, meaning a set of easily identifiable qualities that the customer ascribes to the company or its products. A brand can be an asset to companies by allowing the consumer to better understand what the company does and by offering reasons, either implicit or explicit, why the consumer should purchase its products. This message is relayed to consumers through four main sources.
Planned messages are the most overt form of brand communication, comprising all marketing materials used to promote a company's products or services. These messages can take the form of advertising, package or promotional material. By making specific choices about the design and content of this material, a company will try to instill in the consumer's mind a specific understanding of the company values and personal qualities. Effective branding gives the company a "personality."
Service messages are messages about the brand that the consumer receives by the company's service providers. Service providers include all employees who interact with consumers in a professional setting. The messages derive both from the service provided and the manner in which it is delivered. For example, a company may ask its employers to act or speak in a certain way that is in sync with the company's brand.
Product messages are messages that a consumer receives in the course of using a company's product. Both the design and the function of the product will communicate to the consumer messages about the company. For example, the computer company Apple makes products, such as the iPod, that are consistent with the company's brand--efficient, intelligent, stylish and user-friendly. It will also maintain a consistent aesthetic, one that favors smooth lines and the color white.
When a consumer receives messages about a company that the company did not intend for it to receive, such as information conveyed by word of mouth or the media, he uses this information to shape his own understanding of the company's brand. Although all messages conveyed by the media are referred to as "unplanned," skillful companies may attempt to shape the media's understanding of their products and services, retaining some control over these messages.