Everywhere you go, you come face to face with brands. Businesses that sell goods or offer services all have a brand image they promote to their ideal consumers. If you’re looking to create a brand for your small business, be sure to consider what kind of association you want your customers to have with your company.

A brand association can be any mental linkage to the brand in the eyes of the consumer. While there are many different things that can be associated with a brand, brand associations typically fall into three categories: attributes, benefits and attitudes. Brand associations are important because they affect purchasing decisions. Other factors that brand associations affect include product differentiation, customer recall of information and user satisfaction.

Brand Association Based on Attributes

An attribute is a descriptive feature that characterizes a product or service. By promoting distinguishing features about the product or service a company offers, brands can help make their offerings stand out against their competitors. This helps their consumers recall information about their brand specifically in relation to similar products on the market and can have a hand in making purchasing decisions.

Attribute-based brand association can refer to elements regarding the product’s actual physical composition or to external aspects of the product, which include price, packaging and appearance. Several brands are associated with just their price. Consider discount bargain brands versus high-end luxury ones. Some brands are often associated with their packaging, such as the Tiffany & Co. blue box, for example.

Reflect on the brand slogan “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” that M&M used. By describing a specific product attribute, the company ingrained this characteristic into the minds of their target audience. This kind of brand association helps customers to remember the specific brand quality the company promotes, even years after the slogan was popularized.

Brand Association Based on Benefits

Benefits-focused brand associations involve linking the brand to the personal value or positive meaning that consumers attach to the product or service. Benefits can be functional, relating to the specific results the product or service offers. They can also be experiential, which is more about what the consumer feels when using the product or service. Benefits can also be on a more symbolic level, such as when they correspond with an underlying need the consumer has, like following a social movement.

Several cosmetics brands use benefits-based brand associations to entice consumers. They don’t just focus on how a woman will look when wearing their products; they also tout how much better she will feel. This is a use of experiential-benefit brand association. When a customer is in the makeup aisle of a drugstore and thinking about what kind of lipstick to buy, she may remember that a certain brand says that their products help her feel more confident and strong, whereas a competitor says they help her feel pretty and beautiful. Depending on her mood and her outlook, she may select a specific brand based on how she wants to feel.

Brand Association Based on Attitudes

The attitude of a brand is often based on the consumers’ overall evaluation. This kind of brand association is usually quite abstract and can be related to product attributes as well as benefits. Brand attitudes can be linked to a particular lifestyle, such as environmentally conscious or fitness oriented, or to a celebrity personality in sports, entertainment, lifestyle or business.

Nike is a fitness-apparel brand that uses celebrity endorsements to create brand associations for their different product lines. By working with athletes in various areas of the professional sports landscape, Nike has created an association with top performers in their fields. The brand image definition is that by wearing Nike and using their products, you have a chance at being the best in your area, just like the celebrities in their commercials. This kind of brand association links the celebrities’ attitude and status directly to the brand.