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Symbolic and functional positioning of brands

Subodh Bhat (Associate Professor, Department of Marketing, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, USA)
Srinivas K. Reddy (Professor, Department of Marketing, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 February 1998



Some brand strategists have distinguished between symbolic and functional brands, i.e. brands that basically satisfy consumers’ functional or product‐related needs and brands bought to enhance self‐ or social esteem. It has been suggested that brands should be positioned as either functional or symbolic but not both. However, empirical research on the dimensionality of brand symbolism/functionality has been lacking. In this study, scales were developed to assess a brand’s symbolic or functional association with consumers. Subsequent data analysis suggests that brand symbolism and functionality are separate phenomena and, further, that symbolism comprises two dimensions, termed prestige and personality expression. Thus, contrary to current thinking, it seems that brands can be successfully positioned as both symbolic and functional and, if a symbolic brand concept is desired, prestige or upscaleness is just one of the possible positioning options available.



Bhat, S. and Reddy, S.K. (1998), "Symbolic and functional positioning of brands", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 32-43.




Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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