INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Brands and branding are by no means a new phenomenon, neither for academics nor the business world. It is possible to trace back the use of brands to the Stone Age, when hunters used weapons of specific “brands” to succeed in the hunt Almquist and Roberts: (1995). It was during the 16th century, however, that brands similar to those we see today have started to take shape. Some of the earliest-known brands were established by the English ceramist Josiah Wedgwood and the French fashion designer Rose Bertin Burke (1996); de Paola (1985). Since the 18th-century England and France, there has been a massive development of the knowledge, procedures, and theories within branding. Contemporary branding theories have their origin and evolutionary starting point in the mid-20th century, primarily due to the development of commercials in mass media Farquhar (1995: 10).

One of the most recent ideas in the history of exchange relations is the marketing concept. The marketing concept is a management orientation that holds that the key task of the organization is to determine the needs and wants of target markets and to adapt the target organization to delivering the desired satisfaction more effectively and efficiently than its competitors. The relationship between the consumer and the brand – consumer’s perception of that brand – is the key to brand acceptance. The strength of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will reflect the fit between the consumers own physical and psychological needs and the brand’s functional attributes and symbolic values, as perceived by the consumer Hankinson and Cowking, (1993)

It has been shown that consumers define the brand relationship from their own individual perspectives and the brand relationship and relational value are very much personalized in the minds of consumers. Customers generate individual relationships based on their individual perception of brand value, brand meaning and their experiences. That is, customers seem to personally create the brand through their communications across multiple contexts. Lindberg-Repo, Kirsti,(2001:233).

Fournier (1998) argues that brands could be seen as a relationship partner, and a way to legitimize the brand-as-partner view is to highlight ways in which brands are animated, humanized, and personalized. Fournier reveals in her research that consumers are of the opinion that they have several relationships with different brands. Consumers feel that such relationships add value and purpose to their existence, and these extra values could be both functional and emotional by nature.

The concept of brand identity has received much attention, and today the majority of marketing companies have specified their brand identity in corporate documents. Brand identity has grown to become a wide concept, now encompassing many of the earlier discussed theories, e.g. positioning, relationship, and brand personality. According to Kapferer (2008) the brand identity gives guidelines to what parts of the brand should be kept the same and what elements can be modified, allowing brands to evolve in time.
Economic history is well stocked with enough insight into the humble beginnings of present-day great corporations. Evidence abound that about all of the multi-national giant corporations in America, Europe and Nigeria were once cottage enterprises that grew as a result of the sheer ability and especially the marketing skills and efforts to produce and reproduce existing products better and cheaper.

The adoption of a customer orientation, which forms the basic assumption of the marketing function of a firm, places a high premium on customer satisfaction. This of course has very wide applications for all areas of the organization. One major implication is that if the firm or organization has to manage its limited financial resources profitably, there is an acute need to identify consumers’ needs and wants before actual production or provision of the goods is undertaken. In the absence of this, the company may be faced with the threat of product failure in the face of more competitive brands.

One of the most frequently used means for identifying consumers needs and wants is the study of brands and brand preference patterns. Brand preference consists of a customer’s perception of a brand’s ability to satisfy his prescribed set of needs more than similar brands in the product class. A consumer’s preference for a particular brand among alternative brands is an indication that ceteris paribus, he will translate this preference to a purchase action when the situation arises. Consumer preference therefore is a crucial factor for management consideration especially in an attempt to implement the marketing concept. Since modern marketing holds the consumer as the centre-piece of all marketing actions, it appears logical to state that no fruitful marketing programme can be formulated and implemented without vigorously attempting to identify the tastes and preferences of the target market. The need for this becomes even more crucial in a developing economy like Nigeria’s at the threshold of technological take-off.

An understanding and determination of consumer preference and the factors that give rise to them ultimately become highly fundamental in planning and implementing the company’s marketing strategies. Brand and brand preference do result from both the nature of the product, the characteristics of the producer, the seller and the consumer as well as the prevalent situation. In an attempt to understand consumer preference on the basis of the nature of the product, one basic approach is consumer attitude measurement. For that reason, marketing academicians and practitioners see the symbolic image of products or services as more important in their success than their physical characteristics and attributes Aaker, (1991).

It therefore becomes imperative to embark on this research to explore ways of solving the problem and restoring confidence. This is the essence of this study with a particular focus at the impact of branding on sales performance in the Nigeria brewery.