What content strategy and technology will leading brands use in 2024?

The state of digital content 2024


The Aaker Model: A comprehensive guide to building brand identity

by Casey Schmidt  |  November 9, 2020

6 min. read
The Aaker Model illustrated.

In the world of branding and marketing, it’s not always clear what steps to take next.

If we were to go about understanding things like brand identity, brand loyalty and brand equity without some type of guide, we would end up lost and confused.

A guide of arrows on a wooden ground.

Fortunately, a guide does exist to give us some firm ground to stand on. It’s called the Aaker Model, and has been showing the marketers the way for quite some time.

Let’s learn more about it.

What is the Aaker Model?

The Aaker model is a brand blueprint developed by marketing expert David Aaker. It mostly emphasizes the importance of brand identity and offers unique solutions to building a strong brand.

The man who created the model, David Aaker, put forth the ideas in the model in 1996, and the concepts have remained in use even to this day.

The Aaker Model in an illustration.

The Aaker Model includes four different brand topics: awareness, loyalty, perceived quality and brand associations. These different topics give value to different types of brands.

Now that you have an idea of what the model is, let’s take a look at why it’s so important.

What makes the Aaker Model so valuable?

A brand vision should attempt to go beyond functional benefits to consider organizational values; a higher purpose; brand personality; and emotional, social, and self-expressive benefits.” – David Aaker

The Aaker Model offers many unique paths to help clarify brand strategies. It provides a foundation for developing a brand identity, showing companies constructing their brand what they should emphasize.

Employees working on a strategy on a whiteboard.

The Aaker Model extends further than other similar models, such as the Keller Equity Model, which is limited to fewer quadrants with fewer descriptions. The Aaker Model gives more leeway for marketers developing campaigns and provides them with more helpful elements.

Another reason the model is valuable is because of the way it can create an adaptable brand, especially if the model is implemented correctly. Remember that your brand should be dynamic, instead of restricted to serving singular purposes or markets. The Aaker Model helps a brand become more expandable.

3 ways you can use the Aaker Model advantageously

Depending on where we are in our branding and marketing journey, we might take different pieces of information away from the Aaker Model, or we might use it differently than others.

Remember that this model is just a blueprint, just a guide. It is only as effective as you allow it to be. The key to using it successfully is gaining a true understanding of its concepts.

No matter what we need from this helpful blueprint, chances are there are some fundamental ways it will help us. Here are three to consider.

Improve your brand persona

The Aaker Model doesn’t directly identify brand persona, though the model aligns with the necessary paths to improving upon it. Brand personas take hold when a brand element, such as a logo, is associated with what it means to be human, like personification for a brand.

Three different people holding a self-portrait over their face.

By molding your branding strategy to associate emotions, values and kindness with your brand, a persona flourishes. Keep in mind that whatever persona you strive for must be relevant within your brand identity.

An easy way to gauge a brand persona is through descriptive words of the brand. Would customers give human characteristics to your brand, and if so, what would they be?

Help measure market perception of your product

The Aaker Model gives a brief rundown of how your product fuels brand identity. A true measurement of product involves a multi-stage approach, which the model helps piece together in reference.

This approach includes a thorough examination of the way in which the product is perceived, which markets are using it and what kind of characteristics it has.

A toy ball that warps perception.

Also note that the intention a company has for its products don’t always line up with how they’re used by customers, which changes the market outlook.

For example, many sports ‘trading’ cards are never traded, and the pack goes unopened. Hats are not always worn, but hung on a shelf for decoration.

Make sure that you keep an eye on trends, using the Aaker Model as a base to guide your decisions, and embrace the evolution of your product.

Ensure image and symbol consistency

It’s hard to deny the impact images and symbols have on brand identity. By referring to the Aaker Model, you’ll be able to better maintain the solidarity of these symbols, which will improve identity.

Take for example the brand logo. It’s a clear, distinct notifier to all who see it of what the brand behind it stands for. Customers know when they see a particular logo on a product what kind of things to expect from that product in terms of quality, longevity, customer support, etc. Of course, this is just one example.

A grouping of digital symbols.

It’s important to be aware of the many different types of images and symbols used in projects and different marketing campaigns. The Aaker Model acts as a reminder of what types of these visual symbols need to be upheld and consistent across each project.

Now that you have some basic ways to use the model in your favor, let’s take a look at how it can help you understand brand identity better.

How the Model helps further define brand identity

As you now know, the Aaker model is one of the foundations in helping create strong brand identity. Furthermore, it offers a unique breakdown of the different components that makeup brand identity. The model organizes these within four different quadrants:

  1. Brand as product. This quadrant comprises the outreach of the product, it’s different features, its level of quality and potential value. Also included is the ways it is used, what type of people want it and where it originated geographically.
  2. Brand as organization. This section contains the different elements attached to the brand organization, in particular, things such as how well people trust it, does it seem forward-moving and any potential negative considerations. It also includes local versus global activities.
  3. Brand as person. This quadrant is made up of the many different customer and brand relationships, as well as the personality of the brand. This typically includes descriptive traits such as optimistic, caring, customer-oriented, etc.
  4. Brand as symbol. Included in this section are the different types of branding symbols attached to a brand, such as visual elements, brand history and audio elements.

Putting all of this together, it becomes clear how an understanding of the model leads to a better understanding of improving brand identity.

Closing thoughts on the Model

There is beauty in structure and order, and this beauty is accompanied by effectiveness and efficiency when order elevates a brand.

By following the Aaker Model, at least in some capacity, you clarify likely branding tasks and learn important ideas of what it takes to discover and understand certain brand elements.

After all, sometimes the most helpful thing is as simple as a visual model that guides us from one idea to the next.

If you’d like to learn more about branding, consider our comprehensive branding guide.