Applying Kapferer’s Brand Identity Model to Digital Marketing

Much has been written about tactical deployment of brand communication in the digital world, however, there has been little effort at theorizing around existing models of brand communication and how consumer behavior and brand management is being fundamentally altered by technological change.

This post takes a look at Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism, one of the most influential models of brand communication, and how digital technologies are challenging older communication models.



Kapferer focusses attention on the sender receiver model, and how brands are senders of information and consumers are receivers and vice versa.

This model needs to be looked at in detail for the digital age, as consumers are not only connected to each other, they are hyper-linked to brands and any action that a brand takes has to take, has to account for this speed and depth of responses. Hitting the forward key takes no effort, and every false move has a much longer and deeper shelf life than it used to. On the other hand, because consumers are so connected to brands, those brands that have the digital connection worked out stand to gain by co-opting consumers into the product development process, utilizing word of mouth to develop communication strategy, and handle issues in real time.

Let’s take a look at each of the elements from the brand identity prism and how they apply:


This is the recognizable physical aspect of the brand. In terms of digital marketing, this expands to include the online spaces that the brand inhabits and the community and brandosphere that is nurtured and developed by the brand.


The brands character. When communication is expanded into the virtual world, personality, values and tone of voice become all the more important. All interactions in hyper-space, whether games or blogs, need to have the same personality. Once the personality has been set, there would be many things that the brand cannot do online just like, based on personality, people decide what to do and who to hang out with.


The system of values that the brand inherits from the company. In virtual terms, this becomes all consuming, as the corporate entity needs to sort out its presence online, and to decide how the brand will communicate with the TA. Company values are being constantly assessed at all times by consumers before and after the purchase. (refer to the McKinsey Consumer Journey Model detailed in the Notes)


The relation between brand and consumer, and also between consumers, and how the brand facilitates this relationship. In the virtual world, ofcourse your brand could be facebook, and be the ultimate facilitator of relationships, or you might have to work at building a relationship with consumers. Here, an interesting tribal insight comes into play: Everyone does not have to be playing the same role to be friends, infact in a functioning tribe different people play different roles. Hence, it is not essential for the brand to be an exact replica of its target audience in personality  terms in order for it to have a good relationship.

Reflection (of the consumer):

This is the stereotypical user of the brand. In Kapferers model, it is important for the brand manager to know who the ideal consumer really is, and to focus communication on this consumer. Online there will be many groups of consumers who will engage with the brand, but the reflected consumer is the one who the brand should seek to target, and this reflected consumer should be used to engage the other groups. Brand advocates and bloggers with the right personas can be used to engage online audiences here.


The mirror the target group holds up to itself. The ideal self of the consumer. Brands must find and talk to the ideal self. In the virtual world most people put on their ideal self on display, and so brands who connect in the avatar affected world will be the most likely to succeed.

Action Points:

  1. Extend the brand universe to include all online properties
  2. Make sure brand personality is accurately reflected in all online interactions
  3. Let the real culture of the company do the talking
  4. Don’t get between people, facilitate the interaction
  5. If 4 does not apply, then create as real an interaction as possible
  6. Talk to your ideal consumer – others will automatically connect to your ideal – use brand advocates, empower them and let them speak for you.



For a detailed account of Kapferer’s model: pg. pg 182-187, The New Strategic Brand Management, JN Kapferer, Kogan Page, Fourth Edition, 2008. I have taken the definitions for each facet of the Prism from

For a description of how the consumer journey is changing according to McKinsey, and how the funnel is no longer a valid analogy:






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