When someone mentions General Motors, what image of the company comes to mind? If it had a personality, what would it be? Reliable and sturdy? Friendly or hostile? Questions like these are a major concern for marketers and advertisers today as they attempt to understand the complexities surrounding consumers' perceptions of products and brands. Ehrman Giustina Professor of Marketing Lynn Kahle similarly explores such issues in the new book Creating Images and the Psychology of Marketing Communication.
Kahle, who is one of the fifty most frequently cited marketing professors, according to an Academic Assessments, Inc. survey, served as editor of the book with former Lundquist College Ph.D. student Chung-Hyun Kim (now a marketing/advertising professor at Sogang University in South Korea). Kahle and Kim, along with Associate Professor of Marketing Dave Boush, also contributed several articles to the publication, which brings together academics and professionals in the fields of marketing, business, advertising, psychology, and communications.
The central premise of the book is that image marketing and creation provides a unique vehicle for communicating with consumers but doesn't follow traditional marketing rules. As such, the book attempts to outline the concept of image and image marketing, for which, Kahle explained, no consensus definition has yet emerged.
"The goal is to understand consumers' mental representations of companies' brand and products: What is the cluster of ideas and associations that consumers have about a product?" said Kahle. "Image goes beyond brand. It covers the whole constellation of how brand, perceived value, and consumer knowledge work together. For instance, when General Motors markets its brand, it doesn't position the company as hostile, yet over the years, some consumers have developed that image of the company."
People quickly grasp this concept, Kahle explained, but in actual practice, marketers and advertisers don't necessarily consider image as thoroughly as they should. "A lot of ideas in this book are things that I talk about in my undergraduate classes. Students are really interested. They intuitively grasp the importance of image in marketing," said Kahle. He also noted that the book-which he completed while on sabbatical in Singapore in 2005-has been well received, prompting invitations for him and other contributors to speak at several conference and universities.
Nonetheless, Kahle emphasized that the book is not meant to be the final word on the subject of image marketing. Rather, it provides a useful starting point for scholars and marketing professionals to understand this complex concept as it relates to the diversity of consumer behavior. "We are simply trying to provide advertisers and marketers with one additional notch of understanding," he said.