Brand Identity Prism by Jean Noel Kapferer

Brand identity prism - Toolshero

Brand Identity Prism: this article gives a practical explanation of the Brand Identity Prism, developed by Jean-Noël Kapferer. In addition to what it is, this article also highlights the two-dimensional model, the six factors of a successful brand identity and a brief summary. After reading you will understand the basics of this marketing tool. Enjoy reading!

What is the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism?

The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism is a model companies can use to build a powerful and durable brand identity.

Every brand needs an identity that reflects the core values of the brand. Many brands that are bought in daily life have an obvious identity. A brand might be known for providing a specific product for the lowest price of all brands, and for another brand a higher price may mean more value for the customer.

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The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism model is a widely accepted model in the marketing world. The prism visualises six aspects of a brand identity, namely: physique, personality, culture, self-image, reflection, and relationship.

This model connects with brand management and enables the brand manager to look at the brand from different perspectives. This finally creates a clear idea of the brand and the image, and any inconsistencies are noticed early.

The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism was created by Jean-Noël Kapferer in 1996. According to Kapferer, every brand can analyse its identity with the six elements from the prism.

Successful brands, and effective users of this model, succeed to project a positive image to their customers’ brains. That is only achieved when all facets of the prism are carefully interwoven with the identity. Each element contributes to establishing and maintaining a strong brand identity.

The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism model is two-dimensional

Kapferer Brand Identity Prism contains six aspects that have been divided into two dimensions. Firstly, the top of the prism shows the image of the sender and the bottom shows the image of the receiver. The second dimension consists of internalisation on the right and externalisation on the left.

Brand Identity Prism Model - Toolshero

Figure 1 – the Brand Identity Prism Model (Kapferer)

Image Sender vs. Image Receiver

It must be possible to describe a brand as an object or person (physique, personality). Additionally, it must be possible to describe the brand in terms of the user (reflection, self-image).

Externalisation vs. Internalisation

A brand has several social aspects that determine the expression of a brand. This is called externalisation, and concerns the physique, the relationship, and the reflection.

The brand also contains aspects that are interwoven with the brand itself. Internalisation concerns personality, culture, and self-image.

Brand Identity Prism: the six Factors of a Successful Brand Identity

Kapferer says that a brand identity can only be brought to life when all aspects are met, and when the brand communicates well with the customer. However, a strong brand identity can only be achieved when all aspects are interwoven with each other, so a concrete, clear, and appealing identity is created.

The six factors that together create a strong brand identity are explained below.

1. Physique

The first aspect of a brand identity are the basic characteristics of a product or service the brand sells. General characteristics are issues such as design elements, basic functionalities, colours, and other characteristics.

These characteristics ensure the customer can easily differentiate a certain brand from others. A customer who’s happy with a certain product will also more easily buy another product that shows the same basic characteristics of a brand.

An example of a brand that’s successful in this is Apple. Apple’s designs are sleek, modern, and minimalistic, something that comes back in every product line of the brand.

Manufacturers of sports cars also do their best to present their fast cars to consumers by using physical characteristics.

2. Personality

According to the theory behind the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism model, the second element of a brand image is the personality or character of a brand.

These are the properties of a brand in the eyes of the consumer. This personality is developed by several marketing activities the brand applies. If a brand often uses humour in the marketing materials for example, consumers associate that with a light personality.

A way to properly think about this is by imagining the brand as a living creature. Which creature is it? How does it behave? What is its personality?

Brands can also convey personality traits through a specific house or writing style, attitude, or colour. Think of the M of McDonalds. The character or personality of the brand also shows in the communication with the consumer. Pensioners are addressed differently than surfers.

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3. Culture

According to L. Kapferer, culture is the collection of values that form the basis of a brand.

The culture can be influenced by a brand’s country of origin, but can also be completely unrelated to the country of origin. An example of a brand that echoes the culture of the country of origin in their products is Ferrari.

Toyota used culture differently. With the Toyota-way, they created a number of leading principles, including levelling work loads to minimise waste.

4. Relationships

The fourth element of a brand identity according to the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism theory is relationship. The development of a relationship between brand and consumer is part of the branding.

Customers come back more often when they have the impression they’re involved in a way that’s more important than simply making purchases.

Building this type of meaningful relationship is only possible when a brand makes honest efforts for it. Building meaningful relationships isn’t a quick process, but it is a powerful way to build a durable and respected brand identity.

Relationships with customers aren’t the same for every brand. For a brand with a young and lively target demographic, it’s likely that the brand is active on social media and functions as a friend that’s always available.

A very professional company that’s focussed on producing exclusive and custom cars mostly has contact with its target demographic through personal conversations.

The type of interaction between brand and target demographic says a lot about a brand’s identity, and about the target demographic. It’s important that the brand is present at the place the consumer expects the brand to be.

5. Reflection

The fifth element of the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism model is reflection.

According to the theory, the brand must reflect the personality and identity of the target demographic. Reflection is the collection of stereotypical convictions or characteristics of a brand’s target demographic which are often touched on or emphasised in advertising and other marketing techniques.

When the target demographic consists of people in retirement, it’s logical to create a brand image that’s in line with those demographic characteristics.

Consumers more easily feel a connection with a brand or product when they have the impression they fit with the brand’s culture. However, this doesn’t mean that people who don’t share cultural characteristics with the brand can’t become customers. Soft drinks are an example of this.

Many soft drink manufacturers portray themselves as young, cheerful, and adventurous people. In reality, their target demographic consists of people of all ages and personalities.

6. Self-Image

The sixth element of the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism is self-image.

Self-image concerns the way in which consumers of a specific brand see themselves, and how the brand relates to that. Brands can use this to their own benefit by including this self-image in their own identity. That way, the brand holds a mirror up to the consumer.

A customer wants a product or brand to elicit a specific feeling. This concept is often seen in the world of luxury cars. The buyer buys the exclusive car, gets an exclusive treatment, and enhances his self-image.

To summarise the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism

The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism contains six unique elements of brand identity. The six elements are physique, personality, culture, relationship, reflection, and self-image.

Physique refers to the visible or common design elements of a brand through which a customer can differentiate the brand from others. Personality concerns the appearance of a brand and can be defined as a living version of the brand. Brand characteristics can be rooted in the culture of the brand’s country of origin, but also in a company culture.

Building durable and meaningful relationships with the consumer is a way to build a powerful brand identity. A good brand ensures that they reflect the customer’s identity and personality.

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Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Are you familiar with the explanation of the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism? What do you think are other important issues in developing a brand identity? Do you know other theories or models for creating a strong brand identity? Do you have any tips or additional comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. De Chernatony, L. (1999). Brand management through narrowing the gap between brand identity and brand reputation. Journal of marketing management, 15(1-3), 157-179.
  2. Janonis, V., Dovalienė, A., & Virvilaitė, R. (2007). Relationship of brand identity and image. Engineering economics, 51(1).
  3. Kapferer, J. N. (2006). Brand Identity Prism. Strategic Brand Management, 154-155.
  4. Oxford Learning Lab (2019). Brand Management: Build Successful Long Lasting Brands. Retrieved 01/12/2024 from Udemy.
  5. Schroeder, J. E. (2007). Brand culture. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology.
  6. Viot, C. (2011). Can brand identity predict brand extensions’ success or failure?. Journal of product & brand management, 20(3), 216-227.

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Original publication date: 09/09/2019 | Last update: 01/12/2024

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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