Monday, December 6, 2010

“Brand Bare-Discovering the new rules of the fast changing brand world”-Brand Strategies to drive India towards a Super Economy status

By,
Vijay. G. Padaguri
Faculty of Management Studies
New Horizon College of Engineering,
Bangalore
Introduction:
Branding, like many other disciplines has evolved over the years, from being more of an independent discipline to an integrated discipline with several complex factors coming into play. And branding has a profound influence on the way products and services are perceived in the marketplace and also the manner and extent to which products and services get sold. It is, but a stark reality that some of the super brands of today have originated from the super economies. Probably, in a converse approach it would be logical to say that countries which have been able to produce successful global brands have been successful in elevating themselves to a super economy status. The classic example in this case’ would be that of the USA which is the origin of a majority of top ten brands of the world, including IBM, GE and Coca Cola; which happen to be the world’s top three brands. (8,9)
The answer for India to become a super economy also lies in the above mentioned fact sheet. India would have to produce global brands and companies which can compete with the top brands of the world .And there are several strategies and approaches that Indian companies and Indian Brands have to formulate, adapt and execute, in order to reach the top. And since the marketplace and the consumer today are extremely complex and ever changing, one standard strategy will not work. But then, some amount of deciphering on the consumer behavior patterns and mirroring exercises with the consumers can give the companies powerful clues on the branding front. Further, it’s important for the marketing department of the companies to fully support the brand strategy with the necessary investment and right timing of the branding exercises.
Brands are a part of our lives. Brands have a life. The primary purpose of a brand is differentiation. Brands are extremely powerful. Brands can be ‘anything’, -symbol, picture, letter, thought, people or even feelings(10). Big B, MTV, Axe, Shiva Sena (feeling of Maharashtrianism), I and you can be brands. Power of branding is infinite, works both ways, positive and negative. Brands are also stories. Brands can be revived. Ex: Tiger Woods. Brands can be greater than the companies from which they originate. Ex: Xerox, Raymond’s. Underestimating the power of any brand can be “suicidal” to your brand(5). Constantly introspect. Third party evaluation of your brand can give you a sense of practical predictability. Brands as legends have been in existence from a very long time (Bond, James Bond). US’ most known brands like FedEx, Coke, Starbucks, and Ford etc are examples of brands which have achieved a global stature(1). Brands are born, have siblings, upgraded, undergo transformation, have associations, have enemies, suffer from diseases, have relationships, married to other brands and sometimes die.
The innovators of the brand do not have control/have little control over the fate of a brand, because ‘fate’ of the brand is customer driven (2). Ex: Reliance. ‘Brand loyalty’ is no more an in thing. Ex: People switching telecom operators. Highly informed, analytical, evaluative, and decisive customer can be found today, unlike the yester years. (Customer interacting on face book about products and services in online opinion sharing polls and forums).
Essentially, companies should also look at answering the customers and interacting with the customers on all possible channels and all possible occasions. The online social media for example is an extremely powerful and personalized channel, which companies should not neglect (11). Furthermore, because the revenue generation potential on these kind of channels is phenomenal. Empowered thinking and empowered decision making are the characteristics of the customers who are the active users of the online social media.
There are several frequently committed mistakes which companies should avoid committing, if they want to ensure success of their brands. Don’t try to delight a customer, at least until you’ve delivered value for the money and the purpose of buying is met (4). Justify the positioning of the brand in a simple manner. (Touch the heart and not the head). The latest Volkswagen audio campaign in the TOI was a classic example relating to this concept. The success of other comparative brands doesn’t in any way guarantee the success of your brands. “Doing something different” is not enough. The Bingo ad campaign can be recalled as an instance in this case. Harmony amongst different homegrown brands, with segmentation tools is an essential strategy (Lays and Kurkure). Support the growth brands by placing other requisites properly like distributors and logistics, advertising, marketing etc.
Revolve, evolve and when necessary, dissolve in relation to the brands that your company is offering. “Thinking two steps ahead” is quintessential. Thinking beyond market analysis, beyond statistics becomes important because, naturally statistics are a thing of the ‘past’. The pace at which the customer black box is moving, changing and adapting is frenzy, crazy. Catch up or at least try to do so (Fastrack as a brand has done justice to catching up and moving on before anyone else in the market place). Have a pattern in your brand/brands which cannot be easily deciphered.(7)
Literature Review
There are several models that have already discussed the development of a contemporary brand loyalty framework, like the one mentioned in the book, “Consumer Behavior and Branding”, by Suresh Kumar. The model exhibit (3) is as follows:

BRAND LOYALTY
Low High
‘Mystery’

‘Vitals’
‘Floaters’ ‘Shakers’
High


Low
But then, all these models have not talked about customer involvement with the brand at the highest level, which is an extremely important factor, when it comes to creating brands which can win on the big turf, in the global scenario. This effort of a flow model should explain companies how and what is to be done in the pursuit of creating a very strong sense of brand identity and brand ownership in the minds of the customers. Hence a new model which can give clues for to the companies and brands with regard to brand transitions into the mind of a customer is the need of the hour.
Branding aspects in terms of penetration of the brand have also been discussed at length in several cases. The fact that the brand penetration levels of Indian brands in competitive economies happens to be low is evident by the surveys and the research that has already been carried out . The branding success of Indian brands in many a times limited to domestic markets. The following table is a comparative table of 4 top Indian automobile brands in terms of penetration in terms of brand awareness in the urban markets of India and China, considering four metro-cities of both the countries, employing a random sampling technique.
Level of penetration Indian automobile brands in urban India(6)
Brands Level of penetration
Brand X 78%
Brand Y 85%
Brand A 93%
Brand B 82%



Level of penetration Indian automobile brands in urban China
Brands Level of penetration
Brand X 63%
Brand Y 70%
Brand A 77%
Brand B 64%

Therefore the existing research in the area has found out the flaws in Indian branding and also the extent to which the flaws can affect business. A lot has also been done in the area of understanding consumer behaviour and the effects on branding. But the answers in terms of filling the gap between the existing Indian branding scenario and the ideal Indian branding scenario (to reach a super economy status) somehow seems to be incomplete and this answer is detrimental in helping India Inc towards inverting the Indian branding scenario and making the necessary alterations in time and in tune, with the customers necessities and reflexes, globally.
With this the need for apt and poised branding in tune with the services and products offered becomes the line of survival and growth, wherein companies have to underline the promise they are making in a direct and subtle manner to their customers.(12
There are two models, which could help companies achieve their brand objectives effectively and globally are as follows:
The Brand Diamond model









There are several factors which can drive the success of the modern branding activity. The ‘New and few’ philosophy is an extremely important one. If the brand can enlist itself in the list of ‘Firsts’ or the list of few who have dared to do something new and something different, in a meaningful way, it can surely make a mark and surely generate a lot of buzz around the product or the service. Though, in many cases it means extra investment, it can also sometimes mean challenging traditional branding thoughts and practices. One of the latest examples is that of the Volkswagen Vento ad campaign. For the first time in the history of Indian advertising, an audio campaign in the print media reached more than 10 crore surprised early morning readers. The effect, sales for the month of September rose by 25%. A lot of Indians could now pronounce the brand, ‘Volkswagen, Das auto’, clearly.
A strong message or promise makes a lot of sense when it comes to leaving behind, a strong impression in the minds of people. Technically, the marketplace is filed with all kinds of vague promises, but then, strong brands need a strong message that can be backed by evidence and delivery. ‘ 30 minutes nahi to Pizza free’ is’ an example of a strong message and a strong promise exhibiting commitment and passion of great and time bound service.
Delivery of the promise or the message also matters the most. Because, without delivery you cannot expect your brand to sustain the buzz that you’ve created in the market. And you cannot go overboard with the confidence that your brand will be suggested to others and will see repeat purchase happening. Basically, we are talking about a very strong and powerful way to suggest the brand to the conscience of the customer.
Further, continuous interaction with your customers becomes truly essential if you need to elevate your brand or your company to the next level. IBM creates new channels, and new occasions every year to interact with the customers to the maximum possible extent. HCLT in India is also pioneering this concept of constant customer engagement and constant customer dialogue to ensure that they stay in touch with the desired segment.
Central to all this, is the factor of change. Staying with the shoes put on gives the companies a chance to adapt to the fast changing needs and fast changing expectations of the customers. Brands cannot afford to be lethargic in any case and o any extent. They need to have their thinking hats on and their execution spades on, always. The classic case `of the browser war can be recalled in this case, wherein, all major players like Internet explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Bing and so on have tried to evolve and think on the feet. And change is a primary factor when it comes to successful branding because customers are interacting at an unimaginable pace and a great number of interaction channels.




The Modern 5M flow model
Mindshare Guy (Awareness and Desire)

Market share Guy (Actual Purchase)

Mutuality Guy (Recognition of self with the brand)

Miller (Churns out good stories for your brand)

Messiah (Gives suggestions, shows ways, throws light)

One thing that can work very strongly in favor of the brand is the conversion of the fence sitters into protectors and up-keepers of the brand. The Modern 5M model talks about the ideal steps towards getting customers into being central characters of your successful brand story. The company needs to work this sequential process in a proper manner to ensure that the brand sustainability is taken care of.
The first step is to get the prospective customer to be a mind-share guy, in relation to your brand, i.e.; getting your brand into the mind of the customer. This can be done in several ways and through several channels. The conventional methods being the print media, the audio-visual media and so on the modern channels being the online social media, the event channels, and movie based branding etc. At this step, the emphasis is on getting the customer to know your brand. So, the existence of the brand is engraved in the sub-conscious or conscious mind of the customer. Google as a brand has been able to achieve this through a constant and continuous engagement of a wide variety of tools and techniques.
The next step is about converting the mind-share guy to be a market-share guy i.e.; converting the prospective customer to an actual customer. This can be done by effective persuasion of the segment market and by effective conversion of the enquiries and by right timing the sales pitch in tune with the brand identity that has been established. This step is about capitalizing on the brand fascination of the customer.
Further, the next step in the sequence would be that of the market-share guy becoming the ‘Mutuality-guy’. In this case, the customer develops a strong sense of recognition with the brand. He begins to be brand loyal customer of the highest order. Ex: The brand Jockey can boast of innumerable global customers who are mutuality-guys and can vogue to be brand loyals of the highest order.
After this the brand should try to get the mutuality guys to be the “Millers”. The Millers are those kinds of customers who churn out good stories about your brand and talk about the great experiences that they’ve had with your brand. They act as positive buzz creators for your brand. In fact, great ways to market your brand without a specific cost center load. Millers can be anywhere. They can be in the neighborhood, they can be in the newspapers, they can be in community centers, they can be in online chat rooms, creating positive buzz for your brand all the way!
The last transition or the last phase in this model is that of the Millers transcending to be the “Messiahs”. As the word suggests, they can acts as ‘Gods’ for the brand. They fall in love with the brand and they brand becomes a part of their identity. Ray Ban and Harley Davidson are two excellent examples for this transition. The customers provide feedback, give suggestions for brand enhancement, and help the brand to evolve, invent, re-invent, and grow over a period of time to reach a near invincible status.
Conclusion:
To reach a super economy status, strategic branding is one of the most important areas. Super brands belong to super economies. By adapting from the above mentioned models, India and Indian brands can surely achieve the desired results in terms of being a super economy by the 2020 and who knows, someday after that, Brand India could reckon the world and be an uber-economy!
Scope for research
The area of contemporary branding has huge scope in terms of both research and consultancy. The scope for research exists in areas like brand sustainability, how brand perception differs, sector wise and product category wise strategies for brand visibility enhancement, brand positioning, in-house branding activities, in-store brand planning, brand succession planning, segment wise brand costing and also brand equity measurement and brand sustainability with respect to the brand array offered by the companies. The scope of research also encompasses cross discipline and cross category branding which is in a nascent stage and needs to be dealt with great care and precision for a better brands and better branding to come into picture.




References:
1) Building strong Brands, Davis Aaker, CPI Mackays Publishing, First Edition: 2002
2) Compendium of Brand management, S.A.Chunawalla, Himalaya Publishing House, Reprint Edition:2010
3) Consumer Behaviour and Branding: S.Suresh Kumar, Pearson Publishing edition;2009
4) Harvard Business Review: Sep 2010
5) IUP Journal of Brand management: Sep 2010
6) Advertising Express: Sep 2010
7) www.the-ad-pit.bogspot.com
8) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businesslatestnews/7257407/The-ten-most-most-valuable-brands-in-the-world.html?image=9
9) http://www.gadgetcage.com/worldstoptenbrands
10) http://askharishbijoor.blogspot.com/
11) www.brandworld.com
12) www.siemens.com

By,

Vijay.G.Padaguri
Faculty of Management Studies,
New Horizon College of Engineering
Bangalore-560103

Mail: vijaypadaguri@gmail.com
Call: +91 9886630503

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