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Abhimanyu Ghosh – About ibrands 360 INSIGHTS
While i am sipping on a latte at a Starbucks outlet swarming with a veritable sea of populace this morning, it is an overwhelming thought that is popping in my mind. What in the wor
ld would make people willing enough to spend the equivalent of double worth on a cup of coff ee, when the same could easily be enjoyed with a way much lesser dent in the wallet at other reasonable coff ee joints? Evidently, that a
ll too familiar denominator of purchase, the majority of the consumer breed call ‘price’ was on the backseat here. The answer is loud and clear: Superbly valuable branding! It’s the Starbucks brand experience that 20 million customers a week in the world revel in, that makes them revisit the outlet. And guess what, even with more than six thousand outlets in over thirty countries and growing by a thousand outlets annually, the company own
s a minuscule 7% share of the coff ee consumers within the United States and less than 1% beyond America. What’s more, it’s marketing spend is not even 1% of its earnings! Let’s consider a few more examples before delving further into this very ‘real’ phenomenon that has attached the prefi x ‘iconic’ to the brand legacy of some of the planet’s most successful companies… Nike presents a classic case study in the art of strategic brand establishment and reinfor
cement, creating a swoosh that eyeballs across the globe identify with anywhere (they could, pun unintended, Just do it!). Or consider the story of Pepsi, a brand that for years on end focussed on contending with Coke on the basis of its taste. And then, it decided to throw a bit (a big ‘bit’ at that) of caution to the winds and crafted a brand positioning tactic that was on a completely diverse tangent – “The Pepsi Generation” – that proved a stupendous success in entrenching the brand fi rmly into the consciousness of the youth. Though the eternal confl ict over the Coke- Pepsi market share endures, what’s equally indisputable is the fact that one ‘brand’ new initiative was what it took the giant to create the kind of brand value it has ever since buttressed. It’s more than merely fabricating an emblem and a punch-line, though. Establishing brand value and loyalty is more of a psychological process, which prompts customers walking the tightrope between cognition and anticipation to crossover to the realm of acceptance, time and over. Here, creating a genuine emotional connect is a potent force, of which I feel McDonald’s represents the perfect exemplar with nearly every promotional approach of the company tugging at the heartstrings of its target audience. Considering Nike again, the brand has played on the aspirations of millions who believe they too can do just about anything if their favourite sportstar brandishing his magic Nikes could. Branding at its ultimate best! You may ask, How the above organisations – legends in every context of the word – managed to reach such stellar heights of brand awareness and equity. The secret is as elusive as it is elementary: Every great company plainly comprehends the population it is targeting, the manner in which it needs to position itself to cater to this segment of populace, how it needs to proceed about the task of communicating the message it stands for to its audience base, and very critically, the vital importance of reinforcing this missive with every opportunity it derives to share its brand experience with a customer. I fi gure it this way: The fi rst time a customer chooses your brand, you have stepped into a friendly affi liation with that customer, and how a customer decides and continues to value that relationship will determine how much value the company further derives from the association. Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Mercedes, Lexus, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Wal-Mart, Gillette, China Mobile; name any brand worth its name: that’s precisely the practice that each of them have learnt, mastered and perfected… In this age of globalisation, it comes as small surprise then, that the ‘unseen’ brand value benefi t is in fact a key driver of shareholder value, amounting to nearly one-third of the valuation of the world’s Fortune 500 companies (according to prominent research consulting fi rm Millward Brown).Without a shade of a doubt, every brand needs to depict a compelling story for it to be successful. Then again, brands are the stories that unite us all in a common purpose within an enterprise and connect us with the people we serve on the outside. These brand stories give meaning to who we are and what we do. They’re a special kind of story – they’re strategic; over time they build on themselves chapter by chapter; they grow as they respond to changing customers and changing markets. Brand stories are, in fact, also what drive in reality an enterprise’s vital interface with its customers and stakeholders. The more consistent and convincing the brand story, the more it will propel the success of an organisation. When all is done and dusted, I believe crafting a robust brand story, one that drives key business decisions as well as marketing communications requires the three vital ingredients of simplicity, steadiness and spirit. In other words, fi rst and foremost, a company needs to make sure it realises clearly what it wishes to state. This presents the content of its brand; who it is, what it does, who it does it for, why it matters to the organisation, and how it’s diff erent from anyone else in the marketplace. Then, it needs to make sure it says it (and demonstrates it too) in the same way, wherever and with whomever it goes about conducting business. This is the manner in which all its communications, actions and accomplishments being to function in tandem, building up into the unity that constitutes its brand presence in the market milieu. And ultimately, an organisation needs to render all of the above with a touch of fl air and gusto. This is where brand personality rises to the surface. It’s what connects the brand at an emotional level. It’s what makes people want to connect with the brand’s promise and transforms requisite into yearning. On a different note, while American, German, British and Japanese brands continue to parade their dominance on the world stage, back home the scenario could, and will, positively change. While the regular mega-league brands pave their path slowly and surely into global rankings of the likes of Fortune and Forbes, there hardly exists an indigenous brand that could stake claim to being a champion on the global stage when pure awareness and recall are taken into consideration. Sure, Indian Oil Corporation, ONGC, Infosys, Reliance, ICICI and HDFC are big in their own right. But I feel it is the emerging breed of entrepreneurs and enterprises that need to stake their claim to brand glory and strike when their time is ripe. That would directly imply a commitment to proactive branding, meaning not merely a promotional manoeuvre here and there, but an approach that attracts customers to your organization, to your products and services, without conscious thought or question on their part. And which in turn leads to a kind of ‘internal branding’: why talented people are drawn to work with you and who in turn disseminate the company’s brand message outward to consumers and the world. The ironic part is that while the average person may dismiss it as a supplemental notion, branding is serious business. Everything you do or don’t do carries a promise to your customers. Branding is simply your image and your reputation, built on everything that you did or did not do, committed or did not commit, delivered or failed to deliver. I have felt the strongest always, why you can never ignore branding, for even if you don’t control it, you will be branded! So, I say, harness this subdued but very strapping power to drive and sustain organisational productivity and profitability, for it presents the one primary element that truly distinguishes the really good players from the very great one. BRANDS ILLUSTRATED is a pet project magazine straight out of the heart for the companies and leaders who build a fortune with their heart. Because right at the spine of every business is Marketing and Brand Building. If your spine is right so would be the growth.