What makes a brand click?

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It’s not enough that you have a good product, a good market, and good finance. Branding helps. And that requires strategy and execution, write Rajiv Gupte & Anand Limaye, as they share examples of marketing strategies used by various brands.

Indian advertising has come of age. During the pandemic, we have seen a multitude of creative ideas, new business and communication models, which have given a new dimension to Indian brands. Some advertisements have also sparked controversy. Ads by Sabyasachi, where they showed Indian Mangalsutra on a scantily clad woman; FabIndia showing the celebration of a traditional Indian festival in defiance of religious sentiments; and Dabur India, representing the celebration of a same sex couple Karva Chauth, have not been well received by the Indian public in India and around the world. All of these ads have been removed from all media. The advertisements were well noticed, discussed and the brands were well talked about. But does it have a positive impact on the brand or does it tarnish the brand image?

The brand concept is at the heart of marketing. Brands bring sales, brands power businesses, brands pay salaries. Consumers buy brands because, they’re more than brands, they’re brands you can trust. Brands are the consumer’s collective perception of an entity. Brands exist in the minds of consumers, where products exist on a retailer’s shelf.

Strawberry with cream can be your favorite dessert. But when you go fishing, you don’t put strawberries in it. You put a worm. Something similar is happening in marketing. Consumer preference is the most important deciding factor. Consumers often do not buy the highest quality products. They buy the best value proposition based on their needs and perception.

In the 1990s, Parle Products, the leading confectionery and biscuit store in India, had a brand called Rol-a-Cola candy. It started when cola drinks were creating a buzz in the market. Rol-a-Cola was attractively priced at Rs 2. Over time the brand was discontinued in 2006 in an attempt to streamline the product portfolio. Although consumers liked it so much, they mixed it with soda and water and made their own low cost cola drink. In 2019, a Twitter user expressed his desire to have the product and requested a return. The roller segment is around 7,000 tonnes, and Parle has a 50% share with high-powered brands like Mazelo Poppins. The brand was relaunched for Gen Z at an attractive price that would contribute to Rs 100 crore in revenue for Parle products. The brand is now much more dynamic and meets the needs of consumers.

Another way is to never have a product proposal that is very similar to another product. You will have to spend a lot to gain a foothold in such a market. If there are two similar products, a lot of promotional money is wasted. If one brand of detergent says “use it first and then trust” while another says “buy with confidence”, both will be using a lot of promotional resources unnecessarily. Have a distinct product proposition, create a distinct identity for your product, and meet a consumer’s unique need, at least in a unique way. Our earlier observation on perceptual maps supports this suggestion. In a crowded market too, if the products are differentiated, each has its place to exist and grow.

Good brands promise a certain quality. Quality can be tangible like comfort, fit, elegance in the case of men’s shirts, or intangible like prestige, luxury, style. This collective perception of the brand is called positioning.

Brand positioning

By repeatedly hammering out the message, marketers create a brand position. Lux’s brand position is beauty soap, Liril is freshness soap and Lifebuoy is sportsman’s soap. The position is created and reinforced by a coherent communication like the approval of the actors of cinema (Lux), the waterfall and the lemon slice (Liril), the sports activities (Lifebuoy). Once a position is achieved, it is difficult for competitors to dislodge it, as long as it is not weakened by consistent marketer communication or overspent by competitors. Lux is essentially a soap for women. When Shahrukh Khan endorsed the mark, Santoor got an easy entry. Liril’s line extensions and the millennial ad showing family unity were inconsistent with the earlier position. Cinthol won an entry for the freshness position. Lifebuoy repositioned the brand under the name Germi Check and continued with Dettol. A classic overwork from the point of view of positioning.

Titan launched Raga and Fastrack. A good brand portfolio segments the market and targets consumers, and then communicates with them effectively. Historically, no global watch brand has created a product specifically for women. Indian women are different from Westerners and therefore a distinct consumer group. For Indian women, jewelry is an intimate treasure and possession. In addition, the need to be seen as sensual is very high but in the Indian way. So, Raga brand watches look like jewelry and make a beauty statement. The average possession of watches by women after Raga’s launch jumped to 65%.

Likewise, for Fastrack, the ideas were that urban youth would quickly discover the excitement of a no-commitment attitude and lifestyle. Plus, for young Indians attending college, style and affordability were essential and that’s how Fastrack came to be. The price was announced in advance and sent a clear signal to young people of its affordability. Students were told that the brand is looking for inspiration on everything interesting in youth jeans, hip hop, beach wear, skating, tattoos, and more. Later, the brand expanded into affordable sunglasses and bags.

Better to create a separate identity. The positioning of the SPINZ fragrance is distinct from that of FOGG, that of India today, Republic TV, WION and Times Now are all distinct and different. But, creating such an identity requires consistent communication. In today’s world of over-communication, there’s a good chance that once the message gets missed in a clutter. So what’s the most effective way to reduce clutter and take a stand in the minds of consumers?

Celebrity Endorsements: Yes, that helps. This helps to remove the clutter from other messages, gives the brand a distinct image and adds prestige. It also has a detachable celebrity image effect on the brand. But not always.

Celebrity crowding: Sometimes marketers use overly exposed celebrities. If the celebrity endorses too many brands, your brand gets lost. How many people remember which brand of milk additives does Sachin Tendulkar approve? Or, which clothing brand does Amitabh Bachchan endorse?

Positioning adjustment: Many times, brands are endorsed by celebrities, whose image does not conform to the message, to be delivered. A few years ago, movie star Jitendra endorsed a brand called 30+. It was a serious health tonic, which was not in keeping with Jitendra’s image of Jumping Jack. It was an elegantly executed advertisement, but the brand failed.

Performance adjustment: Just a good celebrity and a product is not enough to create a brand. The execution must be good. Cricketer Hanse Kronje endorsed a clothing brand in a poorly executed advertisement or Rajesh Khanna for a ceiling fan company. The brand is not even approved now.

Credibility adjustment: The endorser image rubs against the brand, most of the time in a positive way, but how many of us think Anar dana or Navratna Tel? are used by Amitabh Bachchan. Such advertisements do not meet the aspirations of consumers.

Celebrity Under Influence: Sometimes if the celebrity supporting them gets bad publicity for some reason, the brand suffers. Marketers need to be careful about this, otherwise, along with the positive image, the negative of the endorser also fades away. When Tiger Woods got bad publicity for his promiscuous behavior, he lost most of his marks. But, I’m amazed that today so many ads feature celebrities who get bad publicity, like Shahrukh Khan for BJYUS or Shilpa Shetty for the Good Morning brand. Yes, it will give higher consciousness to the mind. But, brand image? This will help the celebrities, but the brands?

Owner’s endorsement: Air India was a lagging brand. But with the takeover of Tata, he acquired a new image. Tata means trust. Air India suddenly became a trusted brand. The position has shifted from a lagging brand to a trustworthy brand. Apart from other things, it will surely have a positive impact on the image, as well as on the business. The cash register will start ringing, which is already visible on the stock exchange.

So it is important that it is not enough that you have a good product, a good market and the finances. Branding helps. It takes strategy and execution. Marketing strategies have a lot in common with war strategies. After all brands create loyalty, brands give price premiums and brands ensure sustainability.

The writers Rajiv Gupte & Anand Limaye are authors. Their latest book, Brand Wars: Combat Strategies for Indian Brands, was published by SAGE Publications India


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