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Understanding Brand

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  • 1. Of view‘point of view’ is my way of helping youngmarketers and sales managers.I am always encouraged to watch young marketers and salesprofessionals tapping into perspectives through my articles andgetting some helpful insights ……… Article Serial: MN250807 All my white papers are free to download and are available for reference. Reproduction of any kind requires my consent. The following article is copyright protected. For any permission, please contact me at: manumaxnanda@yahoo.com Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 1
  • 2. Understanding ‘Brand’ Around a month back, I got a call from a former team mate (now a marketing head with a large corporation) seeking help on his firm’s ‘brand marketing’ problem. His problem was that he’d blown 4 Million dollars (in a 4 month period) but his campaign results were far from satisfactory. I spend a day in his office, meeting up with his entire marketing team, a few sales managers and some operations / admin personnel. I have found that the I also learnt that apart from the marketing team and the HQ sales ‘Aloof Marketing Department’ is a problem that plagues many people, no one had the idea that a campaign was on its way. companies. The marketing department doesn’t The marketing team had been working on their own pumping money deem necessary to inform others into the campaigns without involving other stakeholders. (sales team, service, supply chain, etc) even with basic information like They ran series of print and electronic advertising cycles, only to realize timing and the aim of the campaigns. sales was still not picking up. Such marketing endeavors and Also, marketing team’s idea on brand building was confused and campaigns are a waste of money, interchanged with advertising, packaging design etc. because here instead of the whole company, it is just the marketing team This improper ‘definition’ and approach also led to the failure of the that is trying to shoulder the entire much costly campaign. brand image. The ‘brand’ needs to exist and Notably, everyone in the company was of the opinion that advertising is necessarily needs to be flowing what will establish their brand (in their limited marketing knowledge inside every individual’s vein in the enterprise. they probably were referring to the false notion that pumping money in a campaign will lead to people recognizing their logo!) “ A decade ago, the brand building game was relatively easier. At that time, if the marketer had the money for a decent print / electronic campaign, he could build a strong proposition towards building a brand. Out then the customers had the eyes n ear for an attractive message or value promotion. Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 2 ”
  • 3. Today in the fiercely contested competition and the advent of digital marketing, the customer is carpet bombed with advertising for various products and these campaigns are all over him (wherever he goes and in whatever he does) thru various modes like print, electronic, digital, signage, one to one etc and even thru his personal devices. For a marketer it is important to understand how to differentiate the product / service in an already over communicated society, where the target consumer is habituated in screening out most of the messages. The strategy to differentiate the product is to place it in the customer’sAdvertising is one function that should mind in a convincing way so that whenever he recalls the need, thenever operate on its own. firm’s brand is the first on his list.It needs to depend on other functionsand all stake-holders to take cue from Having said that, just doing an independent print / electronic campaignthem. will not stand a chance today for this over informed, over contacted andFor example, talking of great servicewhen you don’t have one will leave a very busy customer.bitter taste and too many unsatisfiedcustomers, this will eventuallyboomerang and hit your futuremarketing efforts hard. The maximum that a marketer can expect, from a print and / or electronic campaign that can break the clutter through some innovativeMarketing needs to coordinateadvertising with all brand promises communication messaging, isthat are real and tangible. a) Customer recalls the brand / product while making his purchaseIt is time marketers moved from decisionadvertising campaigns to brandcampaigns. b) Customer goes ahead and buys the product to test and experience. Most marketers live in the dark thinking their job is over when the campaign starts. With the commencing of a campaign, they want (and rely on) the sales team to take over, push sales , get more dealers and have visibility at retail etc. With this attitude of the marketing team, the sales team gets a sudden rude shock and once they see a lull in the marketing activity, post the campaign, and they quickly brand the campaign as a sheer failure. Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 3
  • 4. It is worthwhile to remember that in current times ‘sales’ is directly connected to the brand value. And the term ‘brand’ is not just the communication but also the service associated with it. The service part in a brand implies ‘the promise’ and ‘the value’ that the brand holds. So simply put ‘brand’ is the combination of all the elements that make a business (service, sales team, product, unique lovable features, packaging, communication, partners, store outlook, etc) The customer views a ‘brand’ as ‘a promise’ and expects the delivery of this promise from ‘all points of contact’ in the market ecosystem. Also, the brand is much more than a physical symbol. It is the picture of all collective ‘attributes’ and ‘perceptions’ that aNo matter what your advertising and customer forms in his mind.packaging says, the brand’s imagewill be formed throughproduct/service experience throughall the stakeholders behind yourbrand. (right from front-ending salesteam to the back office with R&D andeveryone in between) Brand Values Product Operations Production R&D Marketing People Sales Channel Communication & Service CUSTOMERS Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 4
  • 5. A marketer needs to remember that a brand it is not just the ‘visual image’ but it’s the ‘overall reputation‘, that is earned only and only through: a. Customer experience and/or b. Positive word of mouth thru customer experienceThe marketing team’s endeavor hasto target the ‘mental space’ it needs To explain further, the customer’s experience with the brand has justto occupy in the target audiencesmind. begun when he buys the product and it is post this buy that he starts to register and build an impression of the brand.This can be achieved throughpositioning the brand on elements The customer now recalls and evaluates what the campaign said aboutand associations which meaningfullyset it apart from the competition and the product, he experiences quality / features and compares them toother brands. similar products from other brands.At such junctures, the marketing team He is also likely to evaluate factors like ‘cost versus benefit’ ratio ofneeds to focus on product attributesand through their repeated using a particular product, servicing, ease of repeat purchase, etc.communication needs to set a brand It is after all these experiences that the customer finallyidentity and ultimately form a brandpersonality. ‘forms an image for the brand’. Brand today is not just the slogan, not just the logo, nor is it theThis can only happen when productscommunication is designed to touch celebrity endorsement (etc), but it is the ‘differentiated image’ thatneeds and wants of the targetaudience. compels the customers to buy, candidates to look for jobs, suppliers to contact you, society to respect you, (etc) It is important for the top management of a company to clearly set out the brand promise and core brand values. This then needs to be clearly communicated to the marketing team and human resources team (for internal branding – which I will not discuss here) to be portrayed to the internal and external customers. A marketer must remember that only the customer centric actions will create a brand and it is extremely important to work and build on this emotional / lovable attachment with the customer. This can be achieved if the marketer thinks like the customer, and self experiences all the stages / cycle that a customer might / would possibly go through while coming across or using the brand. Whether it’s the -- ease to buy, or exciting packaging, or a compelling campaign, communication for exceptional features / ease of usage, exciting pricing, ease of contacting service, response from service and so on and so forth, an able marketer would very closely look at all such aspects. Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 5
  • 6. And even more importantly communicate all such advantages to sales team, channel partners, agency, (etc) for a 360 view and understanding and finally unity of messaging. He should also discuss gaps if any with relevant stakeholders and top management and try and sort them out to the benefit of the customer. It is also important for a marketer is to understand the following factors: 1. product, its features and attributes in detail,(thru the product marketing team) 2. product usage – every step (that a consumer might put it to), 3. hidden parameters and new usages (thru the product marketing and feedback from sales etc) 4. all advantages to a consumer, 5. all shortcomings (lack of features, service gaps, pop issues) Equally important is to understand the available (and possible) channels of receiving customer feedback. It is the voice of theBelow exhibit highlights various customer that is to be given utmost importance. Benefits that achannels of communication customer seeks if implemented can give the brand a great fillip.between a marketer and thecustomer.This exhibit also highlights thecommunication with productmarketing and R&D teams, communication & feedback Product Marketing Marketer Marketer feedback Research & Development Product Feedback forms attributes & (thru Print / Electronic / Internet) brand Value Feedback Interviews communication Sales staff, Retail, Service partners, etc (Customer experience feedback) feedback feedback Customer Customer Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 6
  • 7. Customer feedback helps in understanding not only the likeable product attributes, but also the importance that a customer gives to the brand. Unfolding and understanding the image a customer has for the brand (or is in the process of formation), his association index with the brand,For brand’s sake, customer and the ‘image’ he and the brand together projectfeedback process and evaluation (stylish, cool, hot, fashionable, tech savvy etc) is what a marketerneeds to go beyond technology should build his branding strategy on.talking and should instead drool Through this feedback the marketer should try and understand whatupon benefits this technologyprovides through features and how makes (or can make) the brand special and lovable for the customer.exactly they help a customer. This data is what the marketer then needs to exploit together with the marketing agency, product team and top management.I have seen technology marketers And ultimately this information is what should form the basis of allusing so much tech jargon to communication with the customer.impress customers. Beyond a pointit goes tangentially futile and doesn’thelp the cause of feedback. Now, talking about communication – any brand communication should have no more than four messages. These messages should beThe benefits that particular features repeated and reinforced thru the entire marketing ecosystemprovide are what a marketer needsto know. consisting of sales team, channel partners, service, all campaigns, enclosed product usage brochures (etc) and most importantly theThis ‘through the eyes of the website.customer’ feedback is like the basic I will point the importance of the website, as I have, in the past comeingredient of forming the branding across various campaigns that have not been linked with the companyand brand communication strategy. website. A great website will certainly help in reinforcing the brand value through the marketing messages, and will also solve problems, find answers and solutions for the customer’s questions and finally help establish his beliefs in the brand. Today and in the times to come, the company website should be the epicenter of all marketing activities, especially for all brand value communications. Additionally a marketer should try and connect all stakeholders (internal & external), through the company website and should use it to communicate all brand attributes in the marketing activity. Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 7
  • 8. It is important that the entire company (and ideally external stakeholders, too) needs to rally behind all customer connect points and influence the customer with the same brand values. The marketer in his role as the brand manager needs to positive influence everyone and every entity must help him. It is because of a satisfied customer that the brand gets highlighted and breaks free fromSome common reasons for a brand the clutter of being just another brand to being ‘the brand of choice’.to falter are through This in turn helps a company on various frontiers like -- easily hiringa) the product and features good talent, getting new / more suppliers, more service / channel (existing or missing) partners, more valuable investors (etc)b) bad experience on servicing,c) channel partners (not talking Next step for a marketer is to deeply understand the importance of the positively)d) and at times also thru the sales brand symbols – both the logo and brand statement. team via poor product All brand communications (especially visual) should consistently use knowledge, skill deficit, the brand symbols. This when done repeatedly, would set a product communication issues, connection bond between the customer and the brand. The brand selection of channel partners, logo then becomes the tool (for the customer) that encompasses all meet-greet-assist issues etc. brand values within it. It is like an abbreviation of all features and values (and also the quality signals) that a customer sees (or remembers) in the brand. Creating an impacting brand image (through communication of core values and customer benefits) for a company and connecting it to the brand logo (through the brand statement) is the ultimate dream of any marketer. The logo and the brand statement, simply put, are like a graphical representation of all other parts that make a brand. ( caution – the logo and brand statement are not the brand, a common mistake that marketers tend to do). Connecting every message and communication to the logo and backing it up with the brand statement (which is nothing but a promise of brand values) guarantees positive connect with the customer and helps in aiding his awareness, especially in an over communicated marketing scenario where the maximum a customer can remember is a logo. Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 8
  • 9. Another important branding task for a marketer is to find ways to increase the interaction between the brand and its target audience. This assumes even greater significance when a brand operates in multiple product categories. Combined with crisp communication, the brand logo (and brand statement) gives the customer the confidence to….. “a marketer, like a chef, has to make the existing products a regular part of their lives.choose the best ingredients, and in For new introductions, a known brand logo gives the customers astipulated time has to blend the sense of ‘definite confidence’ in picking them up for a trial (everyingredients and decorate the platterwith the product in a very attractive marketer understands how important it is for a new product to quicklystyle and the final presentation (of the make it to customer trial purchase)product) needs to end up in a palatabletaste” ……. Lastly to build a successful brand a marketer must constantly try and understand the set of target audience for his products. This ‘set of target audience’ can change with time and so the marketer must constantly keep his understanding on this subject astute and live. The brand should evolve with this understanding of the target group. A marketer should periodically collect a sample database of customers who consume the brand products to have a clear understanding of how the target group is changing. All marketing and sales support functions should also evolve and change with it and so should the brand. For all discussed above, at times, a marketer also needs to convince the top management on the concept of equating all business decisions to branding decisions.To give a clearer understanding, if a So whether it’s the company’s office location, its factory uniform, thecompany employs a bank that has a look of the reception area, the partner selection process, the bank itlethargic service attitude for its channel uses, the investors it chooses, the people it hires, packaging ofpartners, trust me some of these products, and so on and so forth, all such decisions should be treatedchannel associates will soon give up on as branding decisions.your brand.So although it seems choosing a bank Once the management understands the concept of linking ‘all businessis a pure business decision, it actually decisions to the like of branding decisions’ everyone and everythingassumes the form and shape of a brand falls in place to help steer the company on the path to customerdecision. loyalty. A strong brand can drive growth for a company when markets are stable or on the upswing. At the same time this strength can help the company sail through in tougher market conditions. Understanding ‘Brand’ © M Nanda Page 9