The ‘Most Valuable Brands’ listings by globally reputed organisations including Forbes Magazine and Kantar Research are a sacred annual rite with marque brands across the world vying for the top honours. These rankings go beyond evaluating just the financial power of organisations to examine the reputational muscle of brands. But what does this mean for profitability, the ultimate objective of every enterprise?
An analysis by the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) shows that brands contribute on average 19.5% enterprise value while a study of 220 consumer products by the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) found that a superior brand preference or reputation commanded price premiums of 26% on average, even when brand quality is the same.
Products as Walter Landor famously stated are built in the factory, but brands are created in the mind, and marketing is the function which is responsible for the art and science of brand building while developing long-term relationships with target audiences.
Curious to learn more? Here’s an overview of how your friendly neighbourhood marketing teams create and nurture brands.
Every brand’s journey begins with first entering the consumer’s consciousness. For a new brand, the choice of brand name becomes critical for their business’ survival and growth informing everything from the tone of customer interaction to the values that target audiences may consciously or subconsciously associate with the brand. Decisions at this stage may include business and reputation-critical calls including whether you choose to associate the brand name with an individual/s (Ben and Jerry’s) thereby building trust with potential clients as the ‘face’ of the business, or select one to clearly communicate your product offering (Pizza Hut) or benefit (Nike), or choose a unique but not product/ individual focussed brand name (Starbucks) that would provide greater flexibility as the brand and business grow. For an existing brand, the process of discovery would include communicating to target customers in the platform of their choice and communicating brand benefits that solve their pain-points and meet unfulfilled needs.
Building Brand Recognition
Brand recognition determines how familiar current and potential customers are with your business as including symbols like logos and taglines; and includes customer perceptions of service quality and the values associated with a brand. Memorable brands build their brand identities around their organisational vision, are consistent in their communication across platforms and deliver marketing campaigns that are creative and noticeable while clearly communicating how they solve their customer’s problems in the brand’s unique, authentic voice. A quirky, irreverent campaign from a brand known to push boundaries for instance becomes both noticeable and memorable for its target customers. For instance, Liquid Death, the mineral water brand claiming to both ‘murder your thirst’ and ‘kill plastic’ has enlisted Bert Kreischer, a stand-up comedian known to proudly flaunt his generous belly in a now viral ‘fitness’ video spoofing the ‘Jazzercize’ aerobics videos from the 1980’s in a campaign that is light-hearted and fun while delivering an important message on body positivity that resonates strongly with the brand’s target customers.
Driving Brand Preference
A customer’s decision to choose a brand over its competitors, is today driven not just by the consistency of their service experience, but their perception of how nimble and agile the business is in meeting their evolving needs. This could entail pivoting to adapt to new usage patterns e.g., mass movement to digital consumption and alternate paths of purchase during the pandemic including by demographics who previously demonstrated analog-first behaviours, and understanding which platform meets the need of which target customer group. For instance, while the velvet rope, invite-only audio platform Clubhouse may be more appropriate for engagement by premium brands, Truecaller’s newly launched platform Open Doors with fewer structural roadblocks may provide better synergies for mass audience engagement. In recognition of the consumer’s demands for heightened privacy, Truecaller has been careful to communicate that the app scans user contacts locally with none of the data being transferred to its servers.
Heritage marketing cornerstones such as creating Standard Operation Procedures for service brands and ensuring uniformity of brand materials like colour schemes and logos continue to be brand preference drivers. Lest we underestimate their importance, we should remember that the ultimate marketing coup d’état remains Coca Cola’s now seemingly irreversible association with Christmas by dressing the formerly multi-hued costume wearing Santa in their signature red and white!
Safeguarding Brand Reputation
A recent viral video of a character ignoring two African American children at Sesame Street has sparked outrage and led to more parents of colour sharing similar experiences. The incidents of alleged racism are doubly appalling keeping in mind that Sesame Street was created in the midst of the American civil rights movement, with one of the key objectives being engaging and preparing children from disadvantaged backgrounds for the education system Worse, instead of undertaking a thorough analysis of the systemic problems that could have led to these incidents, the brand elected to go with the knee jerk reaction of a bias training band-aid. A painful example of how brand custodians like marketing teams need to sometimes protect brands even from internal stakeholders. Marketing teams are also often responsible for ‘social listening’ or monitoring social media properties for both positive and negative feedback to bolster organisation strengths and correct any customer service gaps before they escalate into crises. Essential for this process however is to ensure that brands don’t just post and ghost but consistently engage with their audiences.
To prepare young service professionals for careers in this dynamic, exciting space, the marketing modules in the Post Graduate Programme in Services Management bring together heritage and digital marketing elements in a holistic programme.
The modules provide a detailed study and appreciation of the strategic intent and managerial processes specific to delivering quality services, developing differentiated service offerings and building influential service brands. The programme is designed as a constantly evolving entity focussed on keeping participants abreast with the latest developments in various service industries including the rapidly evolving digital services space and the implications for the sector at large and to acquaint participants with the challenges inherent in today’s global multi-cultural marketplaces and how to navigate these, to offer value to customers across geographic and cultural boundaries.
By Anuradha Agnihotri, Services and Digital Marketing Faculty at ISH
About the author - A multi-platform marketing specialist, Anuradha has over 17 years of experience in leading transformational, cross-platform global communications campaigns including over 7 years spearheading CNN’s marketing communications outreach, including the network’s digital communications in India and South Asia. With a proven track record in building brands and growing businesses, Anuradha has served as trusted digital communications partner to leading global organisations across sectors, helping them own and shape their narratives in a borderless and dynamic world. Her areas of interest include strategic marketing communications, brand management, corporate reputation management, sustainability and diversity.