By: Ashok Mitra
One of the most challenging, yet exciting things that marketers must engage in is to ensure the growth of a brand and sustain that growth momentum.
This write-up tries to capture some thoughts on Brand Management.
Brands exist everywhere.
They are just not about labels, logos, design, corporate identity but also about a set of values, patterns of familiarity, meaning, fondness, and reassurance that exists in the minds of people.
As the market becomes increasingly more competitive and the consumers become more brand and advertising literate, the role of the brand changes as does the role of the marketer.
The brand which initially leveraged the name and perhaps the logo to help consumers identify that it belonged to a particular company, thereby reassuring them of a certain quality threshold, slowly goes into a zone where it loses its power of differentiation and uniqueness, which all this while was nicely pivoted on the tangible product features and rational advertisements.
The market transitions from sellers’ market to buyers’ market and that is when a brand needs to transcend beyond the product features into the realm of intangible imagery to gratify the emotional needs of the consumers.
This is when emotional advertisements are effective.
With further evolution of the market and the consumers, the brand’s role changes further to become part of the users’ self-identity.
In other words, the brand takes the role of communicating to the outer world about the user through the values and associations that it connotes.
Symbolic advertisements resonate best in this scenario.
The marketer needs to recognise these progressive changes in the market and consumer dynamics and accordingly adapt his branding strategy and advertising style to ensure that the marketing action continues to create perceived value for the brand on an ongoing basis.
This is what strategic brand management aims at.
Why does a brand which is strategically managed result in increasing its perceived value in the minds of the consumers?
This is because long-term brand building involves identifying the relevant positioning of the brand which is differentiated from the competition and strikes a chord with the consumers.
It is also about communicating that positioning in a compelling way through different media vehicles to ensure maximum reach.
Therefore, the brand promise not only reaches out to a wider spectrum of consumers but also grabs their attention by cutting through the clutter, creating conviction about the value proposition and consequent positive disposition towards the brand.
The marketer than can increase the price of the brand among this wider consumer fraternity without much resistance because of the brand value that he or she has been able to create.
Consumers subconsciously evaluate the price, not in absolute terms but more from a perspective of the ‘value-price equation’.
Of course, BTL activities e.g. consumer promotions need to be done in some situations like stock clearance, higher offtake during the off-season, quick trial generation, etc, but these cannot run on a continuous basis…else the equity of the brand may be diluted.
Effective brand management should take cognisance of this reality.
Smart management of brands entails that the brand is always kept salient, the conversion and retention ratios are optimal, imagery is relevant and differentiated, commitment and loyalty towards it is strong and the consumer/customer journey including the in-store or online experience of purchasing the brand is memorable.
All of these in their own ways contribute to the equity of the brand, which periodically needs to be measured to be managed well.
Hence managing the sustained growth of the brand necessitates a perpetual process of supporting the brand to ensure that it stays relevant and loved in the mindfulness and hearts of consumers.