Friday, April 27, 2007

Brand & basics of "Branding" - Part III

What does your brand promise?

The brand statement, often called the brand promise or proposition, is a derivative of branding research. It states the benefit of buying and using your company’s products or services. For clothing, it could be about style or comfort. For a car, it could be about safety or reliability. Whatever it is, it must be clear, engaging and presented in a context relevant to the customer. One example of an effective brand promise is that of BMW’s. It’s stated right in the company’s tagline: The Ultimate Driving Machine.

Your promise should be golden

If your company’s products and service don’t live up to their brand promise, new customers will become lost customers and loyal customers might leave, too. Simply put, your deliverable, what ever that is, must follow through on the promise—in fact, it would be best if it actually over-delivered.

Your promise should be unexpected, but welcome

Don’t reuse something a competitor has already promised even if it works for your product or service, and don’t be vague in trying to position your company favorably against your competitors (such as saying you’re “the best pizza in town.”). Be specific because specific is exponentially more memorable. Besides, people expect you to be good. Otherwise, they wouldn’t give you their business.

Hearts and minds first, wallets later

Creating a positive emotional association in your market for your product or service is key. It can create want and desire by the mere mention of your brand, product or service name. Needless to say, that’s powerful. For instance, the mere mention of Ben & Jerry’s conjures up images of numerous unique premium ice cream flavors and with the anticipation for your favorite (in my case, Cherry Garcia). Such positive emotional associations are built over time through good branding practice and a time-tested relationship between you and your customer based on intrigue, trust, understanding and support.

To create a brand promise that creates such emotional connections, it should be:
1. Grounded in the brand’s core values
2. Clearly relevant and engaging to your target market
3. Able to create some sort of positive emotional attachment beyond just being “good”
4. Repeated internally and externally within your organization
5. Adaptable to the business climate
6. Continually reinforced
7. Consistent across advertising and marketing mediums
8. Known and echoed by business partners

Monday, April 23, 2007

Brand & basics of "Branding" - Part II

The Road to Branding Success

Building on the inherent values of a brand should be the core of any branding strategy. If they’re not clear, get a good grip on them first. Is the brand about honesty or integrity? Quality? How about excellent communication and customer satisfaction?

Knowledge of a company’s values, at least in a literal context, is typically an internal matter; yet, those values become evident to everyone in contact with the company, from customers and prospective customers to business-to-business relationships and employee relations. Consistency is the key here. If members of the organization aren’t accurately representing the values of the brand, steps must be taken to rectify the chink in the armor. And unlike a brand’s key business proposition, values should never change even though the landscape in which the company operates and even its products may.

Winning brand strategies starts with top-notch research

With values set, a brand proposition is ready to be established. Objective and comprehensive branding research are the keys here. At a minimum, both must be done to establish clarity on the brand’s strengths and weaknesses, the target audience and the competition. If possible, branding research should also be done on the brand’s industry, its history, the status of the market and possibilities for future expansion.

Your target customer will determine your success

If it’s only possible to do one body of brand research, discover as much as possible about your target customer. Find out who they are and what their needs and desires are. Make it your mission to get as detailed information as possible on their age, gender, income, shopping habits (online and off) and anything else of relevance you can determine. If you’re targeting a business market, these criteria will differ, depending on the industry. Understanding your target market and what they want is key to developing a winning brand. Knowing these things should also give you an idea for what communication medium and content would work to engage your market.

Other research you might want to do is find out what your competitors’ offerings are like. How do your offerings stack up? What can a customer get from your product that they can’t get from anyone else? Find out these things, and you have the seeds for a winning branding strategy, not to mention great fodder for an ad campaign.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Brand & basics of "Branding" - Part I

Standing out amid a massive chorus of competitors is a challenge for any company in today’s business climate. Want evidence? Look at any magazine, TV show or surf the Internet. The number of offers and sales pitches one receives on a daily basis is simply staggering and increasingly ineffective. It’s no wonder, then, why businesses are seeking new and more effective ways of increasing the influence of their brand strategy in the marketplace. A strong brand strategy can increase the awareness of a company and its offerings in such a way that establishes strong feelings and reactions and a favorable view towards the company as a whole.

To create this sort of “brand awareness” in your market, it takes skillful Brand Strategy know-how.

Successfully out-branding your competitors is a continuous battle for the hearts and minds of your customers. The proposition your brand strategy makes must be very compelling, attractive and unique among competitive offerings. The proposition must also be consistently reinforced throughout all phases of an organization, from senior executives to customer service, research and development, business development and even your business partners.

What entails a comprehensive and effective “Brand Strategy process?” Well, it varies from industry to industry, but here are some very basic guidelines about what makes a good Brand Strategy.

Brand Strategy—what’s the big deal?

Brand Strategy is nothing new. Yet, the expectations consumers have for a product or service they buy is stronger than it’s ever been. This is why companies interested in long-term success must create the most promising, targeted brand experience possible.

Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand, and your customers are having a “brand experience” when they interact with you, whether it be with your products and services or the people in your company. In order to craft this “brand experience” in a calculated way that is beneficial for your company, you must have a strong understanding about what exactly a brand is.

Brand is the Alpha and Omega

In other words, brand is the totality of your company and its business.

“A brand is the sum of the good, the bad, the ugly and the off-strategy,” says Scott White, one of the leading branding consultants. “It is your best and worst product. It is your best and worst employee. It is communicated through award-winning advertising as well as those ads that somehow slipped through the approval cracks and sank anything riding on them. It is your on-hold music and the demeanor of the receptionist who puts that valued client or prospect on hold. It is the carefully crafted comments by a CEO as well as negative buzz by the water cooler or in chat rooms on the Internet. Brand is expressed through written, audio and visual content. It is interpreted through emotional filters every human being has—where anything can happen. Ultimately, you can’t control your brand. You can only hope to guide it.”

... To be Continued

The above essay is by Scott White, who is the President of Brand Identity Guru Inc. I chose to use his work because I found his ideas extremely simple but at the same time conveying the exact message. All of us have very different ideas about what Brand or Branding is, and this essay kind of clarifies most of our doubts.

Dream big, but plan strategically - Paula A. Sneed tells students at Kellogg's

Paula presented five rules that she believes help people capitalize on change and realize their goals:

1. Keep a big, preposterous, ridiculous dream in your life
2. Have a strategic plan for your professional and personal life
3. Be a reality shaker
4. Keep only the right people in your life
5. Have the highest ethical character

Paula A. Sneed, a former executive vice president at Kraft Foods. As an African-American female who began her career at General Foods Corporation in 1977, Sneed said she was confronted by many difficult situations and learned how to cope with and embrace such challenges.

Source :Kellogg Northwestern University News

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reply to the Question asked yesterday

Let's accept the reality of the life is that everything in this world has become complex and Marketing and Sales as a discipline is also not an aberration. The whole complexity originates from the very fact that we the people who are also consumers have become complex in terms of our needs and wants. As student of this faculty and practising manager it is very important for us to understand the whole phenomena of what is called market dynamics. Since ages we have been trying our best to understand the simple things in our life and come up with certain theories to enhance the predictability that is why and how laws of gravity, theorems of geometry and everything came into existance. Marketing jargons and theories are also an attempt to understand the things properly and to create a pattern that could help us control. But the biggest problem in life is when we muddle through everything and think that we have finally reached the destination to score, to our dismay we find that goal post has shifted. In short, yes jargons and theories are important, it helps our understanding.

Mr. Manoj Kr.
DGM - Institutional Sales,
HR Johnson Tiles,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reader's Question

I got a question from a reader:

"Please excuse my curiosity ... I was going through your blogs and I am not from marketing/sales background but I do have certain amount interest in your domain. Now I have a straight question to you; does really these comcepts and jargons help us in a real world??"

I would like to have your views on this.


Monday, April 16, 2007

When did you last smell your brand? by Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom is a world leading expert on branding. Since defining ten revolutionary branding rules he has provided brand-building advice to a host of international organizations.
His clients include Mars, Pepsi, American Express, Mercedes-Benz, Ericsson and Yellow Pages.

He is also a member of several international boards including Wotch, Hitwise and

Nearly all the brand communication we experience encompasses just two senses - sight and hearing. Yet the way in which we engage with the world around us uses all five senses. And we use these senses in different ways to garner experiences - some give us clear factual information, others link more closely with our emotions.

Lindstrom, drawing on wide international research, points out that "... 99 per cent of all brand communication today is focused on two senses: what we hear and see. In sharp contrast, 75 per cent of our emotions are generated by what we in fact smell". Brand managers, by overlooking the sense of smell, are missing a great opportunity to develop new and strong emotional associations with the brand.

Others are doing it - why not brand managers?

Think about your last shopping trip - the smell of leather, the coffee aroma, the pungent smell from the department store perfume counters - a host of experiences guided by our sense of smell. The makers of products know smell matters - Lindstrom reports on how car makers and leather goods producers exploit aromas to give buyers the complete experience. Yet we do not make the link in our brand communications, we do not use or talk about smell to the extent that we could.

Ah, I hear you say that it's a bit tricky to incorporate smell into a television advertisement! But what about the other brand communications? What about magazine advertising, direct mail and sampling? Have we thought about how these can play a bigger role by incorporating a wider sensory experience? And have we thought about how we link this experience of smell into the visual and auditory communication we produce?

The answer to this question, as Lindstrom describes, is that some brand managers are incorporating more sensory impact into their brand communications. These marketers - at Singapore Airlines, Kellogg's and Ford - show that we must see (or is it hear, smell, taste, touch and see) the brand as a complete sensory experience. The visual image must not jar with the sound, nor should the physical appreciation of the product differ from the impression given before that experience.

So where should we start in creating the total sensory brand?

As with every piece of marketing planning we must begin with an understanding of what our product means to the people who use it or experience it. This is not just about the actual product but the situation where it is used and the emotional associations that are struck. The brand is not something we simply create for consumption, but is a joint project between us and our customers.

It is easy to see how some products can benefit from using a wider range of senses in communicating the brand - food products start with a taste and smell, for example, and Lindstrom describes how motor manufacturers are learning to use smell in their products. But what about more prosaic, everyday products and services? How do we widen the sensory experience here - what does a telephone call taste like? What smell goes with the supply of electricity? What does a bank feel like?

There are answers to these questions that relate closely to the chosen brand positioning, what we choose to promote our product or service and the emotions that these things elicit in the consumer. Finding smells that elicit feelings of attentiveness, comfort and security might work well for a bank. And adding the right feel to furnishings and fittings would also assist.

For the telephone company, we should think about what the telephone itself feels like, about the comfort we need when we settle into a long call and the things we want for that call like a mug of tea or a box of chocolates. All these ideas can be incorporated into our brand positioning and we can build the brand communication around a range of sensory experiences.

Brand communications are not just advertisements

One of the biggest lessons for us in Lindstrom's work is that our brand communication is not just about advertising. Yet, because advertisements take up the lion's share of the budget we tend to focus most of our attention of them. We spend more time worrying about the end frame of a 60-second television advertisement than we do about the entire direct marketing campaign. And the result is sensory deprivation - campaigns that lack real emotion and do not elicit the response we really want from the consumer.

Lindstrom's work takes us firmly back to the original idea of brand marketing - the reason why the best marketed products play on senses other than sight and hearing. We need to worry about the product and what the consumer experiences. Ford and Rolls Royce did not arrive at the new car smell by accident, but invested time and money into making sure the customer experience was complete.

We also need to think about the place where the consumer buys and what the experience there is like. Does our product stand out - do possible buyers sniff it or feel it? Take a minute or two the next time you do your weekly shop and watch how people sniff products, pick them up and feel their heft and touch them to test their smoothness. Visit the market or the delis - see how many offer a taste of cheese or salami.

This is what we have to capture in our brand communications. Not in some half-hearted way, but fully embracing the total experience of the consumer. Lindstrom's description of Singapore Airlines' total branding sums it up - visual, olfactory, auditory and tactile considerations are brought together in a comprehensive and rigorous brand. The result - a consistent position among the world's favourite airlines and a profitable, growing business.

Friday, April 13, 2007

HBR Articles – Must Read

1. Strategies to Fight Low-Cost Rivals , by Nirmalya Kumar

2. Match Your Sales Force Structure to Your Business Life Cycle ,by Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha, Sally E. Lorimer

3. Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing, by Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham, Suj Krishnaswamy

4. Customer Value Propositions in Business Markets, by James C. Anderson, James A. Narus, Wouter van Rossum

What is a Brand?

Though there are several answers to this question, here is a different view:

Let’s take the example of a B2B company. Here the brand is the people which represent the organization. So, my B2B client’s view about me is the “brand” that they associate us with, putting the onus on all of us to create a great Brand Image leading to a lasting Brand Equity. The organization as a Brand becomes important only after the people representing the organization proves their credibility – hence the Brand Equity

In case of a B2C product, Branding is a rather complicated process . Here the brand is created as a result of various activities happening over a period of time – first, by various marketing communications, then proving its functionality as against its advertised / conceived ones, its easiness to use, and most importantly, how well it is actually solving the “problem” it is so designed for. Therefore, a brand lasts only when a consumer is satisfied on all these fronts.

Therefore, as we see a Brand is nothing but the image about a product/service in the mind of the consumer. The efforts put in while in a brand building exercise, has no direct relation to the impact it can create in the minds of the consumers. However, the it obviously has impacts on how a brand or people / organization associated with it, behave in front of the public eye.

Since consumer’s mind is not so easy to predict, it doesn’t take long for a positive impact to turn negative (the reverse is rather difficult). Let me give u an example:

I used to use a particular hair-care product very religiously for several years – I was attracted by the product’s promises, the organization, its promise of it’s corporate social responsibilities in the company website, etc, until I met the Brand Manager! This guy is not only a big Snob who loves throwing his attitudes around, but he is the most people insensitive person I have ever seen (I have seen him dealing with his Team Members). The end result: They lost a die-hard customer, and I switched over to a competitive brand! If this is the impact on someone, who has some understanding about marketing and sales, imagine the impact it would have on a normal consumer!

Therefore, at the end, it doesn’t matter if the product is B2B or a B2C. If I am representing an organization, or a product or a service, I am responsible to keep the image of that brand intact in the mind of the consumer all the time. And, it’s not an easy job at all!

By Susmita Das Gupta

Theories of Innovation Diffusion

French sociologist Gabriel Tarde originally claimed that sociology was based on small psychological interactions among individuals, especially imitation and innovation.

Diffusion of innovations theory was formalized by Everett Rogers in a 1962 book called Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers stated that adopters of any new innovation or idea could be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on a bell curve. Each adopter's willingness and ability to adopt an innovation would depend on their awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption. Some of the characteristics of each category of adopter include:

1. innovators - venturesome, educated, multiple info sources, greater propensity to take risk
2. early adopters - social leaders, popular, educated
3. early majority - deliberate, many informal social contacts
4. late majority - skeptical, traditional, lower socio-economic status
5. laggards - neighbours and friends are main info sources, fear of debt

Rogers also proposed a five stage model for the diffusion of innovation:

1. Knowledge - learning about the existence and function of the innovation
2. Persuasion - becoming convinced of the value of the innovation
3. Decision - committing to the adoption of the innovation
4. Implementation - putting it to use
5.Confirmation - the ultimate acceptance (or rejection) of the innovation

The S-Curve and technology adoption

The adoption curve becomes a s-curve when cumulative adoption is used.
Rogers theorized that innovations would spread through society in an S curve, as the early adopters select the technology first, followed by the majority, until a technology or innovation is common.

The speed of technology adoption is determined by two characteristics p, which is the speed at which adoption takes off, and q, the speed at which later growth occurs. A cheaper technology might have a higher p, for example, taking off more quickly, while a technology that has network effects (like a fax machine, where the value of the item increases as others get it) may have a higher q.

Caveats and Criticisms

Critics of this model have suggested that it is an overly simplified representation of a complex reality. A number of other phenomena can influence innovation adoption rates. One of these is that customers often adapt technology to their own needs, so the innovation may actually change in nature from the early adopters to the majority of users. A second is that disruptive technologies may radically change the diffusion patterns for established technology by starting a different competing S-curve. Finally, path dependence may lock certain technologies in place, as in the QWERTY keyboard.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Experts Speak !

"Indian advertising is 80 per cent mediocre, 15 per cent competent and 5 per cent brilliant" - Ravi Deshpande , CEO and National Creative Director -Lemon

Behavioural signs - Moving from IMC to ICBM

Professor of Advertising Robert Lauterborn thinks that it is now time to move away from Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and focus on ICBM — or Integrated Customer Behaviour Management.

Integrated marketing communications — IMC, in short — was a label that Don Schultz, Stan Tannenbaum and Robert Lauterborn stuck on to a process a decade ago in a book titled Integrated Marketing Communications: Pulling It Together and Making It Work. What they thought would be describing, was a strategic problem-solving approach, a new way of thinking and working, a banner under which multiple functions could march together in lockstep to accomplish a business objective accountably. Instead, what IMC has come to mean to many people is little more than ‘two-from-Column A, one-from-Column B’ media selection. IMC is too often perceived even by the authors of some subsequent textbooks as simply making sure that PR efforts are in synch with advertising placements. IMC, therefore, has been pigeonholed as an end-of-the-food-chain function that only kicks in at the tactical level and then only deals with communication issues.

Maybe its time to blow it all away and rebuild the concept… so here comes ICBM - Integrated Customer Behavior Management. IMC’s vision was, may be too limited. ICBM integrates everything that impacts customer behaviour. Product development to meet customer needs more precisely. Packaging that communicates with equal precision. Pricing that reflects the value the customer perceives in the product, compared to other ways to satisfy the need or want. A distribution scheme that makes it convenient for the customer to buy. Channel management, sales management, financing, CRM, TQM, Six Sigma and whatever else needs to be happening to change how the customer thinks and behaves, plus the timing of it all and the dialogue around it, internal and external — all of that is part of ICBM.

And, yes, the multidimensional, interactive, continuously measured communication package that connects the brand or product and the customer, because that’s what makes the whole process lift off and stay in orbit.

Here’s the thinking that fuels the ICBM concept:
1. Profitability is a function of customer behaviour.
2. Any programme launched without specific, measurable behavioural objectives is doomed to
veer off course.
3. Marketing and marketing communications are investment functions, and the return on
investment is a computation based on the incremental revenue that results from altered
customer behaviour.

Here’s how to launch the ICBM process:

1.What core business objective does the company want to achieve?
2. What is the net value of success to the company ?
3. Exactly whose behaviour needs to be changed for these results to happen?
4. Exactly what do we want these people to do, and why should they do it?
5. How do we engage them in a dialogue over time to make it happen?
6. How will we measure success? How will we demonstrate a return on the investment?

(source : Economic Times, March 21, 2007)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Building a Brand for an Advertising Firm: Question 1

AG asks : “I run an advertising firm in Bangalore. I have some high profile clients and I am completely booked with assignments. However, this is not what I want to do. My question is:

1. My clients consider me as a designing shop mostly for their below-the-line advertisements
2. My company enjoys a good brand equity among my clients, but I never seem to get the kind of work which they give to other bigger advertisement firm
3. I want to grow my business and want to put a good team with me, I want people who will concentrate only on business development, or designs, or creative thinking & copywriting.

How to go about that.”

Susmita says: “Thank you for visiting this blog space and putting up your questions. You are the first visitor to this forum, and its great to have such challenging questions to begin with.

Look, the situation that you are in is nothing unusual. There are innumerable organizations, all over the world, who are facing these problems everyday.

To begin with, let me also ask you a few questions!

1. what do your company do exactly and what are its core competencies
2. what are your vision for your company –
3. do you have any short term and long term goals. If yes, I would need to know them.
i. how you want to achieve these goals? Your business plans
ii. What is your current organization set up? Who does what, and what do you do?May be we can have a phone chat later to discuss these issues.

Please note here that to answer your questions and to come out with some effective solutions, I need to have the answers to my questions. However, I will put in the following points for you to think over, as well:

I will combine your questions1 & 2 – According to you, your company enjoys good brand equity; however, you also mention that you primarily get jobs for below-the-line activities which is not what you want to do. Now, that’s an anomaly.

Let me ask you this – “what does your company stand for?” or, what do you think your company stands for – for example is it a designing studio? an advertising firm? Etc.

Now, what is it that your clients think your company stands for? In other words, what is the perception that they carry about you? You are an advertising agency? You are a designing studio?

Do you think there is substantial difference between the two? Your concept and their perception? If yes, Why? Find out the gap -
1. How have you positioned your company?
2. Is your communication to your clients about this positioning good enough?
3. Have you ever pitched for other kind of work? Or, you are too occupied with whatever your clients have to offer as business. If you have done, and your clients have declined, why so?

I would like you to go through all my questions carefully and then put your replies together. I am sure, this will help you to see through your business differently than you are doing at present. Please come back to this marketing forum as soon as you are ready. I am sure we will find solutions to your problems, together.

Happy Marketing!!

What is this market platform?

Welcome to the new interactive space where all concerns about a product's market and all its related marketing issues will be discussed, debated and new ideas formulated.Let's get started.

Happy Marketing!

Susmita Das Gupta