Brand Management and Indian Competitiveness


By

Dhanpal Shah
MBA 2nd Semester
K.N.V. Institute of Business Management
Metoda, Rajkot-360 003
 


* Introduction

Nothing can be taken for granted for a product. A strong or a weak marketer can succeed if they manage to create a difference. If they don't, failure is the only outcome unless lack of product differentiation is made up through significant price differentiation. It is better to act proactively, thinking of the worst. Else, when things start going the other way, enough time and even money may not be available to differentiate. It is essential that a product has a reason for being purchased which is different from other available   products. The days of just being a good product is over. Among a range of good products one with a difference will survive. At the market place it is the survival of the differentiated. On the other hand manufacturers eventually learn market power lies with building their own brands. Japanese and South Korean companies spent liberally to build up brand names such as Sony, Toyota, Gold star, and Samsung. Even when these companies can no linger afford to manufacturer their products in their homelands, the brand manes continue to command customer loyalty. Branding is a major issue in product strategy. On the one hand, developing a branded product requires a great deal of long-term investment companies' subcontract manufacturing to other companies.

* What Is Brand?

Perhaps the most distinctive skill of professional marketers is their ability to create, maintain, protect, and enhance brands. Marketers say that "branding is the art and cornerstone of marketing." The American Marketing Association defines a brand as follows:

* A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller and to differentiate them from those of competitors.

In essence, a brand identifies the seller of marker. It can be a name, trademark, logo, or other symbol. Under trademark law, the seller is granted exclusive rights to the use of the brand name in perpetuity. Brands differ from other assets such as patents and copyrights, which have expiration dates.

A Brand is a Promise

First and foremost, a brand is a promise. It says 'you know the name, you can trust the promise'. As all promises, it is trusted only as far as those promises are met. Trust is a critical first step and brands aim to accelerate that step leveraging the implied promise of the brand.

A Brand is an Associated Image

Most brands have a logo which acts as a short-cut to remind us of the brand promise. The logo uses color, shape, letters and image that is designed both to catch our eyes and to guide our thoughts in the rights direction. The brand may also be associated with tunes, celebrities, catchphrases and so on. All parts of the brand image works as a psychological trigger or stimulus that causes an association to all other thoughts we have about the brand.

Everything and Everyone is a Brand

If you get down to the detail, everything is a brand, because we build our understanding of the world by creating associations about. Even words are brands. When I say 'speed', you will conjure up image of fast cars, etc. People are brands, too. When people see you, or even hear your name, they will recall the image they have of you. In a company where people are visible to customers, such as a service business, the people are very much a part the brand. But a brand is an even more complex symbol. It can convey up to six level of meaning:

1. Attributes: A brand to mind certain attributes. Mercedes suggests expensive, well-built, well-engineered, durable, high-prestige automobiles.

2. Benefits: Attributes must be translated into functional and emotional benefits. The attribute "durable" could translate into the functional benefits "I won't have to buy another car for several years." The attribute "expensive" translates into the emotional benefits "The car makes me feel important and admired."

3. Values: The brand also says something about the producer's values. Mercedes stands for high performance, safety, and prestige.

4. Culture: The brand may represent a certain culture. The Mercedes may represent German culture: organized, efficient, high quality.

5. Personality: The brand can project a certain personality.

6. User: The brand suggests the kind of consumer who buys or uses the product. We would expect to.

* Why A Brand?

Strong brands are important to both marketers and customers. These are wanted by marketers, as they:

o Provide relatively higher return on sales,
o Have higher loyalty than their weaker competitors,
o Provide opportunities for brands extension,
o Can bounce back after a mistake,
o Recover fast from aggressive price promotion by its competitors,
o Have longer life,
o Are important to customers,
o Create entry barriers for others into the category,
o Facilitate entry into related categories to which the brand can be extended, and
o Can command a price premium.

They are important to customers as they:

o Are seen to be performing through it or with its help,
o Find it easy to choose,
o Use it to define/project themselves,
o Have a perceived consistent quality about it which acts as a benchmark for brand consideration/choice.

The importance of strong brands as highlighted above makes the need for a process of building a brand all the more important. And this has to structured and implemented as part of the overall marketing process. Marketing, as we understand, is continuous process of making customers continue to prefer to but a particular product or service, in the form of a brand. A brand is a combination of the basic products or service, and aspect not overtly specific to the basic product or service, and aspect not Product/Service + /other aspects. A brand provides a specific product/service an identity and differentiation. It does not just exist as a mark on the pack outside of the product but as something with in it.

* Is It Enough To Be Strong At '4ps' To Build A Strong Brand?

The process of marketing, which includes 'product, pricing, promotion, and place' helps define 'product/service' and 'other aspects'. Each of these four activities includes the process of brand formation, i.e. Branding. However, none of these in isolation of together define the complete branding process. It is just not enough to:

o Develop a product based on customer need,
o Develop an attractive packing,
o Decide on a brand name,
o Design likeable and relevant advertising,
o Arrive at an appropriate price,
o Run consumers offer,
o Implement efficient sales and distribution plan,
o Keep tab on competition,
o Contact market research to ascertain effectiveness of marketing initiatives,
o Market segmentation,
o Undertake billed brand position,
o Redress customer's complaints tactfully, etc.

All the above are important activities and have a role to play in branding. But this does not provide a structured and complete process. The process of branding is too critical, not to have its own identity, structure, and distinct place in a marketer's 'things to do'. Unless it is done, 'product, price, promotion, and place,' may happen, but brand formation may not happen. Enough of such cases exit at the market place. Once the process of branding is understood and planned for a brand, other activities, Vis, 'product, price, promotion, and place need to be tuned around it. These together will go a long way in building strong brand.

* What Is Brand Management?

Brand management is the application of marketing techniques to a specific products, product line, or brand. It seeks to increase the product's perceived value to the customers and thereby increase brand franchise and brand quality. Marketers see a brand will continue with present and future purchases of the same product. This may increase sales by making a comparison with competing product more favorable. It may also enable the manufacturer to change more for the product. The value of the brand is determined by the amount of profit it generates for the manufacturer. This results from a combination of increased sales and increased price.

The annual list of the world's most valuable brands, published by inter brand and Business Week, indicates that the market value of companies often consists largely of brand equity. Research by MeKunsey & Company, a global consulting firm, in 2000 suggested that strong, well-leveraged brands produce higher returns to shareholders than weaker, narrower brands. Taken together, this means that brands seriously impact shareholder value, which ultimate makes branding a CEO responsibility.

* Branding/Manageable Elements Of The Brand

Consumers are human beings. They know brands, express about brands think brands, feel brands, compare brands, choose brands, recommend brands, reject brands, buy brands, and do not buy brands through a combination of :

o Brand name
o Brand associations
o Brand attitude
o Brand looks
o Brand personality, and

All these are not just a matter of semantics. These are specific manageable concepts, born and brought up on the minds and hearts of the consumers, linked to each other in more ways than one. These, if 'added' to a product, lead to creation of brand.

As per the branding model, this in a way is a branding process:

* Brand Relationship is the ultimate achievement need of branding. All other aspects (e.g. Brand Positioning) might happen but if this does not happen the job is not complete. Brand Relations happens of 'image' and 'attitude' for a brand exits. It is the resultant effect of these two aspects of a brand.

* Brand Attitude defines what the brand thinks about the consumer, as per the consumer. A brand may have 'attitude' on one or more aspects.

* Brand Image includes two aspects of a brand its associations and its personality. A brand may have image on one more aspects.

* Brand Associations includes all the linked up in memory about the brand. It could be specific to attributes, features, benefits or looks of the brand. A brand may have a range of associations. But the one association that stands out in memory and differentiates it becomes the 'positions' of the brand. A brand may have one or more associations but no 'positions'.

* Brand Looks, which have a role to play in forming/reinforcing brand associations are facilitated by two key properties of a brand its name and its symbol. While brand name is a necessary condition for existence of brand relationship, the same is not true for brand symbol. However, if the latter exists it helps the process of brand relationship and reinforces it.

* Brand symbol includes two visual signals of a brand its character (e.g. Amul girl. Pillsbury doughboy) and its logo.

* 'necessary' aspects for brand relationship to exist are:

o brand name,
o brand associations, and
o brand attitude

* 'Highly desirable' aspects for brand relationship to exist are (excluding the 'necessary' aspects):

o brand position, and
o Brand symbol.

* Conclusion

The above mentioned elements of the Brand are manageable. A firm has to adapt all the elements with its target segment and with proposed positioning of the Brand. As we discussed earlier that today is the era of branding. So, it's very obvious that Brand management at global level becomes very crucial and important. At global level starting from Brand name to Brand Relationship all the elements should be adopted with the culture and environment of the concerned country.
 


Dhanpal Shah
MBA 2nd Semester
K.N.V. Institute of Business Management
Metoda, Rajkot-360 003
 

Source: E-mail March 20, 2008

 

       

 

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