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Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Editor-in-Chief
Arindam Chaudhuri
A.Sandeep Editor's Desk
A.Sandeep
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EXCLUSIVE COLUMN
“At The Heart of a Great Brand is a Great Product or Service”
Marketers must Adopt Comprehensive, Cohesive, and Actionable Models if they want to meet The Challenges of Brand Management in The years to come
Issue Date - 28/07/2011
 
Brands have survived for centuries – and are likely to thrive for years to come – because they serve a very fundamental purpose. At their best, brands allow consumers to reduce risk, simplify decision making, and gain greater satisfaction in their lives. Strong brands can make consumers’ lives a little – or at times even a lot – better. The role and functions of brands are so fundamentally pervasive and valued by consumers, it is difficult to see their potential importance diminishing.

However, managing brands to achieve that potential is as difficult as ever. The marketing environment always changes, but the pace of change has greatly accelerated in the past decade. Consumers are increasingly diverse, enlightened, and empowered. Virtually every market has experienced heightened competition as a result of the entrance of global firms, private labels, and mega-brands from related categories. Rapidly changing technology has profoundly affected how consumers live and shop and how marketers learn about consumer needs and wants and manage their brands. Finally, serious environmental, community, and social concerns exist all over the world. As a result of these marketplace transformations and the new marketing reality, the rules of the branding game have changed. There are a number of areas where marketers are re-thinking – and sometimes fundamentally altering – their branding policies and practices. In this note, I highlight six branding imperatives to help managers navigate the challenges of brand management in the years to come.

Fully and accurately factor the consumer into the branding equation
One of the most important rules of branding can be encapsulated by the oft-used aphorism, “The consumer owns the brand.” The power of consumer perceptions and beliefs to make or break brands has been demonstrated time and time again in the lab and in the real world. From the one-time business mantra of “You’ll never get fired by choosing IBM” to the New Coke debacle to the modern challenges Detroit auto makers face in convincing consumers of the quality of their vehicles, consumer sovereignty rules. In turn, successful brands create mental structures and knowledge in consumers’ minds that cause them to favour the brand. From a managerial perspective, a consumer voice must be incorporated in every branding decision.

Go Beyond Product Performance and Rational Benefits
At the heart of a great brand is a great product or service. This is even truer in today’s highly transparent world. For many firms, the design aspects of their products and services are an increasingly crucial component of their value proposition. Adept marketers at firms such as Apple, Nike, Ritz Carlton, Singapore Airlines, and Samsung are optimising functional & aesthetic aspects of the design of their products and/or services to maximise sales and brand equity. Developing better designed products and services, however, requires a clear, comprehensive, up-to-date understanding of consumers and how they purchase and use products and services and think and feel about brands.

 
Product design encompasses not only how a product works, but also how it looks, feels, or even sounds and smells. Similarly, service design is a function of all sensory aspects that consumers encounter and experience with a brand. Designing products and services that can more efficiently and effectively deliver the full range of category benefits is still of paramount importance & provides a powerful means to gain competitive advantage. This is true even in many mature categories, as illustrated by Procter & Gamble’s recent success with brands such as Tide, Gillette, and Venus. Great product and service design comes from keen consumer insight and inspired, creative solutions. A well-designed brand offers advantages in product and service performance, and in the imagery that creates significant functional and psychological benefits. Emotional benefits will be most impactful, in particular, when they are directly linked to a functional benefit.

Make the Whole of the Marketing Programme Greater than the Sum of the Parts
The diversity of means to communicate about and sell products and services to consumers has grown exponentially in recent years. Major shifts in media viewing habits have emerged due to a number of factors: the fragmentation of TV viewership; the growing use of DVRs, video gaming and Internet broadband; the increasing use of mobile phones; the explosion of online blogs and social communities; and the greater importance of events, experience, and buzz marketing.

These developments have fundamentally affected how companies communicate about their products and services. Firms now have a host of ways to distribute and sell their products online or offline, directly or indirectly. Increasingly, marketers are embracing different types of personal and mass media, combining online, interactive communications, “real world,” experiential communications, and traditional, mass media communications. Marketers are also combining “push” and “pull” distribution strategies to maximise coverage and impact, selling directly via the mail, the Internet, telephones and cell phones, and company stores, while also selling indirectly via wholesalers and retailers.
          
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