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Branding Is Dead – R.I.P

Branding is no longer about slapping on a logo onto a glitzy pack and creating some clever communication to make the branding stick in the minds of the consumer

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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I had recently attended a Marketing forum where there was a discussion on whether the classical Branding as we know it is dead, and it set me thinking - is Branding really dead?

If you look at the last few years, there have been many new brands that have been built, which now feature amongst the top brands in the world – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung – to name a few. This shows that successful new brands are still being created. So what has changed?

The way Branding used to be defined a few years ago has certainly undergone a sea change. It is no longer about slapping on a logo onto a glitzy pack and creating some clever communication to make the branding stick in the minds of the consumer. It has evolved to much more than that. Branding has been reborn in a new avatar.

In India, the advertising market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.6 percent until 2021 – with market size of over 85,000 crores, with digital media garnering a larger piece of the pie than ever before. In this digitally connected world, consumers are discerning of and get insights into what an organisation promises versus what it delivers. Organizations can no longer relegate branding to the Marketing function and distance themselves from brand building. They need to realize that consumers buy “holistic brand experiences” and that the entire organization has a role to play in creating those brand experiences.

Consider the hospitality industry. Our perception of a hotel is formed largely from our experiences - the kind of service that the front desk, housekeeping, and room-service provide, by the quality of food, served in their restaurants, etc. All these have very little to do with the work of the Marketing function. Similarly, when we buy any product – the decision making is based on WOM, referrals, customer-service and so on. Advertising has a limited role to play.

So the traditional formula for Branding that we knew so well is now a thing of the past  - it is mostly dead. But on the other hand, the Brand itself is more alive than ever before.  It has a high amount of dynamism to it, it operates at multiple touch-points and has a life of its own. The brand’s perception gets shaped and updated much more frequently as consumers experience the product/service real time. 

Product and service brands need to be aware of this. They need to attribute a meaningful role to the product – what value would they like the product to add to the life of the consumer. They then need to be able to communicate that value at all operative touch-points, not merely restricted to traditional advertising. This enables them to build a stronger connection with their consumers thereby leading to long-term brand building.

One very good example of a brand that has successfully managed to do this is Apple. The Apple brand is about lifestyle, imagination, creativity, aspiration and really giving power to people through technology. Apple understands this and ensures that every product lives up to this promise. It also realized that the buying experience is a very critical part of building the consumer’s relationship with the brand and hence it opened hundreds of its own stores in upmarket areas in cities across the world. Apple’s brand-building strategy revolves around consistently providing high-quality values at rational prices. Apple consumer engagement also involves the brand playing back a lot of their real customer experiences back to its audience. This makes consumers feel included and stimulated and leads to further strengthening of the consumer’s relationship with the brand. 

Another good example is Nestle’s Kit Kat, which has been around for more than 80 years. There are several factors that have worked in a synergistic manner over the years to make Kit Kat what it is today – the unique product format with the 2 or 4 finger snacks which facilitates social snacking, the launch of special edition products, ubiquitous distribution and the consistent use of the tagline ‘Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat’ since 1957, and also integrating all its promotions with this core thought.

Kit Kat has also shown how partnerships can be successfully leveraged to provide unique brand experiences to consumers. A couple of years ago, Google named its Android operating system 4.4 update ‘KitKat’.

A couple of years ago, Kit Kat underwent its biggest wrapper redesign in almost 100 million packs worldwide to reflect the different ways in which consumers spend their break including one with “YouTube my break” branding. Through the “YouTube my break” branding, Nestlé and Google aim to help people make the most out of their downtime.

Today,  Branding is evolving into a more holistic form of providing relevant, meaningful and engaging consumer experiences. Only organizations that understand and leverage this will be able to build sustainable brands. As for the rest, it will be R.I.P!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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branding hospitality communication

Rajesh Ramakrishnan

The author is Managing Director, Perfetti Van Melle, India

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