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Brand Bonding In A Time Of Displacement

Therefore, in a changing world with displacement, scope is more important than scale. If the brand has value in the lives of consumers when the community is feeling this displacement, eventually it will gain scale and stand to benefit.

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If the world has been displaced, can brands stay the same . Its time to plan for the inevitable shift from a ‘mass marketing model’ to a ‘brand-to-individual’ model?

Recently, I was on a panel discussing the importance of culture creation by brands at a time of collective displacement in terms of lifestyles and expectations. It was debated whether a reassessment of our value system would emerge. It was my conclusion –based on experience – that the best way for brands to navigate these changes is to get closer to their consumers in their everyday lives.

Brands are a part of culture. Some create it, others further it, while others are part of it. All brands create content but not all are able to create social impact and build culture. Cultural impact is a valid test for the greatness of a brand. 

Brands must have consumer orientation. If we understand displacement of the consumer, we will understand the best course for the brand to act as well. This demands intuition, active research and a lot of empathy. One only gets there by thinking, feeling and sensing.

In an era of displacement, there can be a lot of untested approaches - what I would call ‘yellow flags’. Therefore it is important to guard against puffery, ineffective advertising, unempathetic fluff, vagueness and hollow calls to action.

It is equally, if not more important to avoid cynicism. Therefore, in a changing world with displacement, scope is more important than scale. If the brand has value in the lives of consumers when the community is feeling this displacement, eventually it will gain scale and stand to benefit. Having a history of performance, specialization creates an advantage in terms of consumer preference. An ability to adaptively change course helps. That is what is demanded for meaningful differentiation.

At their acclaimed best, brands are cultural systems. In times of flux and change, great brand creation opportunities exist. The actual market offering must make use of cultural content in the formulation of its marketing-mix. Denmark is not the same as India and they are both very different from Vietnam. Global brands must fully appreciate the cultural and social transitions to be made. Usually such understanding is systematically excluded from the insights and strategy stages with only a reliance on stereotypes proven by ‘data’.

Corporate brand management enforces a top down command-and-control process that seldom has risk appetite for cultural innovation opportunities. It requires too much of an appreciation of the context. It also involves a willingness to punt - both missing as you go up the ladder where the stakes are higher.

In a ‘normal’ world, the same product was for everyone. Mental and physical availability was achieved via advertising and distribution. The first goal was ‘to be famous before being liked’ and to rise above the cacophony of competing messages. Now, in an era of displacement, brands must elevate -with greater conviction-to the 1:1 model. 

Fundamentally, the 1:1 marketing model is not an enemy of scale. The challenge is how to figure out the full capability of tools and to know when and how to use them. Share of customer lives is as important as the share of the market. This demands a change of thinking from not only differentiating products but also differentiating customers.

This brings me to my next point - Once brands reach the most relevant customers, they can connect well with them, motivate them and that is how they garner the ability to influence and lead the community as well. This allows them to build culture and at the same time, this keeps the brand at the top of the mind for consumers.

Even as practising marketers, we don’t see it because the economic rationale for brand building has been given way more importance, while it’s sociological impact has been neglected. 

Consistency and commitment of brands is what creates culture. Those brands that achieve iconic status - are most frequently represented in popular culture and this actively grows the brand halo and leads to mythology for the brand.

Brands are markers of trust, quality guarantee and community. Brands stand for a mission. And brands that stand for a culture allow you to experience a way of life or promote a way of life.

If done well, every displacement will become manageable.

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.

Tags assigned to this article:
branding marketing

Shubhranshu Singh

VP- Domestic & IB, Tata Motors, CVBU

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