Article by : Dr. Suman Kumar Dawn, Associate Professor, Calcutta Business School
Branding or Brand is considered important not only for companies but they carry equal importance for customers or consumers also. From consumer or customer point of view, brand becomes important for various reasons. Brand for a customer will indicate commitment towards quality from sellers there by reducing time spent in coming to a purchase decision. Brand for companies will indicate a sort of benchmark in quality as well as customer expectation, a point of differentiation from competitors and a steady stream of profit.
Normally we associate branding from point of view common mass; and products or service displayed in malls and supermarket. However there exists another market where branding is equally important and that is business to business market (B2B). This is referred as corporate branding, which is again a challenge as decision making process for purchase order is different compare to individual customer. Here survival of organization as well as individual will be at stake. The key lies in developing a brand for corporation.
During the past decade, we have experienced dramatic changes in our world socially, economically, and politically We also experienced major re-engineering of large firms and the evolution from the traditional corporate structure to the virtual corporation. Modern globalized, technology driven world has thrown new challenges to branding. Customers/consumers have more access to information than ever before. Internet has become a strong tool through which product information proliferate raising expectation bar for companies. Companies have responded to this challenge by exploring new avenues to showcase their products. Like for example; sponsorship of events and teams or association with social cause.
In a given market, innumerable products and services are offered by different companies. The identity developed for this product and services over a period of time, through marketing strategies, sturdy performance etc is referred to as brand. A stage is reached where brand become synonymous with product e.g. - coffee-Starbucks, Nescafe, Amul, Maggi etc. This process is called strategic brand management.
With all these changes, it is clear that we are facing a new world order, a new way of running businesses, and a new way of living our personal lives. From a business perspective, the following are dramatic changes that have occurred in the past decade:
I. The pace is faster.
II. Businesses are instantly connected to their customers, suppliers, and distributors.
III. Globalization has produced a truly global marketplace.
IV. There is so much information available that corporations need to continually interpret it and turn this into useful “intelligence” for their corporation.
Brand Management after 1950
In the 1950s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble, General Foods and Unilever developed the discipline of brand management, or marketing as we know it today, when they noticed the quality levels of products being offered by competitors around them improve. A brand manager would be responsible for giving a product an identity that distinguished it from nearly indistinguishable competitors.
This required an understanding of the target consumer and what we call a "branded proposition" that offered not only functional but also emotional value. As long as the brand was perceived to offer superior value to its competitors, the company offering the brand could charge a little more for its products.
In the 1950s and 1960s, brands like Tide, Kraft and Lipton excelled in marketing activities (see above gallery), setting the benchmarks for all brands today. This marked the start of almost 50 years of marketing where "winning" was determined by understanding the consumer better than your competitors and the getting the total "brand mix" right. The brand mix is more than the logo, or the price of a product. It's also the packaging, the promotions, and the advertising, all of which is guided by precisely worded positioning statements.
But in the early 1990s, things started to change. The previous commoditization of product quality was followed by an almost equal push for build real brands. One by one the big retailers started to realize that they had an opportunity to also play the branding game and that by selling more, higher quality, but particularly better-branded products, they could not only dramatically improve their margin mix, but that they could raise the profile and reputation of their own brand as a whole. Therefore, retailers like Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury started hiring marketers from their suppliers like Unilever and P&G and today these companies and their portfolio of brands enjoy equal brand loyalty than any of the manufacturer brands they carry.
To build a strong brand, the marketers need sufficient expertise to impress people (reputation) and enough awareness (visibility) to achieve their regional, national or international ambitions.
There are five things that marketers can promote their product’s reputation:
1. Make expertise relevant. Promoting products or services may not be enough. Marketers need to understand the challenges of their target audiences face and communicate,.
2. Conduct research on target client: Proper research can provide true information that marketers need to make better decisions and address the challenges that are most important to prospective clients.
3. Be a customer, not a salesperson. They position themselves as customers, freely giving away knowledge and making themselves visible across multiple channels—in online search, social media, conferences, books and more.
4. Make expertise visible. Today's busy professionals access information through a variety of channels, so marketers’ must deliver their thinking in a variety of ways, such as educational blog posts, articles, videos etc.
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): SEO has become a formidable marketing tool that gives a measure of control over how searchers find you online. By using SEO best practices marketers can promote content that people want to read that keeps them coming back for more.