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What makes a great brand
BS Strategist Team | February 02, 2006
A new-age fable says that you can leave behind your brands' five-year plans in the business class seat of your aircraft, your competitor, sitting two rows behind can pick it up and take it to his office, and you can still beat your competitor if you implement and execute your plans.
Most plans do not get executed. And it is not difficult to guess what your competitor's plans are over the next five years. But the million-dollar question is, will they be able to execute the plan? To this is the corollary, how will they adapt their execution to the changes in the market environment?
The premium soap Liril was originally test marketed in early 70s as a blue colour soap cake. Finally, it got launched as a green soap, based on customer feedback. Interestingly, in 2002, Liril was relaunched as an 'icy blue' soap.
Sundrop cooking oil was launched in a 1 litre PET bottle and economy packs came only three years after launch. The company was worried that a pouch pack would dilute the premium appeal of the brand.
Dettol Soap was launched in 1981 as a light yellow soap, positioned as a 'love and care soap'. After the poor response, the company took a few years to regroup and relaunch the brand in a green wrapper, as a germicidal soap on the '100% bath' platform.
Brand execution is about constantly keeping an eye on the various parameters that make up the brand offering:
Indian consumers look for value even in prestige products. The brand has to rationalise the price premium through emotional or experiential means .
Eureka Forbes created a unique direct selling model to market vacuum cleaners in India. Cease Fire appliances tried emulating this model in the late 90s but after a few years could not sustain the momentum.
Not all performance problems can be fixed with a new advertising-promotion campaign. But as Santoor discovered, a new campaign (focusing on skin care benefit) turned the fortunes of the brand in late 80s, early 90s .
Frooti from Parle, exploited the tetrapak packaging medium to create a new space in the soft drink market. Cadbury's Appela, launched five years earlier may have had a better chance if it had used a different packaging form, instead of returnable glass bottles.
India is a large market with a large consumption appetite. But MNCs have discovered that it is not a cakewalk. While most companies plan for a two to five year gestation period for a brand, how valid are these assumptions in a changing-growing market? ...
While the seven factors listed under brand execution are not exhaustive, these form a key framework for the brand offer.
They are also not mutually exclusive parameters. As an old adage goes, the Indian consumer will want everything 'Sasta, Sundar, and Tikau' (economical, beautiful and long lasting). Marketers have to balance this S-S-T needs of the consumer with the organisation's obligation to the stakeholders and shareholders.
Brand execution elements will change in importance as one moves from an FMCG to a durable to a service. While the product/service offer, price, distribution, location/place, and promotion will continue to be important, the service or people component will become paramount for a service brand like a hotel or a department store. Durable brands too are becoming more and more service driven.
Brands depending on the product/service category will have to offer features that are de rigueur (point of parity) of the category, while they have differences in the offering (point of difference). Sometimes the PODs are in the price, or place. But most successful brands offer a POD in the product offer as well:
The examples are numerous, and often it is the easiest solution to go with a me-too product. Or at times, launch a brand with a product difference that is too small to be noticed, JNND (Just not noticeable difference). The danger in these approaches is that the brand starts with no real difference in product offer terms. The onus of creating a difference now vests on the other legs, a more difficult task.
The brand price offer can also be played using different packaging forms:
Price is the single most important dimension in the value driven Indian market. Brands have met with sudden deaths with ill timed price increases:
The rapid growth of motorcycles in the late 90s were contributed to by the narrowing price difference between scooters and entry level motor cycles.
Quartz watches' sales benefitted with launch of Titan and its price value offer, backed by the Tata guarantee. In spite of the initial fear that the Indian consumer will be loath to buying batteries every year, the company's pioneering effort to ensure affordable batteries paid off in a revolution on Indian wrists.
How will the brand reach the consumer's hands? How many hands will it pass through? Where will it be retailed?
How is the brand presented at the dealer outlet?
Does the place add to the brand value?
Tata Motors when they made their play for the growing Indian small car market consciously set up an entirely new dealer network, distinct from the Tata truck dealers. The company re-organised that while utility vehicles like Tata Sumo could be sold through commercial vehicle dealers, a passenger car buying family man will be very hesitant to enter a truck showroom.
Raymond's secret strength is their 250+ authorised dealers. Each is a handpicked dealer offering a 'Raymond' buying experience including tailoring and readymade apparel. Park Avenue and Parx (and Color Plus which was acquired in 2002) are the readymade brands from Raymonds enjoying the tremendous advantage of instant distribution presence across the country. ...
So retail outlets may not just be selling points but can be a big vehicle for carrying forward the brand message.
How will the brands be promoted? How will the brands message reach the prospects?... A new brand will need to attract trial. That calls for free sampling or trial offers. Once the brand gains momentum, free trials can be reduced.
When Johnson &Johnson was trying to sell sanitary napkins in India in the mid-70s, they found the only way to discuss such a sensitive topic was on a woman to woman basis. So they put together a large team of sales promoters who went door-to-door.
This gave the brand Stayfree a toehold and the product category, the initial user base. The programme has now been dropped, as the core user base has been created. The company may still want to run 'educational' programmes at girls' schools and colleges.