Friday, 2 April 1993, was supposed to be the day that brands died. That was the day when Marlboro cut its price to compete with generic brands that were 50% cheaper. The marketing world reacted with shock and started funeral preparations for brands.
But brands haven’t died. They have just changed character. This article explains one way in which brands have changed.
The starting point of the argument lies in Internet brands. Arguably, the strongest brands in the world today are Web brands such as Google, Facebook and Second Life, among others. Equally strong perhaps are brands such as BlackBerry and iPod, which have a strong Web component to back up their physical products.
The question arises: What is common among these brands and what can older brands learn from them?
All these brands have a social component to them. They help people connect with each other. They also create communities of users who can bond with each other. Very much like smokers in the old times who could bond with each other while smoking or sharing a light.
Is this only an online brand phenomenon or can it be taken into the real world, too?
I think that several brands have shown that the idea of creating a social value around brands can also be useful in the real world. The idea obviously works for Starbuck, Café Coffee Day and the like. But it goes much beyond.
My favourite example in India is the Jaago Re campaign for the Tata Tea brand. It is creating a community of young people who are concerned about the future of their country and want to influence its course.
There is a strong product connect and it is based on a strong insight of how the Indian youth thinks. The campaign for Idea is on a similar line.
So what do the successes of these commercials mean? We are used to thinking about the rational and emotional values of a brand.
Now, we have to also think about the social value of the brand.
This social value helps define the users and fans of the brand into a community. Once the community has been defined, the brand needs to provide its members—and not just consumers—with a platform through which they can communicate with each other and with the brand. This is how strong brands of the future will be built.
In conclusion, I don’t think brands are dead. They have just acquired an additional social layer. Brand handlers now need to be conscious of this new rule in the game.
Suman Srivastava is CEO, Euro RSCG India.
As told to Anushree Chandran