A brand is an experience. A consolidated experience is the equity formed of the brand; this fosters a strong relationship between the consumer and the brand, which can last for a lifetime.
Brands determine what we eat, what we wear, what we drive, enjoy, and more than ever, how we lead our lives. Brands give us our hopes, our aspirations and our dreams. Therefore, brands ultimately become integral parts of our lives.
So, if the experience with the consumer is right over time, it tends to be part of his or her being. There are some brands which create that experience, fondness and relationship with the consumer. There are others that fall by the way.
We often confuse the leadership of a brand in the market with invincibility or long life. However, a market leader can also die a quick death. BPL, Fiat and Dalda are some cases in point. A brand that has been nurtured well, however, may or may not be a market leader, but it will continue to reign. And, more often than not, it will be one of the top five brands in its space.
What is pertinent is high brand recall among consumers. This recall also needs to have adequate emotional content for it to last.
So, how does one build a timeless brand?
Innovate: A brand that continues to reinforce positive experiences over time and surprises the consumer each time with new and consistent offerings will never die quickly. And innovation doesn’t mean just product innovation. Innovation involves the brand interface with the consumer, the brand experience, its look and feel, its physical availability and its pricing. Brand communication has to be equally innovative.
Brand expression: A brand must express the desired character and identity of a consumer. The brand and identity the consumer aspires for must go hand in hand. If they don’t, then the brand is not “my brand”.
Emotional connect: The brand must have an emotional bond with the consumer, along with a rational connect. Harmony between the two gives it strength, energy and passion. Understanding what gives the consumer emotional satisfaction is important. Brand behaviour has to be such that the consumer always feels secure and satiated.
Ownership: One has to ensure that the consumer is proud to own the brand. If he buys a branded shirt, he should be proud to wear it. If he removes the logo, then it shows that while he connects with the brand at a rational level, where he likes the quality, the brand does not appeal to him emotionally, which is why he doesn’t want to be seen wearing it with the logo.
There must be creation of ownership; the consumer should feel like he owns the brand.
Value delivery: Every brand has a value — the brand creator and brand operators know that. The consumer must get 100% of that value through the process of interface with the brand. That’s where the internal branding comes in. People within the organization must understand the value and nuances of the brand and be able to deliver 100% of it. So, if all the other aspects are strong, but the internal branding process within the company is weak, then you may lose the sting, or sharpness, of an everlasting brand. For, what you deliver falls short of what the brand actually was conceived to stand for.
Relevance: It has to be youthful, and by that I don’t mean that the brand has to be young in age. It has to continue to be relevant to consumers. The brand must understand consumer behaviour as it is relevant today and all its parameters, aspects, rational or emotional, must adjust to the times. If they don’t, the brand gets old and dies. You have to rejuvenate, and make sure the brand remains young...even for a hundred years.
Communication: What we call advertising, below the line and above the line, has to have an understanding of what the consumer wants the brand to be seen as. If there is a disconnect between what the brand wants to be seen as and what you’re delivering, the brand will lose equity. Many campaigns that win awards seriously lack this understanding from the consumer’s perspective.
Lastly, the brand must have humane elements to it. A brand is like a human being — it has a personality, a lifespan, it has emotions and rationality. It’s also like a building with intricate architecture.
A plethora of elements help add or reduce meaningful and economic longevity to a brand. Sometimes, of course, mercy killing becomes essential to help the new generation of brands to prosper. However, the patriarch brands will continue to deliver succour to the enterprise over a long period.
Nabankur Gupta is founder CEO of Nobby Brand Architects and Strategic Marketing Consultants