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Guest Column: Decoding Brand Building in 2016: Sonal Narain

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Guest Column: Decoding Brand Building in 2016: Sonal Narain

Is the old way of brand building dead? We think so. In 2016 brands will need a radical shift in their approach to selling writes Sonal Narain, Chief Strategy Officer, Cheil India.

A few years ago a book by the name of “How Brands Grow” by Professor Byron Sharp created a flurry in the fad crazy marketing world. Using data to dismantle some of the biggest assumptions of marketing, he had proven that exercises in segmentation, differentiation, building fixed brand personalities in order to drive loyalty were largely meaningless and that the holy grail of marketing was not building loyalty but driving penetration.

Looking at how ridiculously successful brands like Flipkart, OLX and Zomato have changed their advertising, names and logos show that today he stands vindicated and it is our prediction at Cheil that 2016 will see this play out like never before.

Why? Because consumers have changed in unprecedented ways. Decreasing attention spans and the proliferation of media that allows people to connect with each other means they have even lesser time for brands than they did (if they did at all).

Interaction with brands

Quick, emotional decision making, which basically means they don’t spend as much time as we think they do, on purchases, and evaluate a brand on how it fits into their life/ meets a need. And they’re not loyal. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the app/ start up economy flourishing around us.

Think about it, when you download an app, you only do so because of what the app allows you to do and not its brand personality, its values, what it stands for or the cause it represents. Real estate on our phones, as in our minds is getting more and more precious. And any app, or any information that doesn’t serve a real valuable purpose and offer a hassle free experience faces certain deletion.

 Behavioural economics is on the side of this argument. There is enough evidence to suggest that all that matters is availability- mental and physical, and ease of access/ purchase.

Three things that brands need to do…

One, simple and distinctive brand communications that explain what the brand does in as creative a way as possible. Two, an ‘always on’ approach which means bring present in the consumers mind at all points of the purchase journey and Three, reaching as many potential consumers as possible, instead of focusing on limited sets of people.

We need as many consumers as possible to remember us and we need to make it easy for them to buy us. We need to try many things, we need to do it fast, and we need to do it cheap.

What does this mean for agencies?

It means less effort and time spent on defining and fixing brand personality and a wider playing field that comes from being clued into consumers real time for new insights & creative stimulus, through social media listening (like Cheil Pulse). It means discarding the old linear creative development process of client briefing, followed by creative brief development and reviews and collapsing it into a collaborative process with planners, suits and creatives sitting around the same table. It also means being ready to produce cheap and good content at the drop of a hat through infrastructure that supports it, in the form of a content factory, over lavishly produced one-off extravaganzas; something we have invested in. Additionally, it also means being able to see quickly whether your campaign is performing or not, through real time performance analysis on dashboards etc., as opposed to slow and time bound post campaign researches.

 What does this mean for marketers?

Marketers need to drive this change by enabling it. Offering products and experiences that fulfill a real need and do it well is key.

Being available physically and mentally throughout a fast changing path to purchase implies a real time understanding of it and investment into its changing drivers to increase the brands availability such as influencer marketing, search, selling through social media. It also means fewer link tests, faster decision making, through a greater reliance on their own judgment of “creativity” instead of research (Yay!) and a willingness to fail.

We need to be able to try many things, try them fast, fail & learn and quickly move on, instead of relying on historical formulas.

Here’s to hoping the industry is ready for something like this!

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