“Who cares about a brand?” The brand manager does. Without brand managers, the marketing world would be as bland as a paneer tikka without paneer. Brand managers don’t just care about the brand they manage: they live for it.
As a young marketer I was assigned to work on the global detergent brand Swipe, which had recently been introduced in India. I was to report to the Swipe brand manager Ashutosh Ojha. (I’ve changed the names to protect the people involved, including me.)
“What does the Swipe detergent brand do?” Ojha asked me on my first day at work.
“Washes clothes?” I ventured.
Ojha snorted. “That’s like asking you what you do and you replying, ‘I breathe’.”
His curly hair bobbed up and down in excitement as he talked about Swipe. I counted 142 bobs during the hour I was with him. With tears glistening his eyes, he related Swipe’s rich history: how it had conquered millions of hearts in country after country before making its tumultuous entry into the Indian market. Pinned on his wall was the Swipe Brand Manifesto – a noble statement describing Swipe’s function in this world, its personality and how it behaves in a crisis.
His presentation included testimonials from delighted Swipe consumers; charts showing Swipe’s performance over the years, across the globe, in hard and soft water and among people of varying educational qualifications; quotations like this by senior company officers: “When times are good, invest in marketing Swipe; when times are bad, invest more”; and numerous Swipe advertisements. I soon understood why washing clothes merely scratched the surface of Swipe’s resume. The brand did much, much more. It brightened your outlook on life; facilitated your career progression; smoothened your rocky marriage; and enabled your children to excel in school, not just in academics, but also in painting, debating and medium-distance bicycling.
Armed with this knowledge from Ojha, and bursting with curiosity about how this revolutionary new product was changing the lives of the Indian consumer, I interviewed my relatives on my next visit home.
I first went to my sister’s house. “What detergent are you using today?” I asked her.
“Detergent?” She looked puzzled. “I don’t know.”
If I was surprised at her ignorance I was shocked to learn she hadn’t heard about Swipe. I gave her a stern fifteen-minute lecture, using my notes from Ojha’s meeting. When I finished she promised me she’d buy Swipe the next day.
But I knew she had only said it to please me. I realized that while the brand manager cares about the brand, the consumer doesn’t. For some odd reason, consumers have their priorities misplaced. They seem to care more about their health, family, friends and work.
Now that was 25 years ago. Imagine how much less today’s consumer would care for a brand of detergent. Today the average consumer works in a busy job; manages kids, husband and other family members; socializes with friends; manages the house; tries to keep fit… AND does all while staying digitally connected with the world: reading, watching videos, shopping, blogging, texting, tweeting and so on. How much time do you think she has to spend ruminating about detergent brands (or cereal or soap ones)? Very little.
But if consumers don’t care about brands, does that mean that marketing doesn’t have any value? That advertising is a waste of time? Far from it! On the contrary, marketing and especially advertising, have never been more important than today. Because consumers may not care much for brands but they still buy them! They buy brands they remember. And they remember brands they like. The role of marketing and advertising is to get into the consumer’s memory (this is the brand’s mental availability).
The first step to building a brand’s mental availability is investing in the right physical assets (logo, colours and so on). Once this is done, brands need to make a subtle emotional connection to grow mental availability in consumers’ minds. This is especially important for established brands in competitive, me-too categories. Finding the right consumer insight that provides a link to the category is a powerful way to make that emotional connection. The right insight helped Goodyear tyres make a more memorable appeal to consumers and Omo/Surf create a mental association with consumers in the detergent category. The insight should shape brand strategy and dictate its advertising campaign. Developing brilliant advertising requires CRAFT: conviction, resources, approach, foundation and teamwork.
You can read more about how to ignite brand growth in today’s digital world through the right marketing and advertising in Spark – The Insight to Growing Brands, to be released by Simon & Schuster India in May 2017. And you can read more about Spark here.
(The author is a Marketing consultant)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com.