Guest Column: Branding in today’s digital age of brand-consumer interaction

Brand is a dynamic entity, which lives what it says, evolves from where it is, understands from its customers & how people perceive the brand, says Brandlogist’s Saurabh Parmar

e4m by Saurabh Parmar
Published: Sep 27, 2013 6:14 PM  | 4 min read
Guest Column: Branding in today’s digital age of brand-consumer interaction

In almost every conversation we have with a client or a potential one, the word ‘brand’ comes up. The interesting bit in most cases – I see the interpretation vary. And remember, I am talking about marketeers here. I don’t think there is a right or wrong, but the definition of what a brand is has evolved in this digital age.

For me, a brand has never been a logo or a fancy tagline. It is not even a vision or mission statement. At the end of the day, it’s a dynamic entity which lives what it says, evolves from where it is, and understands from its customers.

It means a lot of those things which are probably taught in brand identity classes – colours used, shape of the logo, brand identity guidelines, the thought behind the brand and so on. Yet, I earnestly believe, it has always been about something more – how people perceive the brand.

Think about brands such as Apple, Vodafone or Dominos. What do you see? What do you feel? The answers will vary, depending on whom you ask. The logo, tagline, marketing campaign, and product remain the same, but people’s interpretation defines the brand for them and to an extent their social circle.

This is more so in today’s world, where customers are directly interacting with brands via social media, where there are more brands making more noise via marketing and where technology is changing proximity and interactions between humans themselves. As a result, the dynamic nature of a brand is all the more obvious.

Let’s say, I like Brand X, a restaurant, but if the food was bad the last time I visited it or if the waiter was rude or the service slow, all those things will impact my brand perception. But it doesn’t take a direct interaction always does it?

Friends who have been raving about a product or place, a Zomato review or a review in HT or five of your friends ‘Liking’ this new place on Facebook – all these live interactions influence our brand perception over time.

So what should a brand do? There’s lots, but for me the six main things that stand out are:

1. (From the above) Remember brand building does not happen on day 1 only, it keeps happening till the day you exist and if you are fortunate or maybe unfortunate enough, people will have opinions even after you cease to exist. So, be open to constant evolution.

2. Having said that, like any human being, you may evolve in how you talk, how you interact, what you say, but you remain mostly true to your core beliefs. Same goes for brands.

3. Brands are often afraid of taking a stand, having an opinion. We believe that’s not the way to go, great brands stand for something and they also stand against something.

4. An often heard statement is ‘Great brands need to be larger than life’. I tend to differ, and more so in today’s day and age of a cluttered market with enough brands shouting their greatness. Brands need to be true to life – they are based on a customer’s needs and aspirations and needn’t look down from a pedestal or exaggerate their own identity, which makes it hard for a customer to trust them. (For example, how many men believe that by spraying a deo women will start swarming around them? But for years brands have failed to go beyond that thought)

5. Great brands focus on transparency – to their customers, their employees and other stakeholders. McDonald’s is an example. Watch the video here…

6. They do not look at advertising as a means to display, but as a means to communicate. And that brand-consumer interaction does not happen in silos, but in an environmental and cultural context.

The author is Founder and CEO of Brandlogist Communications

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