Branding Challenge in Today's Scenario


The battle for a share of the consumer's wallet and cut throat competition for every bit of market space has resulted in search for a powerful weapon that delivers sustainable competitive differentiation. In the beginning itself it is of great relevance to quote Philip Kotler, marketing guru about his perception on brands, "Branding is expensive and time consuming and it can make or break a product." But even then, today, branding is such a strong force that hardly anything goes unbranded. No one had thought that commodities like "Aata", & "Rice" would be branded. Today, one does not go to the shop and ask for just salt but will ask for Tata Salt or Captain Cook Salt or Annapurna Salt. These brands have become part of our daily life. Developing of an effective brand allows the organization to create a distinctive presence in the market and compete more effectively by leveraging its organizational strengths. In the current competitive market, brands are identified as an intangible asset that can be revenue generating in the long run.

Distributors and retailers want branded products because brands make the product easier to handle, hold production to certain quality standards, strengthen buyer preferences, stimulate repeat purchases, facilitates promotion efforts, makes it easier to identify suppliers and stabilizes market share. On the other hand, consumers prefer branded products because it gives them an assurance of quality, differentiate from competitive products and help him in efficient shopping. That is why, Philip Kotler has said," Developing a successful brand creates customer loyalty through the provision of added value, for which the customer is prepared to pay premium price, and which the competition find difficult to copy."

Today most of the markets are saturated with competitors and offerings. Take the example of bathing soap market. Even in this market, one can distinguish between different age segment, income segment, preference segment, beauty conscious segment and so on. One can create a niche offering for a very special group but this would not lead to large sales & resultant profit. On the other hand, if you target the mass market, you find it difficult to define the superior offering because you find existence of lots of variety seekers who would try Cinthol one day, the next time a Pears & still next time a Dove. Therefore the challenge for the mass marketer is to develop a strong, well known brand focusing on what everyone wants.

In branding there are two extreme errors. One is to create a fixed brand image to be used everywhere without exception. The other is to change the meaning of the brand in every market. Like McDonalds doesn't believe in a strong fixed positioning. McDonalds take different meanings in different countries. It serves different versions even in different places within each country. McDonald is a glocal brand which is available globally but marketed locally.  Even though customers are aware that it is a global brand but when companies make it a glocal brand, the customer feel close and develops a sense of belongingness, and it is this, rather than its universal availability, that enhances its equity. It is rightly said that "a brand is said to have personality, an emotional bond to the customer that grows out of the perceived characteristics." Through its recent advertisement theme "I'm Lovin' it", McDonald's have succeeded in developing an emotional bond between McDonald and its customers across 100 countries. Therefore any effective & well-managed brand can add tremendous value to its customers only when it is communicated effectively.

Again, according to the maturity of the product, geographical markets and the brand itself, the brand image should carry different image.  The companies need to continuously evaluate the brand position otherwise they run the risk of seeing their brands degenerate into mere commodities that customers shop for need fulfillment. Brand rejuvenation is a must for products reaching the maturity stage. Companies need to periodically audit their brands strengths and weaknesses and rejuvenate if necessary. Brands need to be repositioned with the changing customer preferences and entry of new customers.

Any newcomer, who is entering the market, should not be a copycat but should identify the week points of the existing brands or something which is missing from the market and try to penetrate the untapped market. They should be able to offer a combination of quality, reliability, availability and low price. The most winning strategy for branding is "define a target audience and direct a superior offering (vs. competitor) at that target market."

The brand managers are today facing the twin challenges of localization versus globalization and individualization versus homogenization. They should be very sensitive to the environment while taking decision about whether, when, where and how to globalize or localize the brand. The most distinctive skill required in a brand manger is to create, maintain, protect and enhance its brands. He should be able to create a product difference, real or symbolic. Though this tactical work is carried out by the brand managers, but in reality the brands ultimate success will depend on everyone in the company accepting and living the brand's value proposition. 


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