In today’s world of consumerism, every day we are bombarded with brand new products and services, screaming for our attention from TV sets, billboards, neighborhood stores, websites, phones. These ads are everywhere in every form, from full-fledged sponsored movies to school events to even those stickers on the CNGs and rickshaws.
But how many of these products and services become “brands”? Yes, all of them claim to be brands, but how many of them actually become “brands”? Very, very few of them. And let’s not forget that brands are not limited to just products or services, but even people and ideas can be brands. Be it Steve Jobs or Hero Alam (can’t believe I just put those two names in the same sentence), they are brands too by their own rights.
So what makes a product or even a “motivational speaker” a brand? I don’t know yet. I’ve been trying to figure it out for a long time now, but am not yet sure what will become a brand and what won’t. But I have some ideas on what are the ingredients that may make something, anything – a brand.
First and foremost, one has to have its own, unique identity to become a brand. It has to be different from anything else available around. Even if the main offering (the product or the service itself) is similar to others, at least the look, or language, or messaging – in some way it must have its own unique identity. If you go to the food court in Bashundhara City Mall, can you identify one single food shop there? Probably not as all the 200 or 300 shops there are selling the exact same foods – the chola baturas and the Formosa drinks. No one is offering anything different from the hundreds around it, so none of them have an identity of their own.
A Hero Alam or an Ananta Jalil becomes a brand as they are unique in their offerings. They are not like any other actor around, and that’s why they are brands. An entire generation in mid 2000s got branded as the “Djuice generation”. But what was Djuice? Just another phone connection like any other Grameenphone or AkTel or Citycell. Then why did Djuice become a brand of a generation? Because Djuice had its own identity. From its target consumer and looks to its activities and language, Djuice was like no other mobile connection. That’s what made it an actual “brand”.
Moral of the story: Don’t be like others. No one loves a “me too” brand.
With identity, comes consistency. To become a brand, you need to be consistent in your target, in your language, in your activities, in your quality. You can’t switch gear midway and change the direction of where your brand is going. That will confuse the consumers and they probably will move away. If your target is college students, stick to them forever. One fine morning you can’t decide that your target is not students any more but the whole nation. If you want to do that, change your brand too. Change the name, logo, identity – everything. Become a new brand.
Consistency in quality is of course another huge aspect in making a brand, brand. If your quality falls, your customers will abandon you. They may still love your brand from a distance, but they won’t be dating your brand any more. No matter how much you spend in advertising, if your quality is not at the right place, you cannot sustain your consumers.
Rooh Afza has looked, smelt, tasted and advertized exactly same for God knows how many years. And when recently their TV commercial had a slightly different script, I personally was upset. This is not done! Rooh Afza commercial should always have a grandkid charging the grandfather why he refuses to have Iftar without Rooh Afza! Why change that after so many years? Just why?
Moral of the story: Change is not always good.
Yes, advertising is important to create a brand. Advertising creates awareness, which brings in consumers, who will eventually make your brand a success. And judging today’s world of facebook and twitter and Donald Trump, the more you advertise, the more “likes” and votes you receive. But the catch is, not all likes or votes are genuine. Advertising will bring you many customers, supporters instantly, but as said earlier, without a unique identity or consistency, it alone cannot keep your boat afloat.
Advertising gives you a lot of scope to scream and brag about yourself. This is the area where you can do all the stunts, “create a bang”, “go viral” etc. etc. Advertising is the area where you can make the claims of being a “halaal soap” or offering “money back guarantee”. But the advertising claims have to be backed up by actual performance of your product or service.
There are even examples of globally successful brands like Body Shop who has hardly ever done any advertising per say. Its own identity has become its advertisement.
Moral of the story: Make sure you know exactly why you are shouting from the rooftop.
Factories don’t create brands. Mobile connections don’t create brands. A company, a CEO can only make a product or a service. Brands are created by their fans, the brand loyals, the consumers. And to have fans, you need a solid connection. A Shahrukh Khan makes connection with his fans every time he speaks. When he throws a dialog to his heroine, all the girls in the audience believe he is talking to her. Hence he is probably the only male celebrity who asks you to use Lux. A brand should connect with its consumers just like that, so that the consumers get personally attached to it. You know how Apple users are always ready to take a bullet for it? Yeah, just like that.
Moral of the story: Make connections. Make them an offer they can’t refuse.
This article was originally printed in Dhaka Tribune’s Weekend Tribune. It has been re-posted with special permission.