Brand Building Basics
Building a brand, especially from scratch, has gone awry in these times of hasty and sketchy brand strategies. Here's exposing some myths and highlighting some method.
Branding is about a snazzy logo?
Not as much as is believed. Yes, for the sake of recall, an emblem or a 'mark' does conjure up images of a past experience or perhaps an expectation for the first time customer; but it does just one part of the job. The larger appeal comes from the consistency in the product or in the service itself.
Branding is about attention-grabbing advertisements?
You may grab attention, but, it is the engagement that counts. Several ads reach out yet fail to retain interest for myriad reasons. One is the 'over promise-under deliver' factor. A lot of ads say more than they actually do. The lie is obvious, post the initial 'pull'. One hugely misused element in advertisements is the 'conditions apply', which can be off-putting.
A large ad budget will ensure brand recall?
Remember, public memory is short. It's not about how much you are saying out there but more about how frequently. Small ad runs, effectively positioned and placed, over a point of time make for sustained recall. However, once the engagement happens, that is, once the prospective customer tries out your offering, it will be interesting to see if they return. If they do, then their expectations have been fully met. It means a synergy between the promotions strategy, the product, your internal processes and your people has effectively taken place.
Giant brands, today, have taken decades to get where they are. However, with technology firms, like Google, which is placed today at number two, for the most valuable global brands (Source: Forbes), the growth has been sooner. Likewise, Amazon, which started up in 1995, is today generating as much brand revenue as Apple, the world's most valued brand at $241.2 billion. The top-5 leading tech giants (including Microsoft and Facebook) are relative newcomers in comparison with the other five in the Forbes' top ten list. Coca Cola, at number 6, was incorporated in 1886. Disney, placed 7, started in 1923 and the South Korean conglomerate Samsung, at number 8, began in 1938. Numbers 9 and 10, Louis Vuitton and McDonald's, were incorporated in 1854 and 1940, respectively.
Amazon spent $11 billion in 2019. Compare that with Coke's ad spend, annually of $4 billion. Apple hit headlines in 2015 when they dramatically increased global advertising budget by 50% to a record $1.8 billion but the most interesting change in Apple’s digital advertising strategy in 2019, was their decreased ad spend - a drastic 68%, down to $76.3M from $243M in 2018. Just for perspective, In 2019, Apple's closest competitor, Samsung Electronics, spent close to 1.98 billion U.S. dollars on advertising in the United States.
This could be dismissed as sheer data, but the analyses can be compelling.
1. Apple spends less on ads but earns more.
2. Old brands have done a fairly good job of holding their own, with low ad budgets.
3. Premium brands spend less on advertising and more on research and development.
When Apple chose to reduce its spend, it was, perhaps, conveying that product performance and a personal experience for its customers scores more than promotions. Apple's features just grow on you. New features are loaded onto the latest phone even before its competitors think of it. As a customer, you don't realise that you require a feature, but once you experience it, you swear by it. Take for instance the Apple Pay feature that allows for contactless payment. Just a fingerprint does it all. It's your password!
The print ad talks of Touch ID. 'So you can not only protect the information on your phone, but find it so easy to use that you actually use it.' And, 'Unlock your phone or authorise payments with the Touch ID.'
Louis Vuitton's celebrity strategy personalises their products. There is an underlying human element in their ad campaigns, too. Not to mention rarity. Also, most of their products are handcrafted, which conveys that each piece - footwear, a wallet or a handbag is unique. The positioning in their ads is the tagline, louisvuittonjourneys.com - some journeys change mankind forever - one that features American astronauts. Another has Ali. Muhamad Ali. The tag says some stars show us the way, with a a young boxer learning the ropes from the legend. Great brands are built with great storytelling.
'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Never mind who said it (in today's context it might even stir up a controversy). What's important is the message - Competence, consistency and core values. If in doubt, ask Coca Cola or Louis Vuitton.
Brands are also built with historical import. There is a certain nostalgia that brings people back, time and again, spawning generations...
How do these lessons relate to local enterprise? Well, all global brands were local, at some point. They still are. And, for that additional reiteration that building brands takes a lifetime, the category leaders are all old companies. Consumer Goods: L'Oreal (1909). Financial Services & Banking (1958). Leisure: Disney (1923). Retail: Walmart (1962). Tobacco: Marlboro (1924). Alcohol: Budweiser (1876). Apparel: Nike (1964).