Category Archives: Branding

Here’s what Branding is all about!

Brand Pooooo-ooositioning

Brand positioning statement is often confused with a company tagline or slogan. At some level that isn’t completely wrong but if one tries to understand the true meaning of both, in fact they are very different.

Positioning statements are for internal usage and understanding the broader concept for the internal audience, about what is expected from them. Business is driven basis these statements which includes the marketing and the operating aspects.

Whereas a tag line is developed for the consumers to portray the same positioning for an external audience, used in primarily the marketing efforts. Insights from your positioning statement can be turned into a tagline, but it is important to distinguish between the two.

Examples of Positioning & Tagline


Positioning: fascination, perfection and responsibility

Tagline: Engineered like no other car in the world


Positioning: Quality, technology, performance and exclusivity

Tagline: The ultimate driving machine

Brand positioning means owning a piece of real estate in the consumers mind. The key here is to make sure that one captures an empty slot and not trying to win over an occupied one. Hence the key is to be first else some other brand will occupy that space. It helps the brand get the preference over competition, it also ensures that Positioning needs to be based on an extremely strong insight else getting the mind space is impossible.

Mind space occupied by brands

Brand positioning refers to “target consumer’s” reason to buy your brand in preference to others. It is ensures that all brand activity has a common aim; is guided, directed and delivered by the brand’s benefits/reasons to buy; and it focuses at all points of contact with the consumer.

In the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Reis and Trout’s, positioning means the idea is to find and attempt to “own” a marketing niche for a brand, product, or service using various strategies including pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, and competition. The idea is to create a unique impression in the customer’s mind so that the customer associates something specific and desirable with your brand that is distinct from rest of the marketplace.

Every business is unique and offers its products and services with their personal touch and hence the positioning also needs to have the same differentiated touch else it will be easily adopted or copied. Each and every employee of the brand needs to have the positioning in their mind and make sure in their own way this is driven. For e.g. if positioning is to offer performance car than right from the build quality of the car to the dealership everything should shout out performance.

But this is easier said than done, many marketers themselves forget about the positioning of the company and in the quest of trying something new deviate from this. And if the creators deviate other don’t even bother following. Turning everything you do into an expression of your desired positioning and you can create something special. Only once the internal audience accept and follow the positioning will the external start believing in the same.

There are various ways to position a brand

Own a category benefit
Volvo: Safety
Miller Lite: Great Taste, Less Filling
Walt Disney Company: Magic

Consumer Centric
U.S. Army: Be all you can be
Budweiser: For all you do, this Bud’s for you
Pepsi Generation

Company Operation
Burger King: Have it your way
United Airlines: The friendly skies of United
WalMart: Always the lowest price

Competition based
Avis: We’re #2. We try harder
Seven-Up: The Un-cola
Apple: Think different


Selecting one of the above is completely dependent a combination of all the above factors like the category, consumer, brand & its competition. Whichever one gives a stronger differentiator then it should be picked and explored further to be articulated in a consumer friendly language.

Co-branded Marketing, is it the in thing?

 The Unilever Yum Brands Tie-up 

kissan and pizza hut

Co-branding as a concept has been around for years, but recently we have witnessed considerable activities in this space. But still relatively this is an unused strategy, that helps  boost revenues and brand equity scores for their respective brands that tie-up.
This recent tie up of behemoths Unilever and Yum Brands via their respective brands Pizza Hut and Kissan is a live example of co-branding and executed well via multiple mediums like TVC, POS, etc in the market.
Co-branding is increasingly becoming important as a marketing strategy, as it allows brands to combine their strengths and loyal customer bases, while sharing advertising and promotional expenses to get a better ROMI. With this kind of strategy one brand gets exposed to the consumers of the other brand and increase their prospective consumer base instantly.  More importantly each brand gets a massive sampling via the other brand which if done via the traditional route would cost millions that mean more cost efficiencies.


Why Pizza Hut and Kissan decide to Co-Brand? To start off, both the brands are popular and one of the strongest brands in the food industry which makes them an even match. It’s a powerful way of introducing one company’s products and services to the loyalists of another.

Co-branding also help a brand to get some brand equity rub off from the other brand to oneself, in the current case both signify quality food and naturalness both the brand compliment each other very well. In some cases, companies co-brand to charge a premium, such as Ford’s (F) two-decade partnership with Eddie Bauer and its more recent creation of the “450 horsepower supercharged Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Super Crew” with an MRP of more than $42,000.

Harley and Ford

Co-branding is an often-overlooked strategy by which the whole can truly be greater than the sum of the parts. While it should be used sparingly and judiciously, it could generate a new level of interest and excitement around your products and services. In this case I truly believe it’s a good fit as in India Pizza is not complete without the tomato ketchup. It’s not just a matter of having the correct brand fit but sometimes it’s also about organization/brand beliefs and goals that may help unite 2 brands.

Maruti Suzuki’s premium segment strategy

Maruti is setting up a chain of retail outlets under the Nexa brand which will cater to only premium products. The first car to be launched through Nexa is the S-Cross and soon will be followed by Kizashi. The move is specifically done to cater to a premium audience who want a much richer buying experience which I suppose in the current outlets is difficult to achieve as the company has always been known for its small/economical cars.

Maruti, Suzuki, SCross, Maruti SCROSS, Suzuki SCross, Premium Maruti
Suzuki S-Cross

The company plans to take off the ‘Maruti’ brand from the new premium models it will be rolling out henceforth, which could also mean the end of Maruti brand in the coming years as already Suzuki has started taking charge of the company in the day to day working.

To start with they have  replaced the ‘M’ logo, which stands for Maruti, on the grill with the ‘S’, which stands for Suzuki. And with this setting up of 100 dealerships this year under the Nexa brand may the death knell for the brand Maruti and may be its dealers if they don’t choose to upgrade to Nexa.

And to offer this premium luxury experience the company is hiring aggressively from the service industries like hotel, tourism, aviation, etc to ensure the differentiated experience is delivered.

In light of the Japanese companies new mantra of aggressive growth the organization is taking up the easy route of expand the base, increase the segments and reap the benefits. Now does that really work for a brand like Maruti is really a question mark.

Maruti has struggled in the past to be as successful in premium cars segment with Ciaz & Kizashi. But rather than learning the lesson and staying away from this category they are introducing a new premium variant S-Cross to test the waters for the 3rd time now. Not a very wise move despite knowing that their brand stands for reliability, economical/value for money and good resale value they have again dared to enter into this segment.

As mentioned in my earlier blog about marketing & branding, the marketing team did a fab job in terms of launching the S-Cross at the IIFA awards where they would have got considerable traction as the hosts and guests mentioned S-Cross more than IIFA. But the issue lies in the branding where is this the right brand strategy to launch a premium car under the Maruti or now Suzuki that is known for its low maintenance and value of money attribute. Does the premium segment like other automobile companies need a different brand name altogether for the new lot of premium cars to survive.

Premium Maruti, Nexa, Suzuki Premium

Classic example of multiple brands to different segments in the market are General Motors with 4 brands or Toyota and Lexus or Fiat and Ferrari or Ford and Lincoln. And most of these brands have been successful with their brands as each brands caters specifically to a segment and more importantly to a specific need of that segment.

For now we shall just have to wait and watch the how the launch of the S-Cross unveils the entry of Suzuki in the premium segment.


Marketing and Branding, how are they different?????


Branding defines who we are while our marketing defines what we do for whom. We create a brand strategy first and then follow it up with how through marketing we shall deploy resources to decimate information w.r.t what we stand for. A true brand strategy will also entail detailed insights about the targeted consumers which will help build the strategy in the first place.

Through branding an organization wants to create a pull for its brands and underlie any marketing effort. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not. It defines why this particular brand is different from its competition and lets consumers know why they should go for a particular brand. In plain words it says “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”

Unilever, P&G, Canon, Ebay, CAT, Levis, Shell, WD, Apple, Harley Davidson
Global Brands

Building a brand isn’t a onetime exercise it’s an ongoing one with multiple variables impacting a brand. Very important among these things is the lived experience of the brand. Did that car deliver on its brand promise of reliability? Did the maker continue to uphold the quality standards that made them what they are? Did the sales guy or the service center mechanic know what they were talking about? All of this together, is a part of the making of a brand.

Brand is bigger than any marketing effort I feel since the brand is what remains after the marketing activity has happened. It’s what sticks in your mind associated with a product, service, or organization—whether or not, at that particular moment, you bought or did not buy. It communicates a promise to your intended audience, and creates a distinct and memorable image in the mind of your customers.

Brand manager, marketing manager, marketing jobs, digital marketing Consumers become loyal to brands and not to their marketing efforts. Marketing activity will drive the consumer to the store or the website but it’s the brand experience which will make him buy or reject the customer. Good brand management will make loyalist, advocates and even evangelists in case of cult brands which will drive the brand equity scores.

Branding Strategy highlights:

  • Branding is a pull strategy
  • Branding is strategic — it involves crafting out the vision, strategy and evolution
  • Branding build loyalty and conviction in a brand pyramid
  • Branding simplifies the existence of a brand
  • Branding differentiates a product, services from those in its category
  • Branding influences purchasing decisions by occupying a place in the mind

Then, there is Marketing….

What is marketing, marketing management, brand management, digital marketingMarketing strategy is basically a road-map to deploy the brand strategy using various media vehicle, it is in lay man’s term actively promoting a brand’s product or service. It’s a way of reaching and engaging people. Effective marketing ensures that one’s brand is always top-of-mind among its consumers and awareness scores in a brand equity model are high.

Everything that includes communicating a brand strategy to a consumer is Marketing. This includes running a TV commercial on channels, full-page or half page print ads, signage’s on streets, leaflet distribution, events, banner sign, business card, social media management, gifting, etc are part of the marketing plan or a strategy. Basically a marketing strategy is something where millions of dollars are spent on and hence for most people marketing is an extremely important function as there are huge investments made apart from CAPEX.

Marketing Strategy Highlights:

  • Marketing is a push strategy
  • Marketing is tactical — traditional, digital and unconventional
  • Marketing develops customers by making them aware
  • Marketing is one-on-one communication, no matter what the form
  • Marketing promotes a brand’s products or services in the market
  • Marketing can trigger a customer’s immediate decision to purchase

The main difference between branding and marketing is that marketing highlights the intended value of a product or service whereas branding reinforces the same. If you have a substandard product to begin with, marketing may help you make the first time sale but repeat sale will become an issue as the product experience during the first time was not convincing.

Branding is “What you are”

Marketing is “What you do”

Your True Brand Ambassador – An Awesome Product

Millions of products in the market but not everything sells like hot cakes. There could be many reasons for the sales of these products to not happen
– Bad Marketing
– Bad Product
– Bad Distribution
– Bad Positioning
– Wrong Market
– Wrong TG
And the list can go on and on……
But there are certain brands where people await the launch of new products, stand in long ques or book the product well in advance to get their hands on the same. Companies or brands like Apple, Harley Davidson, Ikea, WV Beetle, etc are not just known for the latest offering but most people can remember what they started with and what is their current offering. Now think the same about say for e.g. a Samsung who is competing with Apple for the best smart phone, what was the first product they launched, some of us would know but a lot of consumers will not be aware of their first product.
One thing the emerges common among most cult brands is that they have a product which is just awesome. Everything that is put in the product has a purpose and more importantly that same purpose is something that the consumer also relates to and finds its beneficial. Their products are so well made that just a PR leak of they are coming up with a new variant is enough to generate tremendous buzz in the market.

So I guess for me the learning is that if you wanna create a brand / product line which yields revenue over a longer run invest in the product do not leave behind anything to ensure that its the best in class product. Yes there are pressures on budget and this may sound idealistic but ultimately in the market the brand / product pays the price for not being the best. All the other elements like the distribution, marketing mix, etc can be played around but once a product fails its really difficult to make it a success.Often hear from people that these bigger organizations have lots of money to waste on R&D; and MR but ultimately that same research helps to narrow down the likely list of successful products rather than launching products and failing in market.

Super Brands

Everyone aspires to own premium brands even though when they know that the product on offer is either almost same or at times exactly the same. Was just going through some videos on TED Talks and found very interesting trend that was coming up which is how great brands drive certain kind of behavior or in some cases change consumer behavior.superbrands

Some brands have the power to make a difference in consumers life and powerful brands are able to change the way consumers feel, think, and act. They do this when they become part of peoples’ lives by answering the simple problems through their products and services.

There are certain brands that have changed the behavior of consumers and those are brands that are your evergreen brands since they are the strongest at the conviction level. For e.g. brands that changed the way we shop (Amazon, eBay), how we work (Microsoft) and how we access information across anything and everything (Google) basically these brands identified areas and changed the way consumers behaved.

So why do you think these brands did so well or What do these great brands have in common that makes them not just successful but successful over a period of time: zeal to understand latent consumer needs and create them into consumable products and services. It’s an extremely simple concept but not all companies follow this which bring their downfall.

The WHY of any Brand

There are a lot of brands successful and still going strong (cult brands) and then there were some strong brands then but now are either shut or struggling. So how can a brand falter so much when once it was a strong dominant market leader and now a struggling or a bankrupt brand today. How can something go so wrong that it results in well oiled money-making machine going bust. The most common top of mind answers would be – change in strategy, sub-optimal resources, faulty marketing, inefficient sales, etc. But do you think these are the real reasons since all of these could have been changed back to the original ones and the brand would have been back on track.

business and brands

So what happened to make it that irreversible change? I feel that the most important thing for any organization is not ‘what’ they are doing or ‘how’ they are doing but it’s the ‘WHY’ they are doing is the most important thing. The What & How are things like marketing, positioning, strategy which are easily changeable but the moment you change the WHY, which the reason for the brand’s existence then its a serious and a fatal problem.

A brand is started with an end goal in mind which is the WHY and unless the why is clear none of what and how elements make any sense. So if the purpose of a brand changes it is very difficult for a consumer to digest a fact that a brand supplying computers is now making phones hence the belief on the brand is low. Yes companies do go into newer territories to ensure growth objectives are met but then it’s what the company stakeholders want and not what the consumers want.

Just to give an e.g. today radio transistors aren’t something you see but idea of a radio was to entertain so the next logical upgrade for a RT brand is to get into an innovation mode and figure the next mode of innovation like a walk-man or stereo system when they hit the wall in terms of sales. But if a brand got into something like computers which was at that time meant to be the next big thing although logically it made sense to move from transistors to transponders/semi conductors but the mission of the company changed from providing entertainment to easy computing. This is where they go bust.

And if you look at successful brands like Harley Davidson they never change their mission (why) “We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclist and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.” and continue to have all new products, communication and all activities that glorifies the WHY of their brand.

Just feel that it’s important for a brand to stand true to its mission and tweak the vision if at all need be to be successful in the long run.


Differentiate your brand

The most common word used across the marketing and branding forums and people is that “is your brand/activity differentiated enough to grab the consumers attention?”

And most managers would answer yes it definitely is different from what competition is doing, but is it really different? The answer is most probably no. The differentiating factor  is  most probably that none of the competition has tried it but today differentiation is more than just about your category it’s across brands.

Imagine a testimonial ad started by a FMCG category which worked well and this same idea was then taken by the agency to another category like an automobile or pharma and pitched as first in the category. Everyone in the room is happy since they achieved one thing in the meeting which is we are different from competition, but are they really different? From a consumers lens he would feel I have seen this many a times and all of them including other categories are giving the same message.

Creating a differentiation for me is doing exactly opposite of what conventionally marketeers are doing for e.g. when a service provider blocks the sale of the product or limits the consumption of their product or service immediately it becomes a big thing. Consumers start getting impatient as to what is this product all about or why can’t I get it. This ultimately results in massive awareness which is consumer-led rather than manufacturer led.


The above e.g. is a marketing strategy that is different but apart from strategy there are there ways of differentiating as well which could be via creative communication (e.g.Got Milk campaign), using different media (e.g. Ford for the launch of Fiesta in India during cricket matches), operational differentiation (e.g. Walmart’s procurement and supply chain management), different business model (e.g. Amway, etc).

The above are just e.g. and current trend could be different but the idea is to ensure that differentiation should happen across categories and not just within a particular subset.