Sunday, 28 February 2016

Does Cognitive Branding Model help in building Iconic Brands?

By definition, a brand is a timeless, abstract entity; thereby anything which is short lived, time based cannot be recognised as a brand in real sense. Brand Identity, however specifies a product markers, having reputation, benefit or value attached to it and this brand identity helps marketers to achieve short term success for their organisations. This at the same time, helps managers to control and coordinate easily the abstractions attached to a brand. It means cognitively one can conceive abstractions and manage it within the boundary of an organisation and even outside. This branding having Cognition at its base characterises Cognition Branding Model.

Cognition Branding Model has its birth somewhere in 1950s, the era which is known for emphasising Unique Selling Proposition - USP - i.e. each product must communicate to its potential consumers a simple but distinctive benefits. The idea of USP got a shot in arm in 1970s when “Positioning” became the dear word across corporate. The idea was primarily led to building brands by ‘Compulsive Reiteration of Distinctive Benefits’, supported by rational arguments and emotional appeals. For example, brand Dove. Other fact which came around the Cognitive Branding model was that brand essence was reminded to potential consumers in every activity that carries brand mark and  repeatedly, consistently.

These cognition and controlling features came against the basic assumption about branding. As said before, a brand is timeless, abstract thing. Controlling and managing make a brand short-lived and mortal in nature. There are innumerable examples of brands which were noticeably successful initially but died down soon. Reason, these brand could not create myths around them, drawn from society that point in time.

Cognitive model is more appropriate for products which are utilitarian in nature. These utilitarian features help products get a distinctive position in the market, giving consumers a tool to easily separate them from others and can make easy buying decisions. This distinctiveness which is helpful to build a brand, becomes a constraint and comes the way of becoming an Iconic Brand.

Therefore, managers or organisations, need to think very carefully what they are looking for – a short term 'advantage' or long term brand.

Nowhere, I am suggesting to leave aside Cognitive Branding Model. But be ‘cognitive’ in deciding what the ultimate aim for conceiving a brand is. Brand Identity can be a stepping stone to move to Iconic Brand level, but it may prove to be a trapping for many, not able to move to Iconic Brand level eventually.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Iconic Brands have their roots in Culture

About brands, a question generally been asked – is brand a means to convey a message to consumers about a product or it is a route to reaching customers via depicting socio-eco-cultural state of the society?

May both be true to some, but it is the second more to me . Thoughtful scrutiny of brands clearly shows that Iconic brands have their origin in a state of the society. As Brand strategists say, Markers of a brand – Name, Logo and Design do not only depict product features but the then socio-eco-cultural transition, a society may be undergoing. To support it, look back in 1970s when the US was under economic and political meltdown along with increasing independence of women, beer manufacturer - Budweiser made use of it in its all advertisements. Budweiser, interestingly targeted acute tension between the revived American ideals of manhood and the economic realities that made these ideals nearly unattainable for many men. In India, 1970s and 80s, saw movies portraying anger through ‘Angry Young Man’. Branding, has moved miles from its early days to today from Cognitive Model to Emotional to Viral Model of Branding, but having one common thread across – Cultural Model of Branding. It is this Cultural Model which makes brand move the Identity Value cycle and becoming ‘Brand Icon’

Every product around has all the markers - name, logo & design for them but every brand is not a Brand Icon. Reason, these markers are empty as there is absence of myths around these markers. It means, one can reach in branding by the virtue of filling in empty space by myths, using all possible means, primarily by storey telling.

Marker myth generally enhances REPUTATION, BENEFITS OR VALUE or all the three.  Reputation could be for Quality of the product; benefits for distinctive Features and Value may be displaying the Status. Apple could be cited as an example to drive the point. Consequently, in just couple of years, Apple has moved from Identity Brand to Iconic Brand position. ‘Iconic Brand are the brands that have become Cultural Brands’.

Since branding birth, three models, namely Cognitive, Emotional and Viral Model of Branding is being practiced. But the common thread across these three is the Cultural Branding Model which provides a distinctiveness to a brand. It is this Cultural Model that helps in converting a brand into an Iconic Brand.

In India, Nirma is an example of Cognitive brand, however rested in Culture shift, society was witnessing that point in time. It has lost its relevance now. Therefore, a good brand could not reach its height of Iconic Brand level as it doesn’t have myths built around it.

In B2B scenario, companies can try exploiting Viral Model by roping in some leading customers. But, it needs regular fillers to attain Iconic Brand position that can only be achieved through Cultural Model as it helps in personalizing the brand’s myth to fit individual biography of customers.

Brands resting on some USPs do not go long way in their journey. Because, USP only tries to communicate a single distinctive benefits to consumers.

Branding is nothing but a channel to portray a culture – a society wants to follow, based on its socio-eco-cultural shift. Therefore, creating Iconic Branding can only be achieved through continuous creation of required myths around Markers.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Serial Temporary Advantage

Not able to understand one’s business nature and appropriate strategy is what I see a major reason of companies not able to get a place for themselves in the market.  Companies float between various approaches of strategy without realising what actually they need for success. The situation becomes more cumbersome for a conglomerate, comprised of various businesses, having need of specific strategy approaches for each business.

Of late, you pick up any article on business strategy or talk to Business Heads, you will find mostly talking about how to ensure SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE for their respective business, without understanding that it may not be possible for them to achieve it as their individual businesses are in different phases of evolution & market placement. Nature of a business and phase they are in, differentiates the need of having a specific approach to succeed, eventually.

Through this blog, I would like to stress upon the need to look for SERIAL but TEMPORARY ADVANTAGE instead of always looking for Sustainable Competitive Advantage to run a business successfully. As I say, ‘backstroke doesn't work when you are facing strong cross current in a river’, so is the case with businesses.

Serial Temporary Advantage is quite beneficial for companies which have either entered the market recently or have introduced new products, which are still to grab the consumer attention. This approach, however primarily provides required edge to companies which can neither predict the market, nor having capabilities to shape it.

New and nimble companies, having flexibility and adaptability to their side, are able to deal with such situations of not having predictability and malleability capabilities, well.

To add here, sustenance is only possible, when an organisation has built fortress in either capabilities, differentiation or scaling up.

In the last, comprehension of market should be looked at while deciding whether to go for Sustainable Competitive Advantage or Serial Temporary Advantage.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Friday, 12 February 2016

Business Success: By Luck or Strategy

I have read innumerable articles on strategy and companies following a ‘definite’ strategy which has made these company ‘run their businesses successfully’ for a long period of time. No, doubt systematic analysis of environments around, marketing capabilities may be some of the factors which have made these companies tuck into the business world. But, simultaneously a question raises its head,  are these factors only really responsible for success, various organisations, if not all, tasting today?

Let’s together, peep into the business world. On close look at various businesses and their success stories based on ‘certain strategy’ being followed by them, reveals that truth is far from the fact. It seems that most of the time, it is due to a product simply as there is no other comparable product in the market that makes a company run its business ‘successfully’ to a point and not because of having an appropriate strategy. Regarding strategy, most of the people do not even know what strategy actually is being followed in their own organisations. Routine business analysis, achievements of short term business goals, product demand, and pricing engross people so much that they do not have time to look for an appropriate strategy based on certain fact analysis and the capabilities of organisations. On top of that, some well ‘marketed strategy concepts’ make scenario more complex. I find today everyone talking about five forces strategy as a panacea of all business constraints  without realising that this strategy and many others do work under certain circumstances. Business leaders, to my understanding must work on active & regular reading & analysis of the market and their own capabilities to frame their strategies. To touch here, one should look for a different strategy if an organisation is having strong linkages between market share and profitability then for fragmented or specialised market. In short, where to play, how to play and how to win should define strategic goals.

Conclusively, different environment require different strategies. Therefore, strategies can be formulated only based on the capabilities of an organisation to foresee and impact the future or not. It means if an organisation can foresee future well but does not have ability to change it, it needs different strategy then an organisation which can. Accordingly, culture, leadership, marketing and business planning are decided upon to follow the chosen strategy.

I want to here, emphasize on the need to thin slice & delineate business environment around and individual business capabilities to decide upon which strategy has to be followed. Classical or adaptive or visionary or may be shaping strategy - either of these, may be the final choice. Organisations which work on either product capability or demand for its product do necessarily not follow a strategy and run a business in hindsight.