Brand Connection and Relationships
Our brand defines us!
Across different markets, brands are synonymous with personalities and consumers forge close relationships with their trusted brands. In the words of Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks, “To be relevant in 25 years of time, we want to live inside people’s houses, to be a trusted friend inside their homes. We’re in a fortunate position that most people start their day drinking a cup of coffee, either at home or hopefully at a Starbucks store.”
Consider also the following instance: “I’m a Hyundai man,” quipped a car customer recently – it was as if he belonged to the Hyundai brand of vehicles and vice versa. When a brand builds trust among its consumers, it marks the beginning of brand loyalty. A study in the UK in 2004 followed by a couple of studies in India in 2009 indicated the reasons for this strong relationship between customers and their preferred brands: habit, inter-generational influence, emotional security and fit with personal identity, in addition to, of course, functionality.
How do you build brand relationship?
- Connect with the end consumer
Humanizing a brand is a game changer when it comes to developing a relationship with the target audience. Consider Thums Up, the soft drink brand from the Coca Cola stable in India, riding on its strong advertising promotions celebrating the concept of masculinity, has created its own brand loyalty. It stands for the strong cola, for the real man. For many years, Coca Cola has focused on establishing this soft drink as the ultimate ‘Male Icon’ among beverages, thanks to its rugged brand personality.
Again, most people will still tell you their mornings begin with Colgate. This is followed by a cuppa of Nescafe. Or if you want to fly like a Maharaja, it has to be Air India. How a certain fragrance of a celebrated perfume brand transports someone to a momentous occasion way back in time. Even in our day-to-day life, we never say we need to “photocopy” something; we simply say “Xerox”.
In short, a holistic and continually updated campaign, communicated with energy and walking the talk, helps you to connect and associate a deep emotional bond with your customers. The brand becomes a part of the customer’s life and value-system. The feeling is: “this brand is a part of my life”.
- Alignment of company processes to sync with customers
It is imperative for any company to align internal company processes, capabilities and manpower to build the articulated brand relationships with its customers. The pioneering leader and Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy believes that “every single atom in the company manifests the brand and the people in the company should act the brand and behave in a certain way to earn respect.” After all, performance leads to recognition which in turn leads to respect. Respect for any brand can give it a sense of belonging and loyalty in the minds of its discerning audience.
- Brand intertwined with rituals
Brand rituals are behaviours, habits or ceremonies that are associated with a brand. Engaging the customers in ritualized behaviour imbues products with additional values. Added value, as we know, drives profits and enhances loyalty. Remember the advertisement for Cadbury chocolates with the slogan “Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye” that we deeply associate with Diwali? Here the brand has built a strong relationship memory with us based on the concepts of love and celebration vis-à-vis the ritual of exchanging sweets during the Festival of Lights.
Even on the recent 74th Independence Day of our nation, Cadbury came up with the Unity Bar – a chocolate bar designed to “pay homage to the beautiful, big-hearted, spirited people that make up this nation”. The congruity of this brand with us in celebratory times is a sure winner and reason enough for other strong brands to make sure their brand rituals remain inviolable!
Brand innovation is an essential component of corporate strategy. In a diverse market like India, innovation is very important. However, this does not concern only product launches. Communication and delivery of the brand experience are more the key factors here.
For instance, Amul, our own dairy brand has created blind faith in its consumers for over five decades now and faces no competition from international brands. The success of the brand is based on quality, its ever-expanding product portfolio and a hyper-local focus. In spite of its growing product range, it still sticks to its old-school way of brand strategy: the concept of ‘Taste of India’ is expressed through its simplistic, witty and topical campaign, with a mass appeal.
Similarly, Mahindra and Mahindra used innovations in the digital space – it made its customers narrate their experiences on social media. The company also used various forms of contests to engage its customers and filled its social media pages and handles with testimonials of satisfied buyers. Undoubtedly, the customer base of the company increased in no time.
While technology has changed the game in modern times, forging a deep emotional connect with the target audience is still a key driver when it comes to building brand equity. The new consumer, especially in a diverse market like India, is pushing and pulling at two ends of the spectrum – rising consciousness and knowledge about global brands and their standards of excellence, combined with openness towards homegrown brands that have got their positioning and value articulation in the right place. To chart a success story for any brand requires an in-depth understanding of growth opportunities and the need for products catering to a wider demographic and social group.