The branding game

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Toral Modi investigates a modern marketing mystery - is a brand the name for a product, an image, a perception or an experience?

We use so many brands every day and many a times do not even notice them. How do you start your day? Brush your teeth with a Colgate toothbrush and Closeup toothpaste, shave with your Gillette Sensor Excel.

Just look around your office table and you will find a few more of them - your HP computer with an Intel chip, a Reynolds pen, a Siemens telephone, a Casio calculator and a digital diary, your Nokia mobile… the list is endless.

We may use 50 brands every day and we do not even realize it. But somewhere in the mind, there is etched a name which is instantly recalled when one thinks of a product.

Some have such a strong brand equity that they are used as a synonym for the category itself, say Cadbury for milk chocolates. This is the power of branding, and this is what marketers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on. Consumer goods companies today spend between five to 15% of their turnover on brand building and advertising. The largest consumer goods company in India, HLL spent $154.7 million on advertising in 1999. Colgate spent a whopping 18% of its turnover on advertising last year, and it plans to spend more this year.

Just as product differentiation is achieved by companies through their brands, service companies aim to achieve a similar goal through their logos.

A logo could be just another picture, or could become the identity of the organization. Service companies especially - be they banks, financial service companies, insurance companies, consultancy, courier companies, airlines - all give a special emphasis to their logos. The logo brings to mind a strong association with the service offered. It gives a distinct personality to the organization.

The Godrej or Tata name with any product evokes a feeling of trust and confidence. HLL, too, has been emphasizing its corporate logo in recent times.

Most consumers would not be aware that Walls ice cream, Brooke Bond and Taj Mahal tea, Rin, Surf, Wheel and OK detergents, Lux, Hamam, Rexona, Breeze, Pears, Dove and Lifebouy toilet soaps, Lakme and Ponds cosmetics, Kissan jams and squashes and Annapurna salt are all products sold by a single company – Hindustan Lever Ltd.

The company spends several hundred thousand dollars on creating and nurturing each brand. But several of its advertisements today also stress that it is a HLL product. The aim is to build an identity around the corporation, so that the consumer can relate not only to the brand, but also to the provider of the brand.

Britannia is building a corporate identity as a provider of healthy food. Such branding will be useful for the future when the company launches new products or brands, as it will attract a consumer base that is satisfied with its existing products.

There are several other subtle forms of branding too. Maintaining the same layout for all outlets, as MacDonald’s does, is one form of branding. The aim here is to enhance visibility through familiarity.
• The Best buses are always red and Indian Railway trains are maroon (with the exception of a few blue and lavender trains in the western railway these days).
• Railway station names on Bombay platforms are always written on white, blue and red kite-shaped boards.
• Autos and taxis are painted yellow and black so that they can be easily spotted on the road.

Colors play an important role in branding. If MacDonald’s is red, Maxtouch is orange and BPL is blue.

Jingles and slogans are subtle but effective forms of branding. ICICI has created a catchy jingle, which consumers can immediately relate to. Slogans, too, have their place in building an identity. Raymond’s ‘The Complete Man’, Tisco’s ‘We also make Steel’ and our own ‘It’s All About Money, Honey’ are a few examples of slogan branding.

Irrespective of how it is done, branding has become one of the most critical elements of success in business. A brand gives a distinct identity to a product, providing a crucial link between the product / service and the consumer.

India Infoline

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