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How will your brand survive in 2014? Deliver value!

MANILA, Philippines—“How will my brand deliver value?” is a commonly heard response to a proposal for a new communications campaign every time I sit in Executive or Marketing Committee meetings.

For undifferentiated and commoditized products, creating brand value offers real sustainability issues. In my coaching work in the Asean region, I always challenge Marketing Managers and Creative agencies to break away from the segmentation mindset. As one Brand Guru said in a Marketing Conference I attended in California, “we need to ditched the assumption that there is a distinct group waiting for green messages and a larger mass that are uninterested. Instead we need to think about what both groups have in common.”

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So going back to the question…How do we create and deliver value for your brand in 2014?

First impressions last. This is not only true for job seekers who give everything they have got during the first interview they are scheduled with the employer, but also for companies that create and develop brands.  Think of the employer as customers and the applicant with all his total package (physical appearance, resume content and communication skills), as the brand.

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In this comparison, certainly the employer will have an impression about the applicant—good or bad, it will be the basis for a passing mark.  Similarly, in the dog eat dog marketplace, the customers’ impression about a particular brand is integral.  It is very crucial for it entails the “make” or “break” of a company’s products or services placed on the table.

Your branding shapes the impression of customers. So, the objective is to make your brand compelling and relevant.

Getting a brand name can be as simple as one to three if the owner’s name has an impact.  There are brands that bear the whole name or combination of letters of the owner’s/owners’ names. Examples of powerful brands that were taken from the names of the owners are Belo, Bench, Julie’s Bakeshop, Ayala and international names such as Prada and Ferragamo

Needless to say, the customers are immediately aware that products or services from these brands are backed by highly regarded specialists.  No more questions. No more doubts; just plain assurance.

The only problem is that when other companies lack imagination or simply rush things, the brand’s name ends up with the CEO’s name.  If this is the case, then it will have to surpass an even greater challenge of convincing consumers.

But why do it the hard way if the name has no recall and equity?  Unless the owners are already some huge celebrities or experts with decades of professional work with a great following in social media, the chances for the brand to make it big is very slim. Remember, when your brand is impressive, the customers are attracted to buy. The trick here is to consider various factors like distinction, appeal, memorability, message and promise that make a brand truly impressive.

First on the list is distinction. The people are intrigued by anything different. If you are trying your luck in a raffle contest, using a colored envelope might attract the picker among all other white envelopes. What I mean is, be fresh and bold, because that is how you will get noticed first.

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Did anybody else think of combining “Face” and “book” in the past?  I guess nobody, so Facebook is a totally distinct brand.

Second is appeal. A brand has to have a personality. Think of team “Gilas”. When Filipinos hear of it, they feel like the Philippine team is so awesome. Brands that have appeal can stand and the people are able to relate to it, because they like to be identified having the same kind of personality a brand reflects. This is why buying expensive items from top brands can be seen as an individual’s way to fit in a social class.

Third, a brand has to be remembered. The words that make up the brand are best familiar to the ears of the people. If the brand is too strange sounding and people find it difficult to read nor spell it, there may not be any recall.  The look of the logo can be made very memorable. Also, the positive experience that customers may have towards your products or services will stick in their minds.

Fourth, message and promise carry the brand’s statement. It gives the people the idea about what the product or service is all about, the quality it possesses and what principles surround it. McDonald’s delivery states, “There in 30 minutes. Guaranteed.”

Fifth, embrace emotion. In a time where ice cream can give us a sense of royalty and coffee can create thousands of “selfie” moments, surely we can make people feel about the future of a particular advocacy whether it involves people or planet? Emotion is the currency of communication.

Advertisers know that, but for some reason sustainability communications shy away from it. Some brands are showing the way—who didn’t palpitate when Julie’s bakeshop released its 30 second commercial “Ina” or shedding a little tear when they first watched Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” video?

The public are relatively very quick to judge, their tastes vary according to their needs, wants, and cultural background and their capabilities to patronize specific products and services are dependent on how much they make for a living and so there is no easy way of telling what will exactly click to the customers. Nevertheless, a powerful branding program can bridge the gap in capturing the interest of your target customers.

In order to win that first glance of the customers and to keep them patronizing, there will have to be a lot of cooking in the kitchen.  Meaning, you better be mindful of how you package your products or services.

Be unique, define a personality, pick a name that is easily recognizable and remembered, and let the people know how you raise the bar in terms of quality based products and services.

Sustainability communications will only deliver value to the brand if they are based on a powerful brand strategy and integrated with mainstream communication activity.

So my advice to organizations trying to break into a competitive marketplace: Position your product or service as the best out there and demand from your creative agency the best communications plan. In short your campaigns must be remarkable!

For creative agencies: Realize this is your chance to make a difference. It’s time to craft something for everyone to talk about.

(The author is an Agora Awardee for Marketing Education, a Professor of Global Marketing and Chair of the Marketing Cluster of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. He is also an Asean Family Business Coach and recently finished a book on Family Business Governance and Succession. For comments, you may e-mail writer at sorianoasia@gmail.com.)

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