BRANDISHING THE BRAND

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Why the brand is the most potent business weapon

David Dangoor once said that, ‘’properly managed, no equity can yield a better return over time than a trademark.’’ In the same vein, Nicholas  Straveley noted that ‘’great brands have become  multinational properties with a  worth in the same order of magnitude as the same order of magnitude as the corporations who own them.’’ Granted, these are words of wisdom which entrepreneurs can only ignore at their own peril. A great brand is the most potent weapon in subduing competitors by wrestling them to the ground and ensuring they remain cemented on the floor. Even the Bible notes that a good name is better than precious ointment (Ecc 7:1). In his play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, William Shakespeare made the famous statement: ‘’what is in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’’ On this one, Shakespeare  was dead wrong. Coke is consumed more than other soft drinks because of our emotional attachment to the coca-cola brand. I once overheard some women in a matatu discussing a certain wedding. Whereas one could not remember the wedding clearly, the other one quipped: ‘’don’t you remember the one where people took Softa?’’ they then burst into laughter as their memories were refreshed. Their singular disdain for a local brand was sad. However, this clearly shows how a good and trusted brand can make all the difference in people’s perception of quality and subsequent consumption behavior.

What is a Brand?

Contrary to what many believe, a brand is simply a promise to consistently deliver a given product at specific quality standards. This promise can be identified through various components such as name, slogan, jingle and logo. The importance of a brand lies in the assets it vonveys to the company. These include brand name awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality, brand associations and other proprietary brand assets. These assets need to be discussed in detail.

Brand name Awareness

This is the ability of the customer to recognize and recall your brand name. if your brand name cannot be remembered then there is no awareness. The next level is brand recognition in which case the customers can only recall your brand name if they are assisted. For instance, customers are given names of brands for a certain product class such as Safaricom, Zain, Yu and Orange (mobile telephony companies). If the customers have heard of your name before then the level of awareness is brand recognition. The next level of awareness is brand recall in which case your brand can be remembered without assistance. For example, asking customers to name any mobile phone company without providing the brand names. The highest level of awareness is top of mind in which case your brand will be the first to be mentioned. If the brand is the only one remembered, then it is said to be dominant. The marketer should come up with names that are easy to pronounce, memorable and which relate easily to the product in question. Research has shown that names that contain more vowels are easier to pronounce and remember. Clearly, a brand name recall is not a quiz and customers have no motivation to recall strange and long names. To ensure high awareness of your brand, be memorable, distinct, advertise regularly, involve a slogan or jingle, sponsor events and use cues such as associating a brand with a celebrity as well as attractive packaging.

Brand Loyalty

This is the attachment the customer has to a brand. The customer sees the brand as a friend who deserves trust. If customers consistently purchase a brand and they take their time searching for it, they can be termed as loyal. The importance of loyalty is that it leads to preference. In the long run, this preference can be as strong as addiction. To create brand loyalty, marketers use brand loyalty programmes. Examples include: Supermarket Loyalty cards such as Tuskys Magic Card, Uchumi’S U-Card and Nakumatt’s Smart Card. Others include: Bonga Point by Safaricom and frequent flyer miles by airlines such as KLM’s Blue miles. Marketers also create switching costs which are the benefits you forego by moving from one brand to another. For instance, if you change your mobile phone provider you lose your number. Other ways of creating and maintaining loyalty include treating the customers right, staying close to the customer, measuring satisfaction and providing extras. The importance of brand loyalty is that it keeps competition at bay. Loyal customers are not looking for alternatives and will therefore not fall prey to new market entrants. In addition, when things go wrong (for example bad publicity), they will give the brand a second chance. It is possible that consumers will not leave your phone company even when they are struggling with congestion. They remain faithful, hoping that the matter will soon be resolved, just like one is hesitant to forsake a troubled friend.

The trust generated by brand loyalty should be jealously guarded since as someone said: “trust is like virginity; you only loose it but once” and a “broken friendship can be repaired  but it will never be the same again.”

Perceived Quality

This is the belief or percxeption that customers have that your brand is superior to the competition. For instance, many people believe that Sony electronics are superior to others. Perceived quality differs from objective or actual quality. It is important because it creates a reason to buy and it allows one to charge a high price. In this regard, one may be willing to pay KShs 80 for a soda at Hilton and not more than KShs 25 at Karuma Indo in River Road. It also helps you in recruiting channel members such as dealers and distributors. Perceived quality also helps one to extend the brand to other products as demonstrated by the case whereby CocaCOLA CAME UP WITH Dasni water which was well received by the market. Maliza Kiu, a new water brand from Kariobangi would not be similarly received by the market. To achieve high perceived quality, the marketer should create a product of excellent quality and adopt a marketing campaign that influences and ensures positive sentiments towards the brand. In marketing, “perception is reality.”

Brand Associations

This refers to anything linked to the brand in the consumers, mind. For instance, KCB’s Lion, Barclays’ Eagle and Safaricom’s green. These associations are created as a part of the positioning decision. A brand can be associated to many things which include: a symbol, a set of users, usage, a country, a celebrity, a product category or a competitor. The association helps in recalling the brand and creating positive perceptions about it. For instance, an electronics brand associated with Japan would do better than one associated with China.

Last Word

 In view of the prevailing cut throat competition, a good brand remains the most potent weapon that the marketer can brandish to emerge the winner. It iis the sharpest cutting edge the marketer can ever possess. Entrepreneurs are advised to invest more in brand building as they will reap much from it in future. Indeed, a brand like CocaCola is worth more than even the physical assets owned by the CocaCola Company. Brand building is a resource intensive, energy sapping, long term exercise but it is worth the effort. A product can be copied but a brand cannot. A brand is the ultimate differentiator which separates the best from the rest. If you want to go faster, create a product but if you want to go far develop a brand. After all is said and done, a good product might survive the competition, but it takes a good brand to thrive.

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