faculty speak

Myth 8: Branding = Advertising

“Ninety-nine percent of advertising
doesn’t sell much of anything.”
– David Ogilvy

This is another commonly held myth about marketing. Many, entrepreneurs and amateurs alike, think of branding only as a way of creating image. Ask them and they will say that they are practicing branding. Probe further and it will be revealed that they have a logo and release some ads here-and-there.

Now, that’s not branding. It’s merely advertising.

Branding is indeed about creating image. However, it does not start or end at that. In its true sense, branding is about a ‘business philosophy of an organization with respect to the product category represented by the brand.’ The entire process of branding can be divided into two parts- one, that happens in the outside world; and the other – and more important one – that happens within the company. The one that happens in the outside world has to essentially focus on AIDA, i.e. creating Awareness; generating Interest; developing Desire among the target consumers; and finally ensuring Acquisition of the brand by the consumers. In this entire process, what advertising does is only helps in creating awareness about the brand. If the other things (of AIDA) are not ensured, acquisition of the brand by the consumers may not take place, and the very purpose of branding may get defeated. What David Ogilvy – the much respected and celebrated personality of advertising field – has described in his above referred quote is unfortunately true even today. And the crux lies in the myth of ‘branding = advertising’ that is widely held.

The process of creation of a brand starts with the STP which has already been discussed in some of the earlier articles in this series. Based on this, a ‘brand personality’ has to be crafted. It is now a well-accepted fact that brands also have ‘personalities’ like human beings. In fact, they are created on the same personality traits as human personalities, such as trustworthy, honest, suave, sophisticated, stylish, rugged, no-nonsense, etc.

A logo of the brand, must truly represent and depict the desired personality of the brand. The font used for logo as well as color combinations used should reflect its personality. For instance, Lakme brand has a personality of being sophisticated, delicate, feminine, etc. And its personality gets truly reflected in the font as well as colors used in the brand logo. On the contrary, Hummer is rugged, dependable, confident, which again gets reflected in the font and colors used in the logo.

It is also necessary to develop a ‘tag line’ for your brand. This in strategic brand management terms is referred to as ‘value proposition’ and also as ‘brand promise’. This value proposition is a ‘shorthand summary’ of what the brand stands for. When Amul says: ‘The Taste of India’, it not only conveys the variety in culinary tastes of India but also a sample of cultural tastes of India and how Amul fits into all this. In fact, if you think of it you can write an essay, if not a book, on what ‘The Taste of India’ could mean in Amul’s context.

There is another related myth: that to make a brand successful, you must have celebrity endorsing your brand. I have a friend, who changes job almost every three years. And as soon as he joins a new company, the first thing he does is rope in a brand ambassador. I am sure, many brand managers have a desire to rope in some or the other celebrity for their brands, but may not do so because of financial constraints. They may feel that the only dividing line between them and success is the lack of celebrity endorser. This is probably a bigger myth than the myth of ‘Branding = Advertising’. Let me remind you of a very reputed Indian brand of worsted suiting- Raymond. Do you recollect any (big-ticket) celebrity associated with this brand? On the contrary, there is a competing brand which is endorsed by none other than Amitabh Bachchan. In many of my lectures on branding, when I ask the participants to recall the brand, they fail to do so without any prompting. The brand I am referring to here is Reid & Tailor. Now, which is a bigger and more respected brand of worsted suiting- Raymond or Reid & Tailor? Mind you, Raymond does not have any celebrity brand ambassador whereas Reid & Taylor has one of the most celebrated one. So the bottom line is: do not waste your always-scares resources on a celebrity unless there is a strong case for one.

Let’s try and understand the importance of the second part of branding- that is about doing certain things within the company. To understand this, let’s take a look at some of the successful brands. For instance, McDonald’s is one of the most famous and trusted brands across the world. Its brand promise is: ‘I’m loving it’. This should ideally imply that a consumer stepping into a McDonald’s outlet ‘is’ loving the experience. However, to turn this into reality, what McDonald’s does relentlessly is to train its each and every employee in ‘living’ this philosophy. So when a consumer encounters any employee of McDonald’s in its outlets, she finds them ‘loving’ the entire process of serving the consumer, in turn making the consumer ‘love’ her own experience.

Likewise, when Samsung adopted the brand promise of ‘Next is what?’ a few years ago, it made sure that its entire organization in general and R&D in particular was fully geared up to line up products where the next was better than the previous one. This ‘living’ the brand within the company, gave Samsung a distinct edge over its established rivals and made it the market leader. 

For a brand to be truly successful, it should be well understood that the brand promise is integrated into the organization as its culture. Every employee of the organization and also its channel members (dealers, etc.) should conduct the business of your brand in sync with the ‘brand promise’.

It is well known fact that brands live far longer that the products. The products may change their forms with time due to change in consumers’ tastes or changes in technology. However, the brands may last virtually ‘forever’. Sony Walkman changed its form from a compact cassette player to a compact CD player to a MP3 player and remained relevant as a brand of ‘music on the go’ for three decades, before it lost its track and gave up against the impending onslaught of smart phones. If you are also one of those who thought ‘branding = advertising’, face the reality and accept the fact that you are not doing justice to your brand. Adopt the strategic branding approach and see your brand grow in strength, day by day.

“An image is not simply a trademark, a design, a slogan
or an easily remembered picture.
It is a studiously crafted personality profile
of an individual, institution, corporation, product or service.”
– Daniel J Boorstin 

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing