The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world of branding hard. Many brands paused or slowed their brand-building measures. Many Nepali, as well as international brands present in Nepal, halted their marketing efforts because of the pandemic. The advertising and marketing landscape faced turbulent times and recovery still looks bleak. However, it is time to get back on track and adopt some brand-building strategies to grow and sustain their being.
--BY DEEPTANGSHU THAPA
The effort brands can make for an establishment are infinite. A majority of the brands believe in directly jumping into the bandwagon of creating a television commercial (aired across the internet) or getting a social media influencer on board. Agreed, those look like logical steps given that Nepal’s marketing landscape has seen a tumultuous change since digital marketing has taken effect. Nevertheless, brand building is not limited to simply one aspect of the marketing programme i.e., promotion. Brands need to make a comeback with suitable brand-building efforts alongside their deeply embedded marketing mix strategies. With an upsurge of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, the effort sounds even more meaningful.
The direction all the brands are headed, in Nepal or globally, is towards succeeding in the consumer-brand relationship journey by building a brand that can elicit brand love, though it remains a much-debated topic in the field. But the attention it has received from managers and academicians alike since its conceptualisation in the late 1980s when equivalencies of such love were cited alongside the various stages of person-to-person love is creditable. For brands that reduced their brand-building activities due to the pandemic, now is the time to take off!
Internal and external analysis
A brand that has been there for some time is built as per the company’s ‘soul’, or commonly understood as the mission and vision statements. The heritage of the brand is set on the tone of the company’s culture which must be relooked into. Internal strength is the brand’s source of competitive advantage, and timely analysis helps in making decisions on how to leverage the ‘soul’ to create a successful brand experience.
Next, diving into the external factors is crucial. The external factors are not in the brand’s control and a very important environmental factor was the pandemic itself which led to economic hindrances. Other factors like political, legal, and so on, along with threats of competition, and substitutes, and the industry rivalry scenario in totality should be evaluated post-pandemic to set the correct brand-building strategy.
Fine-tune value proposition
After the internal and external audit, the brand must progress into fine-tuning its earlier set objectives. Consumer sentiments and social benefits should have been reshaped due to the pandemic, which means the value proposed must be adjusted as well. The communication on the pack is a persuasive message that reflects the proposed value, implying package repositioning could also be a positive post pandemic move.
However, repositioning could be the focal point depending on investments the brand is willing to make as costs incurred is debited from its earnings. So, a costly repositioning strategy may not be a suitable game plan for every brand.
A new value proposition directed to the target audience who are looking for a unique solution can be encoded with the marketing communication activities or promotion. Such a strategy could be cheaper than extensive repositioning that impacts the marketing mix entirely and large costs too must be borne by the brand. Though fine tuning the objectives and value proposition is a well adopted brand-building strategy, while costs and ways to communicate the newness are the central concern post pandemic; the need to reevaluate brand building strategy is the core.
Lock the point of difference
Reposition may work wonders for a brand, but within a category. If every brand takes a stance to reposition with the same message, then there is a thin line of difference between rivals. Such a situation is regarded as the existence of points of parity and lack of points of difference. It is very essential to lock a point of difference because points of parity are the basic features to announce, “I exist in the category”, by any brand. On the other hand, point of difference signifies the brand offers a distinct and exclusive pain reliever, such that it is specific to the brand only and no rival shares the same. A brand must strive to lock such a unique difference(s) so that it wins consumer’s share of wallet versus competition, granting higher market share value and volume.
Locking such a point of difference can be linked during the post-pandemic brand-building scenario with psychological research. It emphasises on interpersonal love being the motivation within a person that leads to formation of certain emotions like euphoria and anxiety, which further culminates into a goal directed state of having feelings of love towards another person. Considering its equivalence status in person-to-object love, which has proven existence in many questions raised by marketing practitioners and academicians in various research, it is undeniable that brand-building efforts are evitable to drive long lasting relationships, coined as brand love. Brands like Facebook, Coca-Cola, among many others, support the idea and seek to tabulate the dollar value for the brand.
To build or not to build?
The measurement of brand value is not easy. Alongside, brand-building itself is very costly. But it is an important part of the marketing activities. Not branding implies a commodity status, often associated with the general product only. Once branding happens, consumers have quick associations about quality, functionality, etc. Thus, creating endless opportunities for overall success of the company as brand associations lead to higher chance of usage resulting in purchase and positive evaluation post purchase means repeat purchase that leaves impressions in the book of earnings. Though the process is tough, but for brands that have existed for a long time and went passive with their communication due to the pandemic, it is time to take needful measures so that brand equity is further strengthened. After all, a brand must resonate with a consumer for strengthening its equity, else how will it survive?
(Ms. Thapa teaches Marketing and Branding at Kathmandu College of Management. She can be reached at [email protected])