Brands! We, humans, allow a product with a certain label and a logo to become a part of our life very easily. Once the product provides the functional benefit, we make it a part of our daily lives.
--BY DEEPTANGSHU THAPA
How often do you change your toothpaste brand?
Such a (fan) following towards a brand is linked to brand love in the consumer behavior literature by many academic scholars. The early stages of getting acquainted with the brand elicit positive emotions when functional benefits are met. This stage of warmth between the user and a brand deepens into love when the consumer maintains a long-term relationship with a repeat purchase. Many global brands spend billions in advertising and promotion to build brand love towards it. Established brands in Nepal also experience brand love as a consumer is resistant to switch to an alternate offer and continues to purchase them despite brands demanding a higher share of the wallet with price increments.
Apart from renowned brands, start-up ventures with very small advertising and promotion budgets are also demanding a share of the wallet of the Nepali consumer. Till 2010 or even a few years after, a handful of new ventures had begun to trickle into the Nepali market. Ideas of entrepreneurship and new business creation were not encouraged. However, the scenario changed drastically over the years. Success stories from start-up ventures seemed to spur others to take similar paths and achieve the lifelong dream of working for themselves while chasing a passion. Sadly, very few startups see the light of success in five years, along with the brand everything fizzles out.
The buzz across social media channels with sponsored advertisements that can be carried out with a minimal reach of 250 or more audiences for a minimum spend of USD 1 (or Nepali rupees 118/- approximately) is abundant. A product shot using a smartphone and/ or a video produced with Tik-Tok is aired across digital media by many ventures to excite a buyer to engage with the advertisement and make a purchase.
Very little attention is paid to the brand’s aesthetics and related elements. With the abundance of brands offered by start-up ventures across Nepal, their brand management condition is dire. Some of the ventures that are financially sound invest to produce quality brand assets, while working on coordinating color and fonts among other aspects of the asset, however, many ventures do not comply with set norms to be followed.
As of July 21, 2021 (Traxcn, 2021), the statistics record shows more than 550 start-ups in Nepal. Nonetheless, an estimated 25% of start-ups packed their ventures as they were not resilient enough to make it through the pandemic (Prasain, 2021) as recorded before the 550 number was locked in. The surviving ventures have some established companies with sound brand strategies.
Strengthening Consumer-Brand Relationships
What about the remaining ventures? Will they make it through the pandemic? These are some tough questions. However, having correct brand management strategies may help their survival or support during revival after the pandemic.
Consumer brand relationship literature is rich with studies carried out across different generational cohorts to support the idea that a consumer may develop a relationship when they see the brand as a partner. Such relationships are not episodic emotions based, they are short-term only. Rather these brand relationships are long-term commitments led which allow for trust to foster and love to take shape.
The concepts of brand love surprise the ardent doubters within the academic and marketing fraternity. Conversely, the number of research studies to contribute to existing literature and the managerial implications that draw global companies like Facebook and Coca-Cola to track their brand love statistics are indicators that seem to reflect the reality.
Research supports various antecedents to brand love. A brand name, logo, and tagline are inevitable. Following that various cost-effective positioning strategies can be put into place with a sensorial appeal to differentiated strategies that resonate with consumers, which could include human-like characteristics. A start-up venture in Nepal is yet to cross many thresholds in strategic branding, but they need to instigate brand management practices now. Apart from the unavoidable assets, various other antecedents to drive brand love can be capitalised on, while depending on digital media that allows low spending on promotion.
A great storytelling tool since the birth of television commercials has been a mystery. Mystery allows consumers’ cognitive experiences to link with the brand experience creating a vision that fosters feelings towards the brand. Along with that, the brand must promise great quality, functionality, and hedonic features. The fun and pleasurable experiences entice positive consumer-brand relationships. The vital force for the base of a strong relationship is the congruency of self-concept and brand image.
The information consumers receive about a brand across diverse media generate usage intentions. Once the trial happens, drivers for repeat purchase intention should follow, which is founded when consumers see themselves as equal or like the brand. The significance of purposes such as green and sustainable has proven to be effective for many ventures. Other effective ways to create congruence can be found through tie-ups with celebrity endorsers or social media influencers with proven para social stimulus on the target demography.
Winning With Brand Love
Brand love is an evolving concept that was noted in consumer behavior literature during the late 1980’s while citing its equivalence to theories of interpersonal love from psychology. Over the years, the concept has received attention from marketing scholars. In 2004, Kevin Robert’s book, Lovemarks, (Roberts) pointed its practicality to the world where he recalls some great world brands that are leading in brand love as experienced during his CEO days at an advertising agency.
The steps such giants took could be cloned by many ventures in Nepal as well. As start-up ventures wonder how to survive tough challenges, they must aspire to build a strong brand. The beginning could have happened from the box of savings and a business plan to get hold of a bank loan, but it is time for the ventures to now think of the experience they want to provide to their consumers. As a researcher in brand management, I look around social media platforms for new start-ups in Nepal and ask myself why there isn’t any benchmark for a venture to promote itself?
Due to the need of the hour, many delivery companies are increasing the number of start-ups in Nepal, but they have a logo copied off from the internet and are unsure of what consistency related to a social media post is. Many other companies in the fashion, gadgets, jewelry and food category are operating in the same manner.
As many companies fall prey to the same approaches during launch, they must realise that the functional differences between brands have reduced as ‘me-too’ is all over the market. The need to differentiate with branding is necessary. It might seem like a huge challenge for the start-ups but a small financial commitment, in the beginning, could make them strong for the future. Consumers will not only recognise the brand easily, and recall the brand when visible to them on shelves or in the market, but a great outcome of brand management, in the long run, is brand love.
Consequently, a brand could become resilient in the long run with committed consumers who will miss the brand in its absence. Revival and bouncing back after challenging times like the pandemic would not be tough as brand love’s proven outcome is resistance to switch, missing the brand during absence, and resistance to negative information as well. Therefore, the benefits of brand management will be abundant for any brand that is made in Nepal.
Ms. Thapa teaches Marketing and Branding at Kathmandu College of Management. She can be reached at [email protected]
Traxcn. (2021, July 21). Traxcn. Retrieved from https://tracxn.com
Prasain, K. (2021, February 7). Kathmandu Post. Retrieved from https://kathmandupost.com
Roberts, K. (n.d.). Retrieved from