Consumers evaluate identical products differently depending on how it is branded. How marketer influences the mind of the consumer and how a brand leaves a long lasting impression on consumers, are two of the marketing questions often found in the old school text books of the same field. But doesn’t matter how you/we react to these ABC of managing brands, the underlying truths behind successful brands remain same. For instance, the more positive impression a brand creates, the more brand equity it receives. The more brand equity it receives, the longer the imprint of the brand in consumer mind. Marketers get ROI. And consumers get good or bad experience.
For many brands we see consumers have very high remarks; sometime we know the reason and sometime we don’t. For example, why do you go to Aarong every time you want to satisfy your cravings for native crafts? Why do you think about Radhuni every time you need to buy masala for your spicy beef curry? Why a version of Android is to be named as KitKat? Why do people feel awesome when they find their name on a can of Coke? Or why someone feel so cool (not angry) wearing an Angry-bird T-shirt?
No doubt, it is the transactional relation that you/we have with all or some of these brands i.e. Aarong, Radhuni, KitKat, Coke or Angry birds. With these brands which are more liked and bought, our transactional relation goes beyond transactions and become habitual choice.
What are actually making you go-go for these brands? We can buy our Panjabi for Eid from anywhere else other than Aarong. But many of us still love to take a look at the new collections at this very store before buying from anywhere else. There are many other brands that make beef-curry spicy but we still consider Radhuni. There are millions of gaming applications and many of them are very highly rated by the user, still people talk about Angry-birds.
Yes, love it is. Being the most transactional creature by nature, at first, we trust and then we continue. Similarly, when a brand has a delight factor for which it is bought and consumed, gets entrusted because of the experience it gives. It’s all about winning the heart of the consumers by providing something of value to them. That ‘something’ is not at all a black box when consumers do talk about their experience quite a lot. Therefore, marketers intrude the black box and hook the need and establish reason to love.
To grow from transaction to relationship, consumer and brand both are to deal with some hygiene issues to strengthen their relationship. Some of the relationships last very long without consciously paying attention to what is the triggering node. For instance, a certain male age-group who are above 40, strongly prefer Bata over any other shoe brands. Why a women garment worker highly prefer ‘Fair & Lovely’ can be another example. In both of these examples, the relationship is built and nurtured and thus it moves beyond the periphery of transaction to ‘consumer-delight’.
However, love for brands change for rational and emotional reasons. And at the end, it depends on how the expectations of a consumer are met by the brands. A brand with strong equity is also a determinant for long-term business success because consumers are more likely to forgive bumps in the road when they have deep emotional connections and loyalties to a brand.
There are brands we, the consumers absolutely love. And there are brands we as consumers consider and consume but don’t love. So what’s the difference between those we admire versus the ones we despise? And is there something that make us unlove a brand? Let’s consider the following two stories.
I wish I could buy a LED television set at this moment. World cup football is taking place and there are ample numbers of offers and discounts for many of the television brands. Sabrina, a recently promoted banker, was venting her wishes at the tea corner of the office while the discussion was swirling up around for what reason Italy lost the match against Costa Rica. Shakil paying attention to Sabrina’s words, came up with a suggestion, “There are many local brands of LED Television: Walton, Vision, Rangs and those are very good actually”.
Sabrina doesn’t seem very excited, “Yea, I know, even we have Rangs old fashioned jumbo TV set at home now and it is really going good without any trouble for the last 9 years! But I wish I could buy SONY Bravia!!”.
For many of these kinds of buying situation, we do trade off. The brand currently we are buying, using or consuming fail to make strong relationship for which it can be liked then loved. Even if the brand has strong equity on delivering good experience, it failed to be a ‘loving brand’. Neither liked nor disliked. As a result – unloved and zero impression on consumer mind.
“I got my first salary and wanted to buy something for my parents. And I prefer going to Aarong”.
“Aarong?” Jeesan pounded. “Oh, this is Thursday evening and nearest Aarong outlet from your office is too far plus the traffic jam. Can’t you buy something from nearby places?”
Sheela was silent for a moment and cut the call saying “I want something very special for my parents, so I will take it from Aarong”.
So what makes a brand very special from others? When we have easier and convenient options to pick. It is neither about ready-to-give any price nor the fact that there is hardly similar alternative. Rather it is about the weakness of other brands in the category which are liked to some extent but not loved. Those brands are okay-to-go but not the special options. And when it is an okay-to-go option, it is very likely that the choices and consideration can shift to other brands easily. The missing link is in between loved an unloved!
A key part of any brand is the human side and the use of the communication is to either fortify the brand’s meaning or turn it into empty hype. A brand that’s loved has three key building blocks: Meet Expectation, Remain Connected, and Be Responsive to Consumers. Translating expectation, connection and responsive from marketers’ point of action – it will be – anticipation, initiative and insight. Maneuvered with these, a brand walks to be the brand we Love and Value. Else, a brand sugar-coated with fluffy communication, will end up hardly creating any meaning to consumer life.
The affair between a consumer and a brand does not only depend on the loyalty of both the parties. Competing brands are similar to each other and there are strong substitutes in many categories. As a result, most customers usually buy or consume relatively regularly not just one brand, but a set of them (a phenomenon known as repertory or split loyalty). Thus, if it is to be more than liked, a brand should aim build strong equity.
Thus it is imperative to have a platform for the construction of a rational or emotional foundation for the consumers to prefer the respective brand over the competing ones. If such uniqueness is not achieved, or if it is lost, the brand is transferred to the zone of commodities and can rely only on accidental purchases, purchases out of price considerations or forced.
In hindsight, the most important rule in any relationship is to sit tight and listen to what the other party wants you to listen. When it comes to bonding with customer, nothing is more powerful and effective than letting your customers do the talking. It is not about keeping a FB page for your brand and generating thousands likes. Actual liking happen somewhere else. Let’s try finding that space. Because liked is not loved!