Brand, Focus and Sacrifice

If you are not growing someone else is. This phenomenon can be psychologically very discomforting. This relativity in the market gets the managers to be possessed by competition. The Boards which set their eyes glued on the stock prices and market capitalization send memos down the hierarchy to grow and grow fast. The ultimate point of where marketers and customers intersect is a mental spot called brand. Brands create revenue streams and hence are also the growth drivers. One of the shortcut growth strategies is to expand the number of products that a brand offers to the market. But such tinkering with the brand with an eye on the stock market but away from consumer often sows the seeds of decline for the enterprise as a whole. A strong business cannot be built on the foundations of weak brands.
Consider the following:

  • When you want to buy a T shirt would you like to go to a Woodland store?
  • Would you consider a brand like Jaipan (mixer and grinders) while buying a mobile phone?
  • What would be your perception if Bata also sold jeans and formal wear?
  • When looking for a perfume, would you like to consider Lee Cooper?
    How about Pepsi selling urban wear?

Branding is about appropriation of an idea which is both relevant and different. The idea should be relevant from the customer perspective and different from competitive angle. Brands are built by establishing a differentiating idea. Consider the following brands and their appropriation of differentiating idea: Band Aid, Dettol, Marlboro, Nike, H&S and Duracell. What makes a brand successful also imposes a constraint. An attempt to increase the revenue by hanging different products on the brand can lead to idea dilution and thereby weaken the brand in prospect’s mind. The market logic often runs counter to the financial logic. How good an idea is to offer vanilla in a Coke bottle or synthetic running shoe in a Woodland store? How about Levis formal wear or a A luxury car from the stable of Maruti Suzuki? Branding success comes from carving out a narrow idea territory in prospect’s mind. It is inappropriate for a brand to transcend this territory. But if a brand does try to jump over, it seriously endangers its strength.

Branding is about focus not spread. Strong brands are built on the principle of sacrifice. Jack Trout suggests that taking everything can be bad for business and giving up can be good. Stretching a brand can erode or damage or dilute the very idea on which brand success is build. Hence firms must learn to sacrifice. Three forms of sacrifice are: product sacrifice, attribute sacrifice and target market sacrifice.

  • Some brands have product at the core to their identity. Branding success in these cases is built on a differentiated product. Consider KFC (Chicken), Duracell (alkaline batteries) Indigo (economy travel) and McDonalds (burger).
  • At the core of some brands is the pull based on a product attribute. Staying close to such attribute is the reason why these brands remain successful. Consider H&S (antidandruff), Volvo (safety) and Rolex (prestige).
  • Then comes target market sacrifice. Brand should stay focused on their target segment an attempt to get new customers from a different segment may alienate brand’s original customers. When Kingfisher name was hung on an economy carrier what effect would it have had on customers true to Kingfisher brand? Consider the effect of Lux (beauty bar for film stars) trying to woo men. Brand must stay true to their target customer.

Are you reminded of brands that suffered because of the violation of the law of sacrifice?

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