Brand architecture, Endorsement, Shadow and Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav and SRK

Lets run a brief check: how do you view Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav and SRK from brand architecture perspective?

Well, it is not difficult for anybody to know that Sanjay is son of great actor Sunil Dutt. It takes a little digging to find out that Kumar Gaurav is son of legendary actor Rajendra Kumar. But SRK does not enjoy benefit of belonging to an established Bollywood family. How branding strategy affect consumer/audience response? Success at the market end requires credibility, knowledge, consistency, heritage and above all trust. And if someone can stand behind and backup, the job is greatly facilitated. In Sanjay’s case, Dutt name endorses him directly. SRK did not have any endorser/supporter/advocate in  Bollywood. However, in case of Kumar Gaurav, the support become indirect/shadow (his name was new yet people eventually discovered his lineage which came in handy to drive audience behavior.

Consider the following cases and discover the branding strategy:

  • Anchor by Panasonic or Reveal by Calvin Klein or Courtyard by Marriott
  • Kinley / Cheverolet/K-Special/ Maggi/ Cinthol/ Sunfeast
  • Pulsar watch
  • Tudor

In all of the above cases there are two brands (endorser/supporter and endorsed/supported) but as we move down the endorser brand becomes increasingly invisible. The decision about the degree of visibility or connection that an endorsed brand would have is a critical decision. It involves a trade- off between differentiation/independence on the one hand and dependence/linkage on the other. The issue that must be sorted out is how well the new brand is equipped to stand on its own without the support of the master/established brand. And how different or unrelated is the category of the new brand.

  1. In the first case category (Anchor, Reveal, Courtyard) the organization or established by directly endorses the new brand. When a consumer is confronted with these brands alone the response is likely to be uncertainty and doubt. But the moment ‘by’ is coupled with an established name is added the attitude is transformed in a big way. The established brand facilitates the new brand in driving consumer behavior. Simultaneously it also avoids confusion for the consumers of main brand by telling them that if you are Marriott customers the new brand is not Marriott (in terms of service/price/luxury level) but something other than Marriott. The usage of new (rather than one name) is necessitated by the need to convey difference in product or market domain of the new offering (but proximate).

2. In the second group of cases (Kinley, K-Special, Chevrolet), the connection between the new brand and corporate/established brand is made less prominent. This is done when a marketer wants the new brand to convey its own identity for a customer (segmentation) and competitive reasons (positioning). This is often the case when a firm begins to operate in multiple product categories and segments. We have discovered on our own that Kinley is Coca Cola’s product, K-Special is Kellogg’s and Chevrolet is GM’s line & Sunfeast is ITC) by looking at their communication or product packages. By making its link or connection less obvious, the endorsement is make but in a token manner.

3. In the last two cases, Pulsar and Tudor the connection with the endorser brand is made even more indirect and less evident. Can you name the companies linked with these watches? Probably not, it is because company intentionally does not want you to know. But the customers who own these watches do they know of the brand behind these brands? Answer would be yes. Pulsar is a brand of Seiko (a web search of website would reveal that) and Tudor is a brand of Rolex. But in this case Tudor website does not create any link with Rolex but in a strange fashion the pop up Rolex appears on alongside the listed websites.

The connection here is even more indirect and in shadows. Lexus brand was created by using this strategy (Toyota endorsed Lexus in an invisible ghostly manner). When do you resort to this strategy? Here the brand is made is assigned its own individuality/identity and linking it with the established name is likely to be counterproductive. Imagine the prestige damage Rolex would suffer its brand participates in lower price point or similarly the rub off Toyota brand would have on Lexus’s luxury customers. Discovery of endorser in these cases creates eureka feelings. The idea is not to let the endorsed brand to contaminate the established brand.

So SRK in the absence of endorser had to prove his mettle but in other cases the mettle was assumed. People laid their faith on Abhishek again and again for the endorsement advantage he enjoyed for a long time.

Luxury, Merc A Class, and Class & Mass Dichotomy

A recent news item in The Economic Times began with words, ‘Mercedes Benz launched its ‘A Class’ luxury hatchback in India…to competitive luxury car market.  The new Merc A Class is a compact car priced between Rs 21.93 lakh and Rs 22.73 lakh. The car is meant to target the affluent youth.  Mercedes Benz expects to sell about 100-150 units of A Class in a month.

Luxury is a complex phenomenon. Luxury brands create and command value disproportionate to good or service (embedded functionality) that they sell. In this regard high price is both an indicator and ingredient of luxury brands. This means luxury and low price are mutually exclusive. The exclusiveness and prestige on the socio-psychological plane is to a great extent is created by a price meant to exclude majority. Therefore exclusion by creating barriers to reach (un-affordability) and access (distribution) are crucial aspects of luxury brand building. Luxury brands thrive on the paradigmatic opposition between ‘class’ and ‘mass’; ‘function’ and ‘aesthetic’ and ‘form and content’. This dichotomy is essential to luxury brand building. Luxury branding is about adding layers meaning in disguise aimed to make an impact without saying anything. The purveyors of luxury therefore refrain from using verbal communication. They talk through a language comprised of symbols and signs.

The paradigmatic opposition between luxury and non-luxury stems from certain codes that set them apart: conspicuous value, uniqueness, hedonistic pleasure and quality. (1) The conspicuousness or visibility value originates from a brand’s ability to signal status wealth associated with a class (Veblen’s conspicuous consumption).  Luxury brands act as class markers.  For instance the one who drives a Rolls Royce belongs to top layer of economic hierarchy. (2) Scarcity and rarity of something endows it with uniqueness accordingly especially commissioned to master makers of jewelry, watches and carpets. This fits with human desire for uniqueness. (3) Luxury brands serve human needs to experience a certain affective states. The pleasure/ joy of indulgence in a luxury brand derived from tradition, heritage and authenticity. The sheer feel and joy of sporting a Cartier necklace or a Tiffany ring is unparalleled. Finally, quality and workmanship is essential building block for luxury brands. It is a sine qua non. Both Mercedes and BMW have lot to their credit in perfecting quality of automobile. BMW for a long period of time positioned their brand as the ‘ultimate driving machine’. This campaign has now been taken to a higher level and BMW now promises its owners an unmatched ‘joy’ / ‘pleasure’ (hedonic benefit) of driving.

The launch of Merc A class at a price point which puts the brand within the reach of a larger set of potential customers makes perfect sense considering the share objectives.  But many non-luxury companies like Hyundai and Toyota have cars which are priced higher than entry level Mercedes. This intersecting point presents an interesting dilemma for a potential car buyer. The purchase motivation beyond a certain price band is governed predominantly by symbolic considerations. The buyer ‘cross over’ so achieved by this strategy is likely certainly likely to expand the brand ownership. But fundamental question that needs to be addressed the psychographic fit of this customer segment with the target segment. 

  • Luxury is a two way street.  Brands develop their sign value from cultural resource located in the form of prestige groups within a society.  The highly selective brand owner group and its lifestyle feed back into the symbolism of luxury brands.  A large part of its symbolism is based on ‘how a brand is used’ (how a car is driven by a new money and old money) – which represents intangible core of the brands. It is this intangible core which holds a lure for luxury buying customers who seek non-material cultural transformation. Mercedes A Class prima facie violates many luxury codes. The lure of market share is genuine but it can potentially be a mirage.

 

Brand Identity, Image and Change

It is important to fully appreciate the connection between brand identity and image. At the most basic level, brand identity is internal and brand image is external to an organization. Identity is like a charter given to defining the brand in terms of what it stands for encompassing all its attributes, benefit, positioning, personality and values. Identity is a complex issue. Brand identity is executed through all marketing programs and it comes alive through different Ps. Identity is like a unique signature that a brand wants to leave in customer’s mind. Image, on the other hand is totality of perception that is created in customer’s mind. It is external to the firm. It stands for mental picture of a brand that people hold in their minds. It is extracted or decoded portion of expressed or presented identity. It is important for a brand to keep its image always aligned with it identity.

Brands belong to a world that changes every moment. Change is external to brand and it is beyond control. Thus a brand is vulnerable the forces of change which may render it obsolete and out of sync with emergent realities. For instance vanaspati brands like Dalda and Rath suffered as consumers become health conscious. On the other hand Bajaj was quick notice the transition of two wheeler market from scooters to motorcycles. It is imperative for brand managers to define what they want their brand to be and what they don’t. Consider a brand like Suffola cooking oil, it has shifted its proposition from product ingredient (cholesterol busters- PUFA and MUFA- heart attack prevention) to healthy oil to healthy life style.

A brand may engage different senses to create an intended signature. For instance Singapore Airlines uses many senses to create brand distinctiveness- patented scent, cabin ambience, meals and beverages, stewards and stewardess (Singapore Girl), service, Malay sarong kabaya, hospitality and entertainment system. Of all these are expressions of brand identity but Singapore Girl is the most important one. It is visual emblem of what the brand stands for. It is condensation of brand’s core essence by which it seeks to forge customer relationship. It is an extraordinary expression of brand’s core idea of Asian hospitality with all the powerful characteristics like- gentle, warm, elegant, grace, serene and grace.

In order to be successful,  a brand must communicate what it stands for to its target customer. The visual signature is important in this context. Brand’s core idea can be conveyed in split of a second to both insiders and outsiders. It is here all the visual elements- name, font, typeface, color, form, shape, mark, mascot, logo, word mark- are orchestrated to both connote and denote a brand’s core. Visual identity is instrumental in driving brand recognition, preference and commitment by developing a cohesive and consistent picture.  

One of the most visible examples of identity change in India has been Bajaj. In its new logo which can be described as white and blue reverse hexagonal with combined with the words ‘Bajaj Auto’ signed off by cursively written line ‘inspiring confidence’. This identity change celebrated and signified its transformation into a motorcycle major with credible technology credentials (DTSi technology). The identity change is not just a creative change rather it is signification directional change in the life of a brand. The new identity takes forward the Bajaj’s core values –learning, innovation, perfection, speed and transparency- and adds ‘excitement’. The new abstract ‘B’ (flying B) that replaces the old symmetrical hexagonal symbol signifies – style and technology. The brand very subtly leverages company heritage and adds new values to enrich the brand.

Mahindra is another example of Indian group that has made rapid progress in its diverse set of businesses. The group’s rapid stride across all its businesses necessitated the need for a new cohesive and contemporized identity to be signaled across all businesses and geographies. It was designed to mark group’s evolution and its readiness to future challenges. The process got initiated in 2011. The idea was to contemporize the brand and reflect global ambitions. The new word mark in different in style, color and logo- in energetic red presents ‘one Mahindra’- cutting across diverse businesses like IT, vacation ownership, tractors, financial services to automotive. The new mark strikes a balance between continuity –its roots, values and strengths (name Mahindra) and change (new execution) – aspiration and evolution. The new execution is done to appeal younger set of audience.

Mahindra’s new word mark accompanied by new graphic device/ element (called the ‘ridge’) signifies Himalayan mountain range. It condenses the idea of ‘Rise’. The inspiration here is Mount Everest’s ridges that lead to its peak. The Mahindra group in this symbolism becomes a platform or enabler for its people which provides them with paths to reach their potential. This identity change must not be confused with a simple tweaking with its logo. It is not a shallow change of brand elements without corresponding change in people, processes and values. Rather the word ‘Rise’ is summed essence of brand’s ethos, raison d’être, its intent to enable people to rise.

For some managers identity change is nothing more than an indulgence in creativity. This is nothing but hollow exercise in deception. Visual identity change is real when the internal substantive aspects of brands undergo a change.

Misleading Advertising, Brands, Consumer Interest and Perception

Advertising is one of the most important tools of persuasion through information dissemination. Central to any communication is message or core argument and how it is presented. These are technically called message strategy and tactics. Truthfulness of message is essential to advertising. Misleading claims cause consumers to take wrong decisions which benefit the seller. Such practices are unfair to consumers and society in general.  

The temptation to make a sale often pulls communicators to puff up, exaggerate and make misleading/ false claims. Such kind of communication amounts to deception and wrongful persuasion. Some of the common forms of deceptions include the following: hidden fees (for instance discounted price of an airline ticket may not include charges which are commonly considered to be a part of a ticket), making a false claim about the quality or grade (claim that a brand of rice is basmati but actually it is not), wrongful claim about product or service approval/ testimonial by an authority (e.g. government approved tour operator), false performance claim (e.g. making a promise of fair skin unsupported  by evidence), making free offer (buy one another free) through price manipulation, misleading warranty and guarantee and bait and switch selling (luring customers by advertising product at low-bait- price but not made available). Some of the cases involving false or misleading claims are the following:

Reebok: It is interesting to find how that many of big companies get involved in misleading representation in furthering of their business interest. One such controversial case has been Reebok’s ‘EasyTone’ shoes. The brand was promoted by use of top class models exhibiting their well toned up backs. At the core of the promotion was the claim that EasyTone could resulted in 28% more strength and tone in muscles of the back and 11 % strength and tone in harstring muscles and 11% more strength and tone is calf muscles in comparison with regular walking shoes. This claim made by Reebok was found to be deceptive by FTC and the company was asked to cough off $25 million. David Vladeck, Director FTC’s bureau of consumer protection observed that ‘advertisers cannot make claims about their products…without having some basis for it’. Substantiation of claims has to be made before they are made to public.

Revlon: Back in nineties Revlon was prohibited into making unsubstantiated claims made by their brand Ultima II ProCollaen anti-cellulite body complex. The claims made by the brand were about reduction of skin’s bumpy texture, dispersal of toxins and excess water and increase sub skin tissue strength.

Enviga In the case of ‘Enviga’ a carbonated green tea product launched by Coke and Nestle partnership was promoted on the promise that it would lead to weight loss. The product made un- supported claims that by drinking Enviga would lead to burning of more calories that contained in the drink and hence lead to weight loss. The communication specified that drinking three cans of Enviga per day would create calorie burn up to 100. This however could not be established. Hence company was asked to pay compensation for the false claim.

KFC: Another prominent brand found to be involved in making misleading claims was KFC. The controversy surrounded the issue of nutritional value of and compatibility of its products with weight loss program. KFC was charged for making misleading claims eating KFC fried chicken was better for health compared to Burger King’s Whooper. Technically chicken breasts have lower levels of total and saturated fat than Whooper but these had three times more tans fat, cholesterol, more than double the amount of sodium and more calories. On the issue of KFC’s compatibility with low carb weight loss program, the claim was found to false because such programs advised against fried foods.

Nivea: Another case involving false claims and prohibition involved Nivea Skin Cream. The company was prevented to make a claim that the regular use of Nivea My Silhouette leads to significant reduction of user’s body size.  The company promoted its product as “Bio-slim Complex,” a combination of ingredients could reduce up to three centimeters from ‘targeted body parts, such as thighs, hips, waist and stomach’. The claims were found to be false. It was not supported by reliable evidence. 

Dannon Activa: The Danon Activa Yogurt was promoted on the claimed benefit that its daily serving would expedite the digestion process. The ‘probiotic’ yogurt range was priced higher than usual range but the contents of the product were the same accordingly the company faced action in 2009. The company was directed to stop making claims that one daily serving of Activia relieves irregularity its other product DanActive is helpful in avoiding colds.

The case is no different in India during 2010-12; about 630 cases were registered for investigation and 69 for prosecutions for misleading medicine ads. Misleading ads in the medicine field are covered under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954.  ASCI (Advertising Standard Council of India) are industry watchdog which takes care of misleading ads. Some of the following ads were brought to its consideration for making misleading claims:

Emami Sona Chandi Chyawanprash- ‘gold removes toxins to boost immunity power’- unsubstantiated claim.

Havell- made a misleading claim-‘24 Hours hot water in just half unit of electricity’.

Kellogg K Special- the claims that ‘people who eat low fat breakfast like Kellogg’s Special K, tend to be slimmer than those who don’t’ were challenged for their deception.  The ad for K Special was banned for misleading calorie count in UK.

Complan: the claim children who drink Complan grow in height two times faster came under scrutiny for possible deception.

 A total of 19 brands (including Saffola, Engine Mustard Oil, Nutricharge men (Daily nutrition supplement capsules), Britannia Nutrichoice Biscuits, Kellogg’s Extra Muesli, Bournvita Little Champs, Today Premium Tea, Pediasure, Real Active Fibre, Nutrilite, Kissan Cream Spread, Rajdhani Besan, Britannia Vita Marie and Boost) were taken up by the food regulator for prosecution and were served show cause notices for making false claims. These brands were booked under Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) which prevents making of false claims in oral, writing and visual presentation regarding the nutritional value or efficacy of a product without scientific substantiation.

 Perception is subjective phenomenon. People draw meaning though a complex process involving both hemispheres. It is this process which provides a wide window of opportunity to admen to mislead by twisting what drives perception and what is pushed into background.

Customer role, Innovation and Value Creation

Things are changing.  And change is often so subtle that it shows up without any warning signs. Managers often discover its arrival when their performance metrics show deterioration. A late discovery can potentially erode customer and competitive superiority.

One of the important sides of marketing equation is market or customer. And no marketer can afford to ignore to check how developments are affecting customer. A change is both an opportunity and threat. It all depends upon how it is reacted to- whether it is seized and converted into customer value creating initiatives or it is allowed to depreciate value delivery. Consider how internet technology altered the value equation by enabling firms to deliver content (e.g. movies) directly to customers doing away with the need to buy or rent DVDs. Blockbuster lost to Netflix due to this. The web seems to be recasting the concept of market that can be targeted. The term ‘market’ now needs to be separated from the concept of location. The current campaign by eBay attempts to establish that shopping can be done sitting at home with an ease, economy, and convenience.

The customer side in a marketing exchange hides three roles. A transaction involves an act of buying, paying and using a product or service. This gives rise to three different sets of considerations. For the buyer ease (location, physical availability) of buying is important whereas payer role involves exchange of financial consideration like cash or card. The product or service is use or consumed and at this intersection point and benefits are delivered or extracted (user considerations involves what the product does and what benefits it delivers). Consider a simple case of Maggi noodles. The user often is a child (benefit-taste), the buyer may be the servant (ease or convenience) and the product is paid (price considerations) for by the parents.

In the old thinking, goods are produced by the firm to be exchanged with customer who ‘uses’ them to extract performance. This required for achieving satisfaction. Long time back Levitt proposed that people are not interested in drills rather their performance (holes). The user role can be complex which can deter people to buy drills. Recasting user role (simplifying) a drill marketer boost sales by creating do it yourself drills.  Earlier glucose monitoring systems made diabetes patients dependent upon doctors for reading blood sugar levels. New glucose monitoring machines have recast the space by transferring the user role to patients. Now they can monitor sugar level on their own, the skill required to do the job has been reduced. Washing machines intimidated many potential users for their usage required some kind of ‘expertise’ to press right buttons for right jobs. But now many marketers have launched smart models which on their own ‘read the wash requirement’ (fuzzy logic) create value by de-skilling the customer role as a user.

Apple’s current campaign (why wait?’) spells out how the brand can be bought and paid for in interest free installment plans. The company has adopted an open distribution model (not through mobile companies) and tied up with its distributors Redington and Ingram. This scheme tweaks the high upfront financial burden and places the brand within the reach of many who otherwise could not buy unlocking a hidden market potential. The new cab services launched by companies like Meru in metro like Delhi are based on altering the payer role. Now the cab service can be taken by distance travelled or time You pay for time you want to use a cab for or the distance travelled). This payment scheme allows firms to tap a new segment of customers. Earlier newspapers were expensive because they sought revenue from readers. But now newspapers make money not out of readers but from advertisers.  The ‘cash on delivery’ innovation has opened a huge internet based market in India.

There was a time when magazines could only be bought from newsstands or vendors. This subjected reader to ‘sold out’ situations and procurement inconveniences.  The shift to subscription based model by most of the magazines like India Today and Business Today creates value by changing buyer role. The inconveniences associated with buying things from markets and malls are throwing opportunities to new web based sellers like Jabong and India Times. Domino challenged the notion that warm restaurant food can only be ad in ‘dine in’ format by creating home delivery model.  Domino creates value by saving its customers from travel, parking, waiting, and weathering.

 

 

Sleepy Needs, Unsought goods and ‘Wish I had it’

On Sunday February 17, 2013 the first page of Sunday Times was a shocker. The front page of the newspaper contained the following headlines:

  • ‘Short circuits spark 75% city fires’
  • ‘Farmer loses Rs 15L in fire’
  • ‘Woman dies in LPG blast’
  • ‘Family loss both children in blaze’
  • ‘Car catches fire in Lucknow’
  • ‘Fire erupts on 3rd floor of Indiranagar school’
  • ‘TV sparks blaze in Andheri tower’

 The entire page was flooded with news related to fire and devastation it causes. The reporting could shock anybody out his or her slumber. And in the middle of the page, a message in red ink sounded a warning: YOU MAY BE LUCKY …But ARE YOU SAFE? Disturbing visuals like a distressed women crying, fire billowing out of a building and fire fighters dousing the fire aggravated discomfort by stirring anguish and pain over loss of human lives and property.

The newspaper ‘disturbed’ readers literally. It ‘interfered with normal arrangement’ (absence of agitation, trouble, balance, poise, equilibrium) of the way people look at fire and fire fighting equipments. The message aimed to throwing people out of their mental balance (cognitions in harmony). It disturbed the belief that we are ‘safe’. Safety is taken for granted. It created a friction in cognition & feeling. It compelled people to pay attention to the fact as to how safe they are? It questioned: is it their luck which has saved them from the fury of fire so far or they are actually safe?https://i2.wp.com/sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/c32.0.843.403/p843x403/154195_10151396984121259_1451825671_n.png

This was an advertisement in the garb of actual news which used ‘shock and awe’ strategy to capture attention and sought to engage prospects into an issue which is taken for granted (low involvement). A balanced state or lack of friction makes the system closed and withdrawn (out of buying space). Throwing a potential customer out of his poise is essential to pushing him or her into decision frame or solution seeking behavior. The upsetting of mind created by the first page was followed by a big advertisement of a new product named ‘Fireguard’, a new fire extinguisher (by Eureka Forbes) with the headline: ‘It takes one call to get it. Or a life time to regret it.’ The ad signed off with a statement ‘Get it. Or regret it’.

Fire extinguisher is a low priority product because it is not perceived to be significant. This is due to the fact that people do not entertain an uncomfortable idea of fire to them to their property and take their safety for granted. Its ownership is not important psychologically or socially (higher order needs) and hence are not desired. However they assume importance when exceptions happen. When it rains we look for umbrella, when electricity goes off we look for candles/torch, when our car breaks down we wish we had bought breakdown service and when burglary happens we repent on not having taken an insurance policy. These are cases of sleepy needs and hence products that satisfy them are sought after.

Marketing is difficult to a sleepy consumer. Unlike an active customer (who is in a state of automatic arousal) a sleepy consumer is a withdrawn and closed system. People tend to be open and look out for anything that is of interest to them like interest in diamonds or sports or electronics. Marketing is easy in these situations. So what do you do to get a consumer who is in sleepy state with respect to a product that you intend to market?https://i1.wp.com/www.offeradda.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Eurekaforbes-FREE-Demo-of-Eureka-Fireguard-Extinguisher.jpg

Technically the Fireguard launch ad aims to shift people from their sleepy state to lively/ alert state. The message alerts its prospects by linking the product to an issue of importance (high involvement issue- devastating fire). This it raises the level of significance or importance that a customer attaches to a phenomenon. This shift is first essential step in starting an engagement with target customer. The brand is likely to succeed if brand manages to achieve importance transference. For instance Rexona deodorant once ran a campaign which showed how body odor could lead to socially embarrassing situation (rejection). Here the brand used social rejections (important issue) to gain importance in consumer’s life.

Brands win when they become important to their target consumers. But this is difficult for brands in those categories to which consumers are sleepy.

Colgate, Pepsodent, Parodontax and Becoming Small by Becoming Big

Toothpaste as a product category has a long history. Colgate brand was first to come to rescue humanity from problem of oral hygiene way back in 1876 when it began to sell toothpaste in jars. Later the product packaging was changed to easy to use to tube. Ever since the time of its launch, the brand continues to lead toothpaste market. Currently in India Colgate enjoys a market share close to 55%. To many people Colgate still means toothpaste. The link between the toothpaste (product category) and the brand name is to strong that distinction between the two is blurred. This situation when a brand becomes generic to a product category presents a unique challenge to marketers.

 This phenomenon prima facie appears to be strength but in reality it may not be so. But one thing is clear; Colgate achieved its leadership by being the first brand to imprint its name on a new category that it created.  This bestowed the brand a unique first mover perceptual advantage. This means whenever consumer thought of toothpaste, Colgate was first hit the mind. Mind dominance is a good strategy. When a brand manages to soak consumer mind with its presence like a dripping sponge very little is space is left for other brands to occupy. Brand dominance is a good preventing the competition strategy. If a brand manages to monopolize prospect’s mind, rivals brands end up being present in the market but not in mind and hence do not move off the shelves.

Brand dominance is much more than brand recall. In a typical branding situation, brand name (Coke or Dettol) signifies an offering of a company which participates in a category (Cola and antiseptic). It happens when a brand becomes synonym of a product category in consumers mind. It manifests in when consumers use brand name to refer to a product category. For instance this kind of situation was faced by brands like Dalda (vanaspati), Xerox (photocopying), Amritanjan (balm) and Tinopal (fabric whitener), Remington (typewriter).  This may a situation also with brands like Google (search), Maggi (noodle), Nirma (washing powder), Coke (cola), Bournvita (malt beverage), Sintex (plastic water tanks), Tullu (small pumps), Burnol (cream for burns) and FedEx (overnight delivery).  Brand dominance is good as long as consumer remains insists on the asked brand. Most of the above mentioned brands have enjoyed share advantage in their category.

What is common across all the brands mentioned above as dominant brands? Answering this question is likely to give a clue to achieving brand dominance. Most of the brands are category creators. These brands created category and imprint their name on it in prospects minds. They leveraged the ‘rule of being the first’ to their advantage. Psychologically firsts are always remembered. Therefore it is not difficult to recall first president, prime minster, first governor, first man on the moon, first to climb Mount Everest and first date. Late entrants have difficulty in registering themselves.  This is the reason why the first three brands end up dominating the market.  

So what do you do if you are not the first or among the firsts? It makes little sense to enter in a crowded category. The belief that a (perceptually) strong player can be dislodged out its position by a better product can turn untrue in marketing. Marketing is little about objectivity and more about subjectivity, it is a perceptual game. So if German cars are perceived to be superior or perfumes mean French, the consumer has already made up his or her mind. The entire external world is seen though this lens and information that contradicts or challenges is filtered or adapted. So the way out is to create a category out category and assume its ownership in consumer perception. Category slicing is the strategy.

Consider the following:

If you were to buy a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, which one will you buy Colgate Pro Relief or Sansodyne? Or if you want to buy a toothpaste with breath freshness benefits, will you buy Colgate Fresh Stripe/ Max Fresh or Close Up? Or if you need an ointment for back aches, will you take Iodex  or  Moove ? The answer probably is going to be in favor of brands which are mentioned later. All of these brands have sliced a share of the market (which tends be the first mover) by creating a sub category and becoming the first mover in their category.  Category fragmentation is a natural outcome of competitive system.  The latest to join the toothpaste industry in India is a toothpaste brand, Parodontax. This toothpaste by GSK has further broken toothpaste category by creating specialized toothpaste for bleeding gums. So the question is if you have bleed gums, which toothpaste would you prefer Parodontax or Colgate Total Pro Gum (Colgate Palmolive) or Pepsodent Gum Care (HUL). The choice is likely to go in favor of Parodontax. Both Colgate and Pepsodent become weak by becoming big. Isn’t it?