Goal, Objective, Purpose and Branding

Goal: something that you are trying to do or achieve (Merriam Webster); the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end/ the terminal point in a race (Dictionary.com).

Objective: something that one’s efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish (Dictionary.com); something that you plan to do or achieve (Cambridge); A thing aimed at or sought/ not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. (Oxford).

Purpose: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists/ motive; why you do something or why something exists (Cambridge);the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something (Merriam-Webster)

These tree terms are often used interchangeably in business conversations. However, appreciation of their difference is critical in branding, strategic management and advertising. And the quest to understand the same can be traced back to 1960s when DAGMAR approach was formulated by Russel Colley. It is elaborated as Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results.

Goals:  tend to express targets to be achieved in an abstract manner. They do direct attention on what is to be accomplished but fail to provide concrete links with ways/actions to achieve the ends. For instance a company may define its goal as to achieve ‘excellent financial performance’ or ‘to achieve greater market share’.

Objectives: are derived from goals and they are concrete. They are not surrounded by haze and personal interpretation or feelings. The concreteness of objectives allows strategists to clearly connect them with means/actions required for their achievement.  The objectives are spelled like:  a company decides to earn 10% ROI or wants to expand its sales by 12.5 %.  Image result for dove real beauty

Purpose: draws attention to whys of goals and objectives. Why goals or objectives are to be accomplished fundamentally? If a business targets to achieve 10% ROI, it is important that for people to understand it’s ‘reason why’ or purpose. Similarly, if goal is to expand market share, the staff would do a better job if they are explained why it is important to do so. Purpose provides context to actions and therefore motivate and inspire people to commit themselves to performing better. It is one thing to say we aim to satisfy our customers and another to say we want to enable them to live richer lives.Image result for lifebuoy hand wash purpose

In order to get better consumer and employee commitment, marketers have realized the importance of articulating and assigning brands with meaningful purpose. Product functions and benefits are easily copied and therefore fail to extract customer commitment at a higher level. By connecting a brand with a higher order purpose consumers can be given opportunity to connect with greater cause or meaning. Purpose can strike a soul connection and become basis of relationship and bonding that transcend cost-benefit math. Consider the following:

  • It is one thing for a fairness cream to make skin complexion fair but quite another to instill confidence in people to take on the world
  • It is one thing for a soap brand to promote ‘soft and glowing skin’ and quite another to be comfortable with their real and natural looks
  • It is one thing to make a hand wash brand to make hand germs free and quite another to let kids not be down (not go to school) due to hand based infections
  • It is one thing for an oral contraceptive pill to prevent women from having unwanted pregnancies and quite another to take charge of their sexuality
  • It is one thing for a soda brand to provide consumers with tasty fizzy drink and quite another to become an agent of their happiness

Good brand not only have good products they also have purpose which allows them to play a role at higher plane. They forge connections which extend beyond product functions and penetrate deeper into consumer’s inherent desire to see meanings in things and lives. As it is said life without purpose is meaningless, a brand without purpose is just a commodity with a name.

Tactical solution, Strategic problem, Theory of reasoned action and Pollution in Delhi

Consider some of the headlines:

The pollution level in Delhi has risen to level that in a way robs citizens of their right to safe and healthy living. If terror and incursions across the line of control put life of Indian citizens at risk, the pollution within our cities is no different. Both lead to same outcomes. Both are enemies, except that domestic enemy invites divergent opinions and milder response. Lack of consensus is one big reason why things don’t get implemented. But consensus based decisions are not always timely and correct. Difficult situations require tough and decisive actions. If there is identifiable enemy outside, equally offensive foe thrives within.

First of all there is no dearth of opinions on what causes pollution in Delhi and how much. The list includes causes like vehicular emission, construction activity, coal and wood burning, poor quality of fuel, city waste burning, industrial emissions and dust on streets due to open surfaces. The cause that dominated news now includes stubble burning in neighboring states.

What is of concern in this air pollution? It includes gases and substances that pollution is made up of.  These includes lead, particulate matter, and gases likeNitrogen oxides (NOx). Carbon monoxide (CO). Sulfur dioxide (SO2). Pollution is bad because of its consequences. It is a health hazard and is related to respiratory problems, lung damage, asthma and cancer. The elderly, children and ill are particularly vulnerable.

Broadly two the contributing factors can be classified into two categories: the micro or the ones within in individual’s control and macro which related to governmental interventions. The macro contributors like emissions from power plants, diesel policy, politician-contractor nexus (footpath tiles changes), enforcement pollution policy on industrial units and road encroachments.Image result for pollution index delhi

From marketing perspective, the government can launch systematic campaign based on insights to discourage (de-market) pollution causing behaviors. It is not the same thing as haphazard ad campaigns usually run by governmental agencies (like the one which is currently going which urges people to teach needy children in the neighborhood).

One of the approaches that can suggest route to curb pollution is theory of reasoned action. This theory proposes that Intention (intention to control pollution) is necessary for Behavior (actual pollution controlling actions) to occur and both are likely be related. The intention to indulge in a behavior is caused by Attitude to that behavior (liking or disliking towards polluting behavior) and Subjective norm (how people important to one view when one indulges in pollution control activities).

So it is necessary for government to cultivate Intention before people actually adopt pollution reducing behaviors. What are the strategies?

  •  Create strong negative evaluation/attitude towards polluting behavior. Now the issue is do people know about polluting behaviors and its effects. The answer is probably yes. But they don’t strongly feel negative about polluting behaviors. So what is required it to link these behaviors with something important in their lives so that their attitude shifts from indifference to strongly negative (consider: is smoking bad? Answer is yes and I don’t care. But now if you show that smoking is going to hurt your most loved one-lovely daughter, the attitude is likely to shift to negative toward smoking).
  •  Often people don’t care about certain behaviors (like littering on streets) because it is acceptable/it is a norm/nobody disapproves. We often seen illegitimate as legitimate because ‘everybody does it’/ ‘it’s normal’. So this norm has to be changed. The important people around can exert pressure. This power needs to be leveraged. Although difficult, yet norms can be subtly changed. If people around us start to dislike, abhor and show displeasure at our polluting behaviors, it is likely subtly pressure us into not to violate this ‘social norm’.  Many of us who visit abroad very quickly learn what public behaviors are socially disapproved and fall in line.
  •  Finally, often people with right intentions do not behave in accordance to their intentions (e.g. I intend not to litter yet I do). Here comes the role of enablement by the government. The desirable behaviors would get actualized only when they are accompanied by enabling conditions (the campaign to stay indoors is a hollow waste of money- if people don’t have alternative they  would move outdoors/ the odd-even is bound to make people defy their intention in the absence of alternatives).

It is part of our DNA not adopt a visionary approach to solving problems. The tactical maneuvers to strategic problems do not help. It’s time that we seized up the situation and took a long term stand on the issue of pollution.

Signs, meanings, marketing communication, ‘Closeup’ and ‘close up’

It is obvious that marketers speak with their consumers.  They inform them and build awareness about what they offer.  They also shape their liking (getting them to regard their offering in a positive way or develop some kind of affection or agreeableness) and preference (greater liking over competitive offerings). It is presumed that preference is essential for the development of an intense urge or desire or want for something. The desire or craving is that moves consumers to stores.

Marketers in other words deploys all its apparatus to cultivate desire or craving for their brands.  This play of desires shifts the locus of marketing from physical existence into the realm of imagination. Consumers are conditioned to live in surreal world of their fantasy. The production capacities in most of the industries far exceed what can be absorbed by markets. It is pretty challenging for marketers to keep their cash registers ringing. But consumers simply do not need so much as industries are designed to produce.

Needs are connected to survival. Their satisfaction is essential for us to defend our existence. A want is rooted in a need but its fulfillment is not essential for survival. For instance, food is needed for survival but people want Maggi or KFC.  Wants operate at a level higher than mere survival. Their satisfaction makes existence better. Imagine how marketers make consumers want a Parker pen or Nike sports shoe. This breaking away from mere existence to ‘betterment’ bestows marketers with price control.  Desires are purely imaginary and provide marketers with handle to shift consumers from real world to fiction or illusion. The brands are transformed into materials that consumers use for constructing their make believe world. Desires are affect- laden and germane to psychological fulfillment.

At the heart of a play between the consumer needs, wants and desires on the one hand the products on the other lies the battle for meaning destruction and creation. A glass of water if it continues to stand for what it actually is (H2O) is likely to operate as thirst quencher and essentially satisfy defensive function. Its inherent meaning needs to be subverted or emptied and should be filled with something more wanted and desired. Most marketing communication is given to meaning destruction, modification, and creation. Brands in many cases therefore signify what they are essentially not but become in human imagination. The inherent connection between the signifier (brand) and signified (product) is made arbitrary by which marketers gain control in market for meanings.  Consider some examples: Is Close Up toothpaste or fantasy of a close-up with an opposite sex?  Is Levis is a pair of rugged denim trousers or casual American outlook? Is Benetton all about colorful clothes or a unifying ideology?

In meaning construction and communication, three types of signs are used: indexical, iconic and symbolic. The indexical signs directly connected to the signified (the smoke connects to fire, tiger footprints connect to its presence nearby and smell is indexical of presence of flowers; the release of pheromone in the air by an insect is indexical sign of sexual activation).  The connection here is either physical or causal. An ad of Land Rover showed a vehicle’s body spattered with mud and dirk allover. This signaled that his vehicle has been driven off road. A uniquely wrapped box signifies as if it is a gift.

Icons are another set of signs. In this mode the meaning is perceived through resemblance.  The comic series of India Today TV uses cartoons of different politicians, these are icons. A portrait or picture is an icon. The captured images in an ad are collection icons. The pictures of printer or speaker on computer screen are icons. Typically in ads pictures, caricatures and drawings are employed iconic mode to connect signifier with signified.  The last of all signs are symbols. Symbols are found in mathematics. These neither work through resemblance as in case of icons or direct causal or physical connection as in case of indexical signs. The relationship between the signifier and signified is fundamentally arbitrary. It is rather learned.  For instance, the Mercedes signifies status and Marlboro stands for rugged independence. These relationships are learned. Here the signifiers are not constrained by the signified. It is free and independent is choosing it’s signified.

Marketers often attempt to break away from icon and index mode in order to transform his or her brand to assume a meaning which is not a derivative of its product. The people smoke a Marlboro or drive a Harley or own a Patek Phillipe because of an arresting desire that these brand have developed.  A product’s appeal cannot be stretched beyond a limit. The pressures to transcend appeal beyond the attribute and benefit paradigm draw marketers to develop symbolic brands. The symbolic brands are like words in a language which are carry meanings which are interpreted by an active participation of interpreter.

It is behind the superficial appearance of physicality of brands the real meanings are transacted in marketplace.  Brands talk to consumers and consumers talk to others and self through brands.

Burhan Wani, Protests, Brand Identification and Battle of Ideas

Some of the headlines in the news media reported the situation of Kashmir after the killing of Burhan Wani as the following:

  • ‘Kashmir on edge as Wani buried’ (The Hindustan times)
  • ‘Kashmir on boil after face of new militancy, Burhan Wani, is shot dead’ (The Indian Express)
  • ‘15 Dead, 200 injured In Clashes After Terrorist Burhan Wani’s Killing In Kashmir’ (NDTV)
  • ‘Kashmir tense after Hizbul leader Burhan Wani’s killing, Amarnath yatra suspended’ (The Times of India)
  • ‘12 dead, scores injured as Kashmir boils over killing of militant Burhan’ (Deccan Chronical)

This piece I write purely from the marketing and branding perspective without any intention to glorify terrorism or judge military action.

The reported outcry over the killing of Burhan Wani purely from branding angle shows that he was outward concrete manifestation of an idea brand which was very strong brand within his constituency or target market.  The must have enjoyed phenomenal resonance and relationship.  His elimination has sparked off unrest and violent protests in Kashmir. These protests imply some of kind of breach or violation within his constituency.  In the literature on branding one example that comes very close to this is that of withdrawal of Coke in mid eighties. This action of the Company was met with violent protests and outburst of public anger.

Most of us easily relate with brand of goods (Lux or Luxor) or service (Visa or City). But then there are brands which operate as idea or ideological level. For instance, PM Modi became the face of an idea brand at the core of which sat the proposition of ‘development’ extended with strands like ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ and ‘subka saath sab ka vikas’.  Donald Trump is contesting his election of the idea of ‘Make America great again’. The human existence is not merely about physical survival. It extends beyond the realm of physics into imagination. Often the quest for meaning is much stronger and powerful than the quest for things.  Donald Trump’s campaign lowers an idea deep into multilayered consciousness of Americans to activate desire for a mythical greatness. After all we all are creatures of body and mind.

We have all been through the childhood stage and cried over a lost toy.  It is the nature of post loss reaction which shows nature of bond or connection.  It is violation of this bond that evokes reaction.  When a loss can be perfectly matched with a new replacement, the outcry is lesser. However when a loss does not have perfect replacement it is likely to create violent protest. The physical objects have perfect replacements but when something physical is extends into becoming an idea, the replacement is harder to find. A doll can be replaced because they are mass produced but if a child has made emotional investment in a doll, it becomes unique.  Now it extends to become a friend, companion, mother, teacher or sibling.

Brands often forge links connections become attractive by the process of identification.  The consumer identifies or links with what the brand stands for and willingly creates a relationship.  It is the sense of oneness or unity with the brand idea which plays out in this regard.  So Burhan Wani may have enjoyed liking based on his appearance. But it is superficial basis of connection. At the heart of the protests lay the deeper connection with the idea that he symbolized.  Like physical products can be eliminated but idea can sustain longer. Like Lifebuoy or Lux’s products keep evolving but the resonating idea remained constant. Similarly new physical symbols would keep emerging in Kashmir’s context if the idea continues to find resonance with its people.  In the battle of ideas, it is only the ideas that can win. Its time that a double tiered strategy is adopted.

A Curious Case of Tata Motors & Messi, Congress & Priyanka

Brands are not born great, they are made great. As the adage goes ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’ likewise there is a wise man/woman behind every successful brand. What differentiates this person is his ability to use eyes not to see the manifest but to go visualize the unseen. This is evident in stories of brands like McDonalds, FedEx, Southwest and IBM. Most brand stewards fall into trap of choosing easy wrong over difficult right. Consider the case of Tata Motor’s employment of Lionel Messi, probably world’s top most paid celebrity and the push by Congress to have Priyanka Gandhi on board. Both brands face a common challenge: how to turn around the sagging performance.

Let us start with understanding the meaning of poor performing brand. The inability of a brand to get a consumer to lift it up at the showroom may be symptomatic of peripheral or core malaise. To put it simply, brands do not get sold because they don’t make sense to their target consumers. It is therefore important to understand how core is defined in a market. For instance, for a symbolic brand like Armani or Bulgari, it is invisible yet vividly crafted image creates the pull. These brands act as conduit for consumers to buy into their imagery for achieving self and social transformation. But for a car brand, the core ‘non-negotiable’ considerations relate to performance, reliability, quality and service. Germans car makers achieved glory by pushing excellence in performance to extraordinary levels, beyond necessary. Japanese makers like Toyota and Honda created their niche through reliability and dependability. The question that arises is what first comes to your mind when you think of Tata cars? Are you reminded of rickety trucks? Noisy taxis? Stalled cars on roads? Poor service? Frequent breakdowns?

The ‘made of great’ campaign featuring Messi is done to make the brand attractive to young buyers and shed its legacy. Celebrity in marketing can play actor in supplementary role not actor in leading role. They can supplement but not supplant the core, especially in categories where functionality sits at the center. Celebrities persuade through their attractiveness (similarity and likeability), credibility (expertise, knowledge), and power (reward/punishment).  What route does Messi’s campaign adopt in persuasion? He is likeable but he is not expert in cars. Tata cars need credibility and trust in performance, that’s the basic minimum. While buying a car, it is always seen through performance angle and bells and whistles come later. Would a hard hitting campaign by car experts would do a better job in winning buyer confidence? Check out how Mercedes even now focuses on innovations/ performance (heart of car) in its campaigns. Toyota meticulously crafted image of its luxury car brand Lexus using almost similar route. Logic and reason come first than emotions in this category.

The Congress has performed miserably in recent elections and to reverse its misfortune, many Congressmen want Priyanka to assume center stage. The question is: has Congress been performing poorly for the want of Priyanka?  She can play a supplementary role and give boost on the basis of mere appearance and name like a celebrity endorser who works through the process of attractiveness and likeability. People may get drawn to Congress by the process of identification based her appearance but her ideas/ideology are unclear. Indian population has undergone a drastic demographic shift- the young constituency (65%)- is connected, informed and critical in their ways. That is the reason why ‘governance and development’ made sense.

BJP, Modi, Criticism and Refutational Communication

  • ‘India’s democracy was under assault”
  • ‘Govt talking big on economy, but nothing happening on ground
  • ‘Intolerant India’
  • “When it came to making speeches, Modi government got into the T-20 mode, when it was about announcing policies, it became a one-day match, and when it came to implementing promises, the government behaved as if a Test match has been abandoned,”
  • “Chhe Mahine Paar, U Turn Sarkar”

These  are some of the slogans that have surfaced at different points in time criticizing Modi government. Politics is a competitive game. It is same as when two or three dominant brands attack each other to gain supremacy. Consider, how Amaze directly or indirectly hits out at Desire and the battle between Coke and Pepsi gets direct and dirty. Marketing is also an attitude building, sustaining and changing game. Leadership implies that a brand enjoys positive consumer attitude and behavior. In the last general elections, BJP was voted into power which also implied that it enjoyed an attitudinal and behavior advantage over its rival Congress. The challenge for the leader brand is to defend and sustain its market by maintaining attitude. The challenger brand, on the other hand, can thrive by shifting and changing consumer attitude in its favor.  So consider the following:

·         “We are Number 2 but we try harder” (Avis Rent a car)

  • Volkswagen’s ‘Lemon’, ‘Think Small ‘ and ‘Lemon’ campaigns

This campaign by Avis allowed the company to gain significant market gains by the power of what in communication is called ‘refutational’ appeal or advertising. The communicator first raises a negative matter and then demolishes it. Volkswagen, after the Second World War launched Beetle car in the US with campaigns including the one in which it boldly claimed its car to be ‘Lemon’  followed by text refuting the claim that the car in the ad is plucked from the assembly line (lemon) by the engineers due to scratch on the glove compartment so that ‘you get plums’.  In a similar vein, Listerine which creates burning sensation in the mouth first admitted its burning sensation (negative belief, possible attack opportunity for the rival) followed by a refutation that this sensation is sign of its effectiveness. This strategy is also used by expensive brands. They first admit that their brand is expensive (therefore target of attack by lesser price brands) and then refute this claim by focusing on their long lasting quality. Why do firms adopt this strategy?

The idea behind refutational communication is to ‘inoculate’ the consumer/audience against competitor’s counter claims and destroy them. So what implications follow for the BJP government? The need is to study these attacks that the opposition is making or is likely to make in future and then use them to inoculate the audience and then refute them by showcasing what has already been done. It is better to erect perceptual defences before the enemy mounts attack.

Brand Endorsement, Influence, Amrapali, Dhoni and Misrepresentation

The Amrapali Sapphire and Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni’s role as its brand ambassador has brought to the fore the issue of brand endorser and consumer attitude manipulation. In India use of celebrities is very common.  All kinds of celebrities are used by brands. If there  Alok Nath  who endorses Link locks on the one hand there is SRK who promotes Fair and Handsome.  For instance, Aamir Khan stood for brands including Titan, Coke, Snapdeal and Tata Sky, Amitabh’s kitty included brands such as Cadbury, Pepsi, Parker, Reid and Taylor, Dabur Honey and Navratana Oil; Katrina Kaif’s portfolio includes Slice, Veet, Pentene, Panasonic and L’Oreal.  One of the current high profile campaigns is that of Tata Motors in which football icon Lionel Messy is employed as global brand ambassador.

Technically, celebrities are only one of the various types of people who could be present in ads like created characters which may be humanized like Amul girl/ ZooZoos Vodafone or real people representative of a particular group like Surf’s Lalitaji and Nirma’s Jaya and Shushma (commoner)   or outdoorsy in Woodland or fashion inclined in Mango or shape conscious in K Special or expert in Lux shampoo ad or doctor in Colgate.

On theoretical note celebrities and brand ambassadors are different in terms of their expected role and contribution to the brand. The celebrity contributes to a brand by simply appearing in its ads (physical presence). For instance, Thums up used different celebrities including Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan and same was done by Pepsi which included SRK, Saif, Amitabh, Ranbir , Virat Kohli and Dhoni. The brand ambassador on the other hand plays a much serious role by becoming animated face of the brand in all its communication. Brand ambassador tangibilizes the invisible values and culture. He or she is expected to make deeper transformation in the way brand is perceived and felt by the audience. The value congruence between what an endorser epitomizes and company / brand values are essential.  For instance, Tag Heuer’s core value ‘don’t crack under pressure’ went well with SRK. The current intent of Tata Motors to portray itself as makers of great cars is done by Lionel Messy.

The question arises why companies pay hefty fees to get these celebrities or presenters to be present in their brand communications. Their value stems from the contribution that they make. Imagine the consumer effects that an ad would have with or without a presenter. To put simply, a known presenter can contribute to a brand’s success by lending awareness at the base level (imagine awareness of Navratna oil shot through the roof due to presence of Amitabh Bachchan in its ads).  Much deeper impact is made when the attitude toward the endorser is transferred to the advertised brand. The presenters in ads can predispose or prompt audience to view, think and feel a brand in a particular way. They may create a bias by influencing the consumer attitude, especially by creating a subtle jump over critical thinking to feelings. Presence of a liked source in ads may have retarding effect on thinking. So ads that make use of liked and loved characters activate emotional side of brain and thereby hasten judgments.

Attention effect:  the customers these days are bombarded with messages causing them to experience information overload. One common strategy for them is to screen out a large number of incoming messages. In this regard, celebrities provide an easy route to brands to capture customer attention. It is based on the understanding that consumers pay attention to what they like or interested in.

Awareness effect: typically celebrities enjoy high recognition and recall because of their popularity in their domain of work.  An ad typically ties together to independent stimuli (brand and celebrity like Pavlov’s bone and bell) and with repetition ceases their independence. As a result the awareness is transferred to the brand. It is an easy way to make an initial cut into an otherwise resistant mind.

Amplification effect: consider an ad which simply announces ‘Amrapali Sapphire 2/3/4 BHK flats Sector -45 Noida’ and its effect on consumer and when the same information is provided along with the presence of MS Doni. The two stimuli would not separately get processed in different hemispheres independently in isolation. Rather both will amalgamate into message which may have multiplicative or exponential effect. Now the address is not simply is an address rather it is multiplied with everything MS Dhoni stands for.  The cricket captain brings his traits like achievement, sincerity, dedication, leadership, endurance, success and commitment gets them to multiply with simple matter of fact ‘address’. This may have predisposing effect on attitude of even high involvement customers (due to risk associated).  In similar way when an ad proclaims ‘pure honey’ in the presence of Amitabh Bachchan, a huge difference is accomplished between what is said and what is actually received by customers. Here combining one with one creates eleven not two.

The message amplification also is achieved when a brand uses real or lookalike experts. For instance Castrol ads use a mechanic lookalike to promote lube superiority. Colgate for long used man in doctor’s uniform to amplify the brand’s superiority.

Differentiation effect: commodities suffer from lack of differentiation due product similarity. For instance, salt and battery cells may be identical in their construction. In such cases, the presenter or celebrity used in brand’s communication may become the only differentiating attribute. For instance, in honey market, both Dabur and Patanjali claim their honey to be pure and natural. In such a situation, the differentiating attribute between two brands is Amitabh and Baba Ramdev.

Why do endorsers command high prices? What sits at the core of their price is their ability to influence awareness, attitude and behavior. Their power relies on a complex and subtle process by which inference is drawn by consumers themselves. Advertisers ensure that facts are not misrepresented by knowing or unknowingly. It is this behavior of drawing conclusions (we didn’t say that you concluded yourself) insulates brands from being legally charged. Consider, all the surrogate ads like Carlsberg (glasses) or Bacardi (music) technically do not promote liquor but liquor gets promoted, glamorized and desired. In this context, the communication industry cannot be regulated by law entirely. The only option is conscience. But conscience often gets defeated by wealth.