An interesting piece of writing by Gautam Talwar, chief strategy officer in The Economic Times throws how strategists use several methodologies to glean consumer insights to create brand resonance and differentiation. Soft drinks come in different names and flavors but these essentially contain sweetened water with added fizz. This product sameness is both obvious and known. It takes not rocket science for consumers to discover that most brands of cola, lemon, and orange drink are no different from each other. This product sameness makes marketer’s life difficult for they walk on a slippery path unsure of customer loyalty and commitment. Customers switch brands with drop of a hat.
When product element ceases to be a source of meaningful difference then branding assumes significance. When difference can’t be created by product then it brand symbolism holds some promise. With branding, marketers lower their anchors deep into consumer mind to get a hold and stability against waves of competition. Two of the bed rocks on which anchors are hooked are customer resonance and competitive differentiation.
Different brands of cola like Pepsi, Coke and Thums Up tap into all kinds of cultural resource to create a sense of perceived inequality to kill brand indifference. These include plugging into meaning reservoirs like ambassadors, events and other forms of express communication. The brand asset valuator model is one of the diagnostic method ( of Rediffusion-Y&R) which can be used to discover a brand’s reality in consumers’ minds. This model tracks brands on four aspects: differentiation (brand uniqueness/ stand apart from competition), relevance (answer to personal needs/ appropriateness), esteem (living up to expectations/ perceived quality) and Knowledge (awareness and understanding of brand).
Most of brands in this category score high on knowledge and relevance factor of BAV but score low on differentiation. This implies that different brands of cola are unable of stand apart from each other in spite of millions of rupees that are spent on building differentiation. The attribute commonality restricts product differentiation. It is here the role of imagery or symbolism begins. Brands are given characters which often are inspired by archetypes (model of a man/ template of persona of a man). Carl Jung , Swiss psychiatrist suggested that these archetypes come from the collective unconscious and are innate and universal. These are mythic characters housed in collective unconscious of people: hero, creator, explorer, outlaw, jester, lover, caregiver, everyman, innocent, ruler, sage and magician. These archetypes characterize our personality and hence become of interest to marketers. Brands are invested with human qualities or characterization to develop relationship.
Consider different brands in soft drink category, a large number of these are given an imagery involving dimension of energy and emotions. Cola brands like Pepsi and Coke (including Fanta and Mirinda) have been a joyous, free spirited and fun character. Thums Up and Mountain Dew also come close to this imagery but with additional dash of Jester traits (daring, witting and resilient- live the present moment with full of enjoyment because you live only once). Given the competition it is a matter of investigation whether shifting these brands towards Warrior and Hero will help the brand further. The other drinks like 7 U p and Sprite share Jester character. Quite away from the crowing mango drinks like Maaza and Slice come close to enchantress and lover archetype. This brings traits like sensuality, glamour, and temptation to the brands.
When product element of a brand ceases to provide meaningful differentiation, marketers turn to symbolism. Human archetypes provide an important guide in shaping branding strategy to break away from cluttering effect created by proliferation.