Branding Too Much And Too Many An Ankita Verma Article by the Author Ankita Verma
Ankita Verma, Class of 2009, IBS Hyderabad
Now doesn’t that sound a little absurd? This is an example of branding gone overboard.
Standing out from a competitive crowd requires bravery, brains and the art of branding. Without one or the other there is very little chance of creating a memorable impression which is also favorable.
There is an old joke popular in marketing circles, which goes like this:-
Cruising through Texas, a tourist asks a cattleman the name of his ranch.
“It’s the Bar Seven, Double-O, Rocking J, Flying M,” said the rancher.
The tourist responded, “Do you have a lot of cattle?”
“Nope’’, he said, “Not too many survive the branding.”
Branding, a noble concept by origin, is habitually (and often unintentionally) abused by companies which mishmash too many brand elements or create excessively complex brand systems. Additionally, we observe brand extensions budding relentlessly in such markets due to technological advances and R&D breakthroughs.
These constantly altering systems of brands can confuse and isolate the customers, ensuing in the decline of brand value.
If the product name is mentioned more than once in a sound bite and in the narration, you’ve more than likely overbranded it. Don’t overburden your expert. – Neil Henry
It is all too very easy for a company to pour money into absurd advertising in their pursuit to build higher brand awareness and revenue. The company’s unique value is likely to get diluted in the process, causing loss of brand supporters. Such issues arise because Branding though an essential practice is unfortunately not an exact science.
What is more, overbranding also stems from fear; fear of not getting acknowledged, fear of being ignored, or worse yet, the fear of not being seen at all.
The media reports many incidences of television/movie actors falling into this trap, keenly attending every event and taking up any work just to stay in the limelight.
Bombarding your customer with your brand will, very possibly, result in resentment and negative word-of-mouth. The displeasure that the overexposure of a brand creates, undoes any good-will amassed by it till-date.
The TV audience has been subjected to Interruption Advertising to the extent that it is openly mocked as Irritation Advertising. Is there really a need to obscure the content being voluntarily received with frustrating reminders of the privilege on offer?
Any publicity is good publicity, you say? Perhaps.
But is it really worth it, given the practically guaranteed damage to the image?
Let us avoid that channel with the maddening pop-ups, such brands will soon hear their patrons say.
The key is to have faith in your product and create awareness with focused planning and contained enthusiasm. Communicate too loud and you become an annoyance. We witness this at most hotels, restaurants and malls. With an establishment’s over-zealous attempts at branding, the bathroom alone is duly capable of inducing a case of logo-claustrophobia.
The companies, who do not understand their customers, end up overlooking their needs.
Some luxury brands intentionally underbrand in order to keep the associated mystique intact. This technique, however, cannot always be successfully duplicated by a brand which is still learning to walk and hoping to outrun the more athletic brands. Using the law of scarcity as a branding strategy can backfire if your lack of presence is perceived as snobbery. So precarious is the branding balance!
Psychologists are saying that too much choice doesn’t free us, it numbs us. We cope by opting out, making disinterested decisions. – Graham Button
Today, the customer is over-served and over-whelmed. ‘Consumers are stuffed to the gills with logos’. The market-place is saturated with the abundance of choices available.
An average grocery store carries so many varieties of the same product, that it boggles the mind to select just one. Precious time goes on making yet another trivial choice. Take Sunsilk for example. You get more than a dozen hair-shampoo variants alone. Too many options, where one would suffice, not only produce anxiety but also drag down the quality of life.
We see brands and sub-brands being regularly punched out by companies like Dell and MTV, on the weak support of slight incremental tweaks in the main product.
Retailers may feel more versions of their product will ensure greater sales. That ‘more brands’ equals ‘more profit’.
Yet, it is the opposite that has proved true. Many successful companies have realized that less is indeed more.
When P&G cut their Head and Shoulders portfolio from 25 to 16 products their profits rose by an astounding 10%.
The creativity that a company channels into its processes is far superior to its product portfolio in terms of benefits accrued. Innovation just for the sake of revenue can end up degrading the core brand value instead of strengthening it. Any interest previously acquired wanes quickly when the “New and Improved’’ continue to churn out.
Such overshooting alienates the target audience. What the customers are getting is quantity, when what they really need is quality.
There is frequently a greater focus on the transactional profits which are achieved from purely promotional behavior. Author Frederick Reichheld calls these ‘bad profits’. There should be a consideration on generating ‘good profits’ as well, which create customer loyalty. In good service, lies the answer.
Keeping Branding On Track
Strategists have suggested a few things which can help prevent the branding process from going haywire and corrupting the brand value. They tell the companies to:-
Concentrate on customer’s needs and feedback
Instead of assailing the customers with constant in-your-face communication techniques, give them some credit. Do not treat them as fools. Listen to them. Have a good understanding of their needs. Give them the opportunity to provide feedback. It will almost always prove invaluable.
Keep a small Product Portfolio
In order to make the decision-process and brand perception as uncomplicated as you can for your customers, consider trimming the amount of products and the related overhead costs.
Focus on Quality
Statistically, people are willing to pay a premium for good quality and service. Focusing only on quantity can drive down the quality protocols in a company. Quality in a brand talks and can inspire your customers to spread the word and fashion a loyal following.
Your brand must have some unique selling proposition in order for it to appeal to customers. Pushing a product without a compelling characteristic won’t make it truly stand out in the market. An innovative aspect to your product, which is relevant to the customer, is more likely to occupy a larger mind-space.
Offer a Consistent Message
To maximize brand recollection, make an effort to offer the same message (and similar language and imagery) with clarity every time you promote.
Branding is an art but not all marketers are good artists. A well-designed and well-executed plan is vital to shape a well-defined brand. Proper attention has to be paid to strategic planning before embarking down the path of brand promotion. Focusing on the core business process and service and allowing the work to talk for itself is more likely to ensure a sustainable growth in a company’s brand equity.
With the right set of tools and inclination, branding is sure to paint a masterpiece.
Contributed by Ankita Verma (Class of 2009, IBS Hyderabad)