Thursday, June 19, 2008

BRANDING R. I .P. {Uhh...’Rust’ in Peace}

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri endeavours to unravel a new-age, revolutionary, path-breaking philosophy that puts the age-old and much-revered concept of BRANDING to sleep… forever!

“The days of branding being the prime discipline to communicate the consistency of a given product and the reliability of its promise, are clearly over...”

Branding, for decades, has been hymned, celebrated, exalted, venerated and worshipped as the gospel truth by any marketeer worth his FMCG lapels! The ‘High Priests’ have pronounced that the brand is god and the ad executives, GCROE(S) – Gods Chosen Representatives On Earth! For decades, it has been acknowledged as the single most important aspect of business. Its success equals the business (it drives) success. Branding’s prime objective remains the same – to make a product or business look distinct and different from competition and epitomise the vision and values it represents to gain that decisive cutting-edge lead…

Chris Jaques, the iconic founder of Spark Innovation Consulting – which specialises in developing innovation strategies to ignite specific business areas – pooh-poohs this entire empirical evidence and supports his logic with a clinically chronicled five-point rationale. He believes that the days of branding being the prime discipline to communicate the consistency of a given product and the reliability of its promise, are clearly over. There’s been a paradigm shift in the ‘market-product-consumer’ connect with the money going into the services not products, slot. He supports it with hard facts. “Wal-Marts’ revenues are three times bigger than the entire revenue of both Proctor & Gamble & Unilever combined! Citibank & ING, too, are twice their size. This is the age of service not product and service marketing requires a totally different set of rules. Services are customised, not mass-produced.” Expanding this line of thinking Jaques argues that most of today’s real killer brands “are built on concepts, not products.” He goes on to explain how Apple produced the iPod with iTunes. “First they commissioned an idea and a design from Ideo. Next, they bought chips from Motorola and put them in a casing from Foxconn. Then they hired developers to create music software. At another level, agents were going tongs n’ hammer negotiating access to content, which incidentally was created by publishers and artistes. Apple only packaged it all together, managed it and sold it. It produced nothing!”
Heated, the iconoclast continues that if a brand is predictable today, it is most likely to be dead, tomorrow! “Disney develops a new product every five minutes! Sony produces around 5,000 new products a year. Zara can translate a fashion design from the Paris Catwalk to the shelves in 15 days. Innovation is the new god!” Myth-exploding arrives next. “Even if one wants to create a predictable brand message over time, one can’t. Why? Because there are over 50 million blogs, 24x7, flashing out messages about brands. These messages are based on customer experience, personal agenda or social rumour, not strategic positioning! Further brand terrorism is a deadly fact, alive and kicking with China being a soft target. The Formalhyde stores battered their Beer brands. The Triclosan gossip savaged their soap and toothpaste sales. Rui Chenggangs’ nationalist blog shut down Starbucks in the Forbidden City.” Finally, in conclusion, he offers that in today’s market-scape, business is the brand and brand is the business. The brand is absorbed, imbued and encompassed in every conceivable experience that the consumer experiences and encounters – and therefore, in effect, every action a company takes.

The take-out is cataclysmic! Traditional notions of marketing has been stood on its head, with revolutionary new methods blitzing through. In this new scheme of things, marketing organisations are advised to shut shop and become marketing organisms. The maverick Jaques explains, “An organism is a living, breathing creature whereas an organisation is structure-bound and systems-driven. Further unlike the organisation – centralised and controlled – it is decentralised and instinctive, constantly empowering its people and technologies to respond in different ways to different customers in different circumstances at different touch points.” The message is simple: In this new world, the focus is not about 360 degree branding. It’s really about how brilliantly you can manage that critical “one degree” that matters…


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