Challenges to make a brand better
When we begin work, the first thing we try to figure out is why the brand is not doing well. If there is a problem with the product or service, then no amount of branding or advertising can save the brand.
Second, the major challenge is when a brand doesn’t know what it is. Know yourself is a basic advice and this applies to brands as well. For a brand, the sweet spot is between being its true self and being relevant to the people it wants to reach out to. As people need self-improvement, so does a brand. It needs to work on what it wants to be perceived as. A marketing agency can help define it, but if the basics are not in place, it becomes a challenge. A brand can change the appearances, but the core values need to remain intact. Take for example, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Both are basically selling the same product, but Coca-Cola is about bringing people together and PepsiCo is about the youth. Tomorrow, Coca-Cola cannot just decide to run a campaign exclusively on youth.
Third, it can be a challenge to get all the stakeholders at the same time, from CEO to everyone else. Branding is not a data-driven exercise, but a feeling-driven exercise. Data can help you predict the future, but it cannot create a future. Data can give you certain insights, but you will have to add your own imagination. As it is feeling driven, branding is a very subjective process.
This brings me to the fourth challenge. Because it’s a subjective process, it’s time-consuming. The agency and the client have to work in partnership to build a brand. The brand has to take ownership of the process. After all, brand owners are the custodians of the brand, not the agency. You have to plan long term.
Your branding has to last at least for 10 years. Your brand strategy has to last at least for five years. The campaigns you create have to last two/three years, because it’s a huge investment. One advertising film takes Rs 1-crore to make. So time is needed. Since time is involved, branding is not instantly measurable. It takes time to build brand equity.
However, the biggest challenge is the execution of the plan. You may have a brilliant plan, but it won’t work until the entire company comes together to execute it seamlessly, be it film, print, digital, communication emailer and so on. Since a lot of people are involved in the process, execution of the plan can be a huge challenge. For this, the key is to make all stakeholders excited about the project.
How Orange transformed into Hutch and then to Vodafone is a perfect case-study. It managed to bring out the excitement and did it seamlessly. It used a warm, innocent tone. When Orange changed to Hutch, it was conveyed with colour: ‘Orange is now pink.’ It was enough for the brand recall. Other things could wait.
Then Hutch introduced the famous pug. And when it became Vodafone, the pug remained. So, even though the name changed, the company relayed the message that the core value remains the same, and it did it with the tone of its campaigns.
Language in advertising
Depending on mediums, there are two kinds of languages — visual and verbal. If I do experiential designs, smell and texture become my language. Basically, your language is whatever helps you communicate with your audience.
I think the biggest role language plays is in helping the audience recognise you. Verbal language nuances are in sentence construction, sentiment, emotion, tone of voice. All these determine whether a brand is sick or healthy.
Again, for an agency, verbal language plays an important role during the initial stage, where you will need to excite a brand about a campaign only by the skill of your speech.
Visual language helps you with brand recall. So you need to remain consistent with your visual language. For example, if you see a Vodafone or an Airtel hoarding, you will instantly recognise the brand, even if you don’t have the time to read the message. The reach of the campaigns and media plays a role in this, but it’s important to follow a consistent visual language, consistent colours, fonts, design and so on.
I have observed how these days, a lot of mobile phone companies are putting up campaigns following the visual language of Apple ads, using thin fonts, etc. I don’t think it helps the competing brands.
Command over the language is a tool that helps you imagine. If you cannot communicate your ideas verbally, it’s going to be difficult to get approval on the ideas. Again, broader vocabulary helps ideate better. The key is to practice. Using language is a craft. You need to hone it.
The job of a copywriter is not to talk like himself or herself, but to talk like a brand.
Keys to brand success
Three factors make a brand successful — honesty, consistency and relevance. Between consistency and relevance comes a phase — evolution. It’s a painful stage, but a brand must overcome it.
These interviews appeared on Audiogyan, an Indian podcast hosted by Kedar Nimkar. So far, the podcast has 64 posts and more than 65,000 listens. You can listen to the full version of the podcast at audiogyan.com.