Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Detail of Brand Building

By Bhadresh Bundela

In an age where people are faced with information overload on a daily basis, it is surprising that many brands are actually reluctant to part with any information that is relevant to consumers.
As brand owners, we need to look at brand/category information as a strong tool for brand building and use it effectively in different ways suited to consumers’ brand requirements.
Take the case of a person buying laminate for his dining table. Loath to give this job to the carpenter who may overcharge him, he ventures out bravely to buy the required item faced with tremendous ignorance about the subject. At the outlet he is confronted either with brands that he has never heard of or the market leader, which he has heard of but does not know whether it is suitable for his requirements.

In either case, he is daunted by the knowledge gap; unable to identify the important aspects he needs to look at when selecting laminate and how to choose the brand that best meets his requirements. Does he plunge in and find out later that he bought the wrong brand – or does he leave it to the carpenter and be left with the feeling that he has paid a higher price than required?

Similarly take the case of a person who is venturing out to buy any form of household equipment from commodes to bathroom tiles, or even something more personal like an anti-dandruff formulation. In most cases the person will have little or no information from the different brands competing for his attention which will aid him in the decision-making process.

This in itself is unfair. Brand owners cannot expect consumers to buy brands only on the basis of brand name recall. Consumers need to buy brands based on knowledge that a particular brand is more suited than others to the particular consumer’s requirement.

Brands need to have an information access area where consumers can understand more about the brand. This could just be a simple website. The advantage of this is obvious; a consumer who buys a brand because he/she understands why the brand is superior to other brands most likely will go on to become a strong advocate for the brand. A consumer who buys a brand only on brand name recall and then finds out that the brand is not best suited to his requirements will most likely bad-mouth the brand.

What many consumers want, is information that will aid them in different levels of decision making. In the above-mentioned case – the man is looking for information that will help him decide whether to buy plywood and laminate or buy pre-laminated particleboard. Once he has this information then he needs information on how to select a brand of laminate for his requirements. Obviously a laminate manufacturer would be in a good position to tell consumers about the advantage of laminate over pre-laminated particleboard as well as how his brand is superior to other brands.
There are several benefits for brands to provide information to consumers. An apparel manufacturer who provides consumers with information on the latest fashion in India and abroad can become the top-of-mind apparel brand in India because of this information. Chances are that fashion crazy consumers will keep in touch with the brand because it gives them information on their interest area.

Information can also help in building product usage. Take the case of a person buying an ayurvedic hair care formulation. By providing information on how ayurveda works and how it specifically helps in hair care, the brand can get the same consumer to possibly buy more ayurvedic hair care or other products from the same brand.

It is always important for brands to be information leaders as this evokes a perception that the brand possesses considerable expertise in the subject. Consumers often tend to prefer the brand that appears to have the most expertise and therefore this could have a very important bearing on brand choice.

Lethargy or inertia in providing information is most often a case of bad attitude toward consumers. Marketers investigate consumer needs and assemble a relevant product, and then ignore the consumer when it comes to explaining the product. Consumers will most likely gravitate toward brands that meet their product requirements as well as their information requirements.
Many marketers do not consider the detrimental effect of thousands of consumers buying their brand for the wrong reasons or out of ignorance. There are many cases where marketers do not want to give away information for fear that they may lose sales. All this, however, is detrimental to the brand. There is most likely going to be a scenario where instead of consumers experiencing post-purchase satisfaction they may experience post-purchase apprehension because they do not know enough about the brand and therefore are worried about its utility/performance.
It is always better to have a smaller loyal group of consumers who speak positively about your brand than a large consumer base that bad-mouths your brand.

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