Guest Column by Saurabh Parmar: Branding in today’s digital age of Brand-Consumer Interaction

30 Jul,2013

By Saurabh Parmar

 

In almost every conversation we have with a client or a potential one, the word ‘brand’ comes up. The interesting bit in most cases – I see the interpretation vary. And remember I am talking about marketeers here. I don’t think there is a right or wrong but the definition of what a brand is has evolved in this digital age.

 

For me, a brand has never been a logo or a fancy tagline. It’s not even a vision or mission statement. At the end of the day it’s a dynamic entity which lives what it says, it evolves from where it is, it understands from it’s customers.

 

It means a lot of those things which are probably taught in brand identity classes – Colours used, shape of the logo, brand identity guidelines, the thought behind the brand  etc. Yet  I earnestly believe – it has always been about something more – How the people perceive the brand.

 

Think about brands like Apple, Vodafone or Dominos.. What do you see? What do you feel? And the exact answer will change, depends on who you ask. The logo, tagline, marketing campaign, product remain the same but people’s interpretation of it defines the brand for them and to an extent their social circle.

 

This is more so in today’s world – where customers are directly interacting with brands via social media, where there are more brands making more noise via marketing and where technology is changing proximity and interactions between humans themselves. As a result, the dynamic nature of a brand is all the more obvious.

 

I like brand X let’s say a restaurant but  if the food was bad last time or whether the waiter was rude or service slow all those things impact brand perception. But it doesn’t take a direct interaction always does it?

 

Friends who have been raving about a product or place, a Zomato review or a review in HT or 5 of your friends having already like this new place on Facebook -all these live interactions influence our brand perception over time.

 

So what should a brand do? There’s lots it can do, but for me 6 main things which stand out:

1. (From the above) Remember brand building does not happen on day 1 only it keeps happening till the day you exist and if you are fortunate or maybe unfortunate enough people will have opinions even after you cease to exist. So be open to constant evolution.

 

2. Having said that, like any human being you may evolve how you talk, how you interact, what you say but you remain mostly true to your core beliefs. Same goes for brands.

 

3. Brands are often afraid of taking a stand, having an opinion. We believe that’s not the way to go, great brands stand for something and they also stand against something.

 

4. An often heard statement ‘Great brands need to be larger than life’. I tend to differ and more so in today’s day and age of a cluttered market with enough brands shouting their greatness.

 

Brands need to be true to life – They are based on a customer’s needs and aspirations and needn’t look down from a pedestal or exaggerate their own identity which makes it hard for a customer to trust them. (Eg: How many men believe that by spraying a deo, women will start swarming around you but for years brands have failed to go beyond the thought)

 

5.Great brands focus on transparency -to their customer, their employees and other stakeholders. An interesting example by McDonald’s http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpageandv=oSd0keSj2W8

 

6. They do not look at advertising as a means to display but as a means to communicate. And that brand-consumer interaction does not happen in silos but in an environmental and cultural context.

 

Saurabh Parmar is Founder and CEO, Brandlogist Communications

 

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