PReamble by Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Shift from “BUY ME” to “WHY ME”

07 May,2015

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

Talking about “Brand Reputation” and “Reputation Economy” in the Corporate world is becoming a fad. When you come to think of it, well, there’s nothing wrong about it! Compared to our (India Inc.’s and its Agency Machinery’s) state of awareness a decade back, a good start I would say. However, when you look at the reality in terms what we are actually doing towards very crucial dynamics of creating and maintaining Brand Reputation, it very clearly smacks of understanding or seriousness. Very simply put, CEOs, CMOs and all other CXOs need to understand the ground-level implications of what Reputation Economy means. The consumer, our revenue contributor, is no longer agreeing to buy our products/services just because of the Product/Brand’s recall, price promotions, packaging or convenience of place. He/She is no longer getting impressed by our communication push that focuses on “BUY ME”. The consumer has started to flip the product packaging and check who the manufacturer is. Does he/she believe him? The consumer wants to very clearly hear an honest “WHY ME”. They want to focus on the Corporate Brand!

 

If one were to look at the total annual Indian advertising spends, advertisers do not spend more than 3-5% of the total on  orporate image. In other words, more than 95% is pure marcom (marketing communication) push. It is a “BUY ME” push. The “WHY ME” part has been missing. By “WHY ME”, I mean information about the maker of the product/service, its philosophy, its business ethics, its culture, its vision & mission, its approach towards the social ecosystem, its governance, quality controls, its commitment to employees, investors, government, society at large, vendors and so on and so forth.

 

Corp Comm (Corporate Communications) has to emerge as the frontrunner. CEOs need to be aware that all CXOs, not just the CMOs alone, need to have a say in the brand building process. The long standing excessive weightage on Marcom has to shift and move to Corp Comm! The P/L, toplines and bottomlines simply cannot be the guiding and driving force of an organization’s business and communications planning process. For an organisation/ corporate brand, to put in place a robust reputation management machinery, and further aligning it to a singular reputation building agenda internally is paramount. While CMOs mandate is to obviously focus on BUY ME, the CEO should not do the blunder of losing sight of WHY ME? The onus is on him. In the sense that when the consumer flips the packaging/cover of the product to check on the owner or manufacturer of the product, the consumer should not take much time to recall and thereafter, convinced, place it in his/her shopping cart.

 

The potential and deliveries that advertising brought to a brand custodian as a standalone communications tool has lost its firmness. Today, brand custodians need integrated help through earned media. While advertising or paid media, for its own inherent challenges is unable to deliver, earned media/ public relations can well be the custodian of both corporate and product brand reputation going forward. Earned Media/PR can well be the conveyor/spokesperson of not just the brand’s “BUY ME” bit, but more importantly, the WHY ME block.

 

 

The Eikona chart, above, gives a sense of what some of the key sectors (averaged out) like Telecom, FMCG, BFSI etc. have focused on. Have they focused on WHY ME or does it continue to be the same story of major focus largely on BUY ME? The following takeaways can be concluded upon:

 

a) Things have improved, but Brand ka dil mange more: The above data sets are for the financial year 2013-14 and 2014-15. The above chart splits the total News Push or News Presence of companies across industry sectors and splits them by themes such as corporate image, human resource, marketing initiatives, product and Services etc. If you were to total up product and services and marketing initiatives-related news push, the figure is hovering around a humungous 74%. Which means that a large part of what creates and sustains a corporate brand is missing! However, a silver lining, however, is that these periods are seemingly better when compared with 2011-12 and 2012-13 (not in the chart above). They  used to smack at around 85%. Good news is that the emphasis or push on the “WHY ME” part, comprising Corporate Image, Vision and Strategy, Business Ethics, CSR, Human Resource etc., has increased/improved  as compared to 3-4 years back.

 

Further, like I said before, these are averages of some key industry categories. If one were to look at individual sectors, reality in some specific sectors will be harder and much more rude. The message is clear – long-term success is all about corporate brand and not product brand alone! For this, corp Comm has to be in the driver’s seat.

 

b) CXOs need to be aware of consumer’s purchase dynamics: Consumer’s purchase dynamics are no longer about Brand Track TOM scores. It is now shifting towards Disposition. It is shifting towards dynamics of strong sustained Messaging which gives away the WHY ME part loud and clear. Any product or service purchase, does’txt matter whether from B2B or B2C category, is about investigating and pivoting the purchase decision on WHY ME. Brand Track survey mechanisms will need drastic revamp. Some of the current ones are archaic and is far from taking care of BTL communication push. Also, the disposition studies will need more robustness.

 

c) Why does Earned Media/PR score over Paid/Ad route?: First, the paid/ad route has long lost its credibility. Data sets like ad avoidance, falling Brand Track scores are terrific endorsers of that. Second, the Paid tool is too pricey (let me clarify – I mean money wise! Doesnot justify the ROIs). Third, Ad layout formats doesnot allow me the logistics of laying down details or even relevant snippets of WHY ME. Earned Media scores on ALL!

 

d) Can it be measured?: The best part of all this is that Earned Media can be measured neutrally, holistically and continuously and be equated with Corporate and Product Brand Reputation scores.

 

Call it Living Company, Loved Company, Successful Company, Lambi Race Ka Ghoda…well, it is time to change. “WHY ME” is the magic wand of long term Business Brand building. CEOs will need to take charge and make amends in the Organizational structure. Communication KRAs and KPIs will need to be recreated with & for all CXOs. Very importantly, they will need to be linked with the Business Objective!

 

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a senior PR industry professional and currently Senior Vice President, Eikona – Earned Media Planning, Audit and Advisory. The views expressed here are his own.

 

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