Three to win!

16 Jun,2022

 

 

By Avik Chattopadhyay

 

Avik Chattopadhyay“Three’s a crowd” is a thing of the past.

Today it takes three to tango.

 

Welcome to a world of three-way relationships in ‘brand management’.

 

Since the term was created [and I really do not know when], it has been all about the product or service and the consumer. A company makes a product or creates a service offering with a certain performance promise. Through a channel or medium, it reaches the prospect who consciously chooses it over others. A simple two-way relationship between the provider and the consumer. We spent decades learning how to manage the dynamics of this relationship, with the consumer being the single-minded focus. Till recently, the provider literally provided the consumer all that was to do with the product or service. The process of feedback, complaints and redressal was two-way.

 

The task for the brand manager was well laid out in terms of what to research, what to create, who to cater to and how to offer. Brand management was more or less linear in nature even though the process might incorporate many stakeholders and be circular.

 

The new millennium has changed all that. With growing personalisation or customisation and the outburst of digital interfaces, the dynamics of the relationship has taken a new form. If earlier it took two to tango, now threesome is wholesome!

 

The product or service has given way to an experience. The same hardware may allow use of multiple software depending on the specific requirements of the user. Previously, the product or service provider was expected to create the entire package for the customer. Today, the tasks are clearly demarcated for the domain experts to do their own little bits in creating the whole experience for the consumer. Earlier you bought a car, and it came with all the bells and whistles pre-fitted or pre-loaded by the automaker. Today, one buys a car from the automaker and chooses a connected interface from an Apple or a Google and the two need to work in tandem to give the consumer an immersive experience!

 

Similar examples abound in every aspect of life.

Dominos prepares a pizza that is delivered by a Zomato to a consumer.

Netflix makes content that is viewed on a Sony smart television by a consumer.

The entire experiences are created by two brands working together than merely one.

A smart television would be useless without the customisable OTT platforms.

A Zomato is not feasible without the food maker.

A Maruti Suzuki is incomplete without Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

 

Hence the relationships have now become three-way. There are typically two product propositions that work together in catering to one consumer. Both the propositions could be physical in nature, or digital or a mix, depending on the final experience being designed.

 

This makes the traditional brand manager’s role a bit complex now. Now he/ she has to work symbiotically with another outside the organisation to create the final offer. The purpose and promise of the two brands need to respect each other in the first place. Both need to realise that in isolation, it is both incomplete and incompetent in delivering the final benefit proposition it desires. This necessitates mutual respect and genuine collaboration. This requires the candour to admit one cannot do everything by oneself. Some of the world’s biggest brands have been singed trying to do everything by themselves, rendering them irrelevant or late in the race.

 

The brand manager has to remap his/ her role into not only protecting the interests of one’s own brand but also becoming capable enough of collaboration and co-creation. This capability has to be acquired through training and counselling as majority will not have such skills as natural. The collaboration and co-creation will be with a counterpart of the same stature. This is an adult-adult relationship and not a parent-child one that brand managers are used to when dealing with ‘agencies’.

 

Another key evolution in the brand manager’s skillset is to cater to not just the customer but also the consumer. Earlier a product or service had to be bought to experience it. Now one need not buy to experience. One can merely loan or lease for a limited time period to use a product or service and share an opinion on the same. Today one may rent a car for merely a few hours to experience it. Or lease it for a few months. Tomorrow’s generation does not believe in owning but only in consuming, whether it be an app or an automobile. And when an industry as traditional as automotive has realised such a future, all other product categories are sure to follow.

 

My brand + Collaborating brand + Consumer.

That’s the equation the brand manager must balance in the days to come.

There will be a constant back and forth from each constituent as each is an active contributor to the experience. The days of the provider and recipient are gone. All are collaborators and creators. The quicker the brand manager realises the same and upgrades accordingly, the better for all constituents in making it a win-win-win outcome!

 

 

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