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Brands As Growth Catalysts



Bernard Okhakume

Perhaps to appreciate the consideration of BRAND for an operative ingredient in economic growth development and growth, it is fundamentally important to expand our collective appreciation of the contextual boundaries ordinarily set for its common reference; we need to dissolve the concrete definitions of a brand in both worlds of services and goods, tangible and intangibles…A Brand should happen on us as a commitment, an understanding, a way of life, a sense of discipline. A brand is a belief.

To appreciate the role of brands as growth drivers and economic development agents, we have to be abreast of the fundamental imperative of the components of a BRAND. Most times, and indeed the most common and only known aspect of a brand is its commercial nature and all of the attendant characteristics; all of which have even gone ahead of our academic, professional, career and vocational engagements, to shape and determine our inter-personal/group relations and interactions for, and on behalf of our positions in representation of BRANDS, either as owner/managers or consumers. Howbeit this orientation and belief has shaped grave monetary decisions and permutations.

So, the traditional belief that a brand is a bundle of specific value offering, with a name, offered at a determined price, emboldens academic and professional posturing, thrusting graded support for entrepreneurial tradition within which sphere the only known and understandable language is money; money encrypted in all forms, in so far as value and profitability is made manifest. Some have stretched the argument for monetary value as the basis for definition of a BRAND to the extent of living the belief in the theatre of war. Philosophical postulations have played up the art of war in situations of brand positioning through the walkway of competitive engagement; more so, as marginal earning over specific time limits are kept in view. So, we hear and live with practices named as annual budgeting, earning reports, market planning, sales anticipation and actualisation, and the attendants.

Kindly considered on the flip side, we hear of consumer behaviour and analysis, competitive information gathering and monitoring, measure of consumer engagement, loyalty and the reasons for recorded variations, etc. So, whereas the involvement of research tools paints the picture of selfless concern for the CONSUMER, the real goal is to feed the channels of wealth creation and growth through investment multiplication. Around such self-centred institutional practice, clouded in the misty haze of ‘public interest’ is built a huge wall of self-preservation for wealth creation. The extent of ‘cruelty’ in this practice depends on the nature and extent of ‘civilisation’ demonstrated from market to market.

BRANDS must make money to survive.

As a mantra, profitability for brands’ survival is a way of life. True, that cannot be questioned; the factors of production keep grossing in costs daily. As resources deplete in size and availability and population rise in the increase astronomically, the demand and therefore the cost of factors of production keeps at its the matching order.  If, and for as long as the costs are constant, the prices must be carefully determined for competitive survival. So when that brand determines its prices at the different stages of its supply chain (trade/market), it must bear in mind its costs at its own demand side. If for any reason the earning does not cancel out the spend side of the balance sheet and leave a ‘margin’ for sustainability, truly, the consequence would be grave, in the negative…a norm.

However, therein lays the crux of this issue in consideration: WHAT IS A BRAND?

If we confine ourselves to the conventional space, the value offering, named and presented at the market place at a price, is a BRAND. It comes with definite and intangible components, whether in the category of goods or services, which, primarily defines a character, perception, expertise, presence of mind and a postulation on futuristic considerations  such as expectations, want, need and approval. A BRAND, in some cases as is within this sphere of consideration, is anticipatory on its ability to deliver measurable value, good enough to meet some or certain needs for which value in form of money is exchanged. In the commercial world, the value of the offered value is measured by the price at which the target market is ready to pay for it. So, in the competitive world, competition is categorised into leadership, followers, and laggards. If otherwise the offered value fails to deliver at the critical value touch-points, such BRANDS fail, and fallout of reckoning.

The important aspect of the competitive set that interests as we consider THE BRAND, is the extinction of a once market leader. Most times, such occurrence is ascribed to generational shift. So presently, the new and emerging market is that of the millennial(s); a population of young consumers born in the digital age; a set of people who are clinically strange to the value pattern and lifestyle of the older generation; a people ruled by immediacy, disconnected from the tradition of gradual appreciation. Innovative investments are fast bending the rules to be accepted by the millennial markets. So, as it is, with the turn of age, some brands that had excelled before the ‘new age’ market are challenged for adaptability in creativity, styling, value appreciation and new knowledge or are doomed to ‘failure’. The failure we know in this case, is not as a result of incompetence in the old tradition for which they had achieved perfection, but because the values are new and compelling.


So, again, WHAT IS A BRAND?

A BRAND should be a commitment; a commitment to improving the life we live in, as a duty to mankind; the same commitment that has propelled teachers, scientists, technological innovators, medical breakthroughs, innovative technologies.  Whereas one is not discounting the value rated aspect of a brand, the extent of commercial rating of the value and essence of a brand has resulted in a dangerous level of competition which is presently creating a dangerous pattern of consummate aggression as a result of failing systems. Brands must stand up to the responsibility of supporting societal values, collective growth, improvement in living standard, and even morale. If that sets in within the consideration bracket in the design and development of BRANDS, brands will desist from making false promises, compromised offer quality (value), uncompromising interaction, fuelling inflation, ‘poisoning’ systems and sponsoring greed.

A particular brand in the bank financial market presently runs a TV commercial on CNN, in which it positions as the assured, reliable and dependable life-partner through the journey of life. Of particular interest is its acknowledgement of difficult times as being part of life journey. As an offer, therefore, it offers to lend a helping hand through the difficult times in the journey of life…as a promise. Interesting!

This TV advert in reference says a lot for the topic of ‘conversation’ here.  My advice to such brands that spend so much to create doubts around their personalities is to pay attention to prevalent mood. Perhaps, they should be careful who they engage to provide advertising & marketing communication services, as that could actually be the challenge. But on the whole, how dare a bank brand in a market of extreme poverty, youth unemployment, hunger/starvation, business failure and general disillusion make such PROMISE? It’s either such a brand is a liar or a ’fool’.

Market and peoples have changed; orientation is more demanding of true development-focused investment. Technological advancement has reshaped consumer expectation and, slowly but assuredly, education is contributing to the growing profile of consumers’ sense of value judgement. Brands must live up to the new challenge…emphasise contributory investment as the basis of brand conceptualisation.





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