As is inadvertent with knotty situations resultant upon conflict of interests, between optimising return on investment and compliance with professionalism, rules are compromised. Fundamentals are commonly neglected. Sadly, and often times, such compromises run on over-drive, so fast damages thereof go unnoticed. But as we always say on this platform, brand management is a sequence-based social science which results are predictably constant. In other words, cause and effect theory is ever constant. That explains the place of derivative engagement. So, the outcome of every process is dependent upon the administration of the controllable and uncontrollable Variables.
Brand Management as a process-based social science engagement, leaves nothing to chance. Anticipated result must be deliberately worked out along established rules. At every stage of the process, appropriate measure of both sets of variables must apply, anticipatory of desired result or outcome. The entire brand building/management process is built around Concept, Rationale & Goal, the critical three way test compulsory for quality control and process evaluation…to ensure effective and efficient resource investment.
May we just mention at this point that Brand Management is so demanding of professional competence, process management, analytical engagement and purpose-driven creativity, that the consequence of compromise is better imagined? It is a Professional Discipline, harshly critical in self-appraisal, and highly rewarding of compliance. Unfortunately, however, the incidence of failure is yet to be appropriately made consequent upon those we see as the main culprits, the consultants. We have said it before, that until Agency remuneration becomes result-based system (in which case consultants share in the failure of marketing communication investment) shoddiness will continue, with all its consequences – on the brands.
One of such derivatives of measurable value is Brand Association (a brand support tool with immense brand development potentials). Its impact drive through brand character definition, perception building, consumer relationship management, market prospecting and brand equity value appreciation. To note, a fine combination of the above, assures for brand growth and development. So, a Brand can Associate with an idea, a ‘person’, a belief system, philosophy, spend pattern, manner of ‘speaking’, dress sense, etc based on, as stated above, its Set Goals/Objectives. So, the Who or What a brand associates with, and the extent of association is critical to its market success.
Let us assume a 20 per cent growth in sales figures as our immediate marketing objective, in demonstration of the value of Brand Association. In that case, the strategic plan is to attract new users, and sustain loyalty among old users, by creating the purchase appeal through association with a person, thing, place, idea (and even religion). Whatever we have decided to anchor our association on, has to be another strategic derivative, and should also be guided by insight – research findings.
The critical issue of consideration at this point would be the rationale for the decision we finally make of:
Who or what are you associating your brand with What is your target audience’s perception or opinion of your chosen ‘icon’
Of the positives and the negatives, which holds over-riding influence among the larger population within your target group
By how much are you or the brand prepared to discount the impact of the negative influence the ‘icon’ for association would bring to bear on your market growth projection
What is the calculable change-range, either way, for your ‘icon’, in futuristic terms; and what are the safety measures built in your strategic plan to accommodate a predominant negative impact on your brand
What is the character of your ‘icon’
In measurable terms, what value is your ‘icon’ bringing to the growth equation, and how does it compare with available alternatives?
In all, whatever strategic decision we arrive at, has to be rationalised, bearing in mind that every strategic plan must answer to Concept, Rationale & Goal. Not minding the strategic process and decision, the derivative has to be rationalised, against set-objective. So the question should be, all considered what the probability of success, all costs considered.
For most brands, this process is compromised. One of such worrisome Brand Association decisions we have noted is the use of models commonly referred to as Celebrities. At some point, use of popular actors and actresses became the vogue (still rules with some brands even now), without a clear demonstration of an understanding of the import of such association. So many brand managers across market segments went wild with this idea, bedevilling their brands with the personage of ‘popular’ persons across local movie industry, sports world, music & entertainment, not-minding difference between popularity and notoriety. Whereas the effectiveness of such decisions could be argued by its proponents, that it failed to deliver on anticipated objective is evident from how fast so many brands disassociated from its continued application.
Most of the persons some brands were associated with were negatively impacting on some of the brands, in many ways. It is important to note that objectives vary along the line of interests; it could be either of marketing or advertising, broadly. The trickles of sales promotion, trade and/or customer reward schemes, reputation management, awareness growth…all fall behind either of these broad categories. Most of the personality-association decisions were not clearly demonstrative of a clear-cut objective for their decisions.
One thing is for certain from our perspective as consultants: from the perceived derivatives underlying some of the advertising messages some of the models featured, the strategic focus was not definite of Objective. The common ground for brands that travelled that route was simply Flamboyance. The popularity concerned brand manager craved was oblivious of the key underlying details of public perception based on individual character evaluation (personality profiling). Whereas some of those rated popular in public’s eye, some of them may not leave personal impact on the public or familiar persons, going by their individual behaviour. So when brands take on such persons, they immediately inherit their liabilities, with telling negative effects.
Brand Association also applies for activities, as is for personality. Brands must constantly engage for the Who, What, When and How (no WHY in this case). Since Association impacts on the target audience perception of brands, it is easy to link the impact of Good Behaviour of brands to same anticipation. As the year comes to an end, the period of celebration, there seems to be a worrying quiet from among brands, concerning the traditional year-end consumer reward investment. So far, we aren’t recording Consumer Friendly Behaviour for any of the big brands yet.
Year-end (Christmas/New Year) is a period of ‘giving’ and the brands must Associate with the ‘expectation’ as a brand support initiative. In the face of prevalent economic hardship, brands must find a way of giving to consumers, as friends, even if not in reward for loyalty; brands should Associate for positive image perception. That may just be the winning streak for some brands in 2019.
To close, we are not judgemental here. We have only used this as a guide in our narrative for industry practitioners’ interest. A strategy is as good as its delivery on set-goals and objective, noting the critical areas of consideration as Concept, Rationale & Goal.