May 31, 2010

How to do global branding!

Before going to the topic in depth it is prerequisite to know about what actually meant by branding a product and most importantly why it is required. Nonprofessionals may think of a brand as just a logo or a package but actually it is really an aggregation of all the physical and emotional characteristics of a company, a product, or a service encountered by the consumer at all points of contact. Branding is important because it communicates a brand’s business proposition and, hopefully, a reason why a consumer should desire the product represented by the brand.
The most successful visual expressions of a brand embrace its core attributes and seek to establish a positive emotional relationship between the brand and its audiences, both internal and external. Building a local, regional, or national brand with a clearly defined and understood target audience is difficult enough, but the challenges increase geometrically when a global brand is at stake.
Before a building a solid foundation companies must determine the brand’s core attributes, personality, and positioning by appraising its market category, target consumers, and competitors, as well as the attitudes and beliefs of their own employees. In addition, governmental legislation and taxation, political issues, social and environmental pressures, cultural differences, local customs, religious restrictions, consumer tastes, and different languages will need to be considered.
Creation of a captivating name, word mark, or symbol is first step. The name must be pronounceable in all languages and dialects, free of negative connotations, and not confusingly similar to existing names such as Apple. Brand identity and distinct positioning messages are best communicated across all countries through packaging and graphics that are as standardized as reasonably possible. People now-a-days tend to recognize brands first by their signature color schemes and unique graphic elements and second by their names.
Second issue in this regard, the quandary of country association. Some global brands are strongly associated with their country of origin. Indeed, in certain categories this is part of the essence of the brand. It is up to companies either to emphasize these associations to their advantage or to recognize that their path to brand success is to be found by trying to embody the world’s cultural differences into their brand for example Yahoo who subtly modifies both content and communications for each of its 23 country-specific sites.
Thirdly, taking into regard cultural tastes and differences means beyond the product or service itself, the visual identity of the brand also faces problems of acceptance. A color or a design that achieves a positive result in one country may not have the same effect in another. Although the package or logo must portray the products or company’s values, attributes, personality, and positioning, it must also ensure that cultural tastes and differences are taken into account. In other words, a global brand must retain its autonomy while also adhering to local sensitivities.
Fourth is the worth of Physical packaging in the global branding. The distinctive shape of a package can become so recognizable that it often becomes the cornerstone of a brand’s advertising. Shape equity is one of the more difficult assets to acquire, especially on a global basis, but once established it can be a powerful visual tool.
An effect of environmental and social pressures comes on the fifth number and its mean that do not just stop at packaging. Consumers are also becoming more aware of how their products are obtained, grown, produced and disposed off.
The hottest issue is currently like always different government legislation of consumer packaging from country to country on sixth. Marketers will find that governmental control in matters of package labeling can differ greatly from country to country. In the United States, for instance, much of the copy on package labels (in particular, product descriptions, net weight statements, and health or nutritional claims) is tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Other countries have package-copy guidelines that are either much more lenient or very different from those in the US, and this creates an obvious hurdle for consistent global communication.
Last and seventh step is the economies of scale which actually an advantage of a unified global branding policy. But keep in mind that a company has to make sure there is open communication and balance among all international participants (marketing, production, design, printing, advertising, promotion, and so forth) and that all points of view are listened to and respected early on in the process. The bigger and more well known a brand is around the world, the more important it is to build a spirit of teamwork among all who will have a stake in protecting the long-term equity of the brand, while still allowing tactical local action to optimize short-term revenues.
The final conclusion is doing in global branding that great brands tap into basic human needs and aspirations. There can be no stronger global brand platform than one that speaks directly to customers and improves their lives.

May 29, 2010

Dimensions involved in a consumer’s purchase decision-Generic/Branded!

Normally when a consumer goes to shop general drug such as a pain killer the pharmacist asked to him what he/she might choose a brand or a generic product. Then here comes a question from consumer’s side, what is a difference between a brand and a generic product? Well as so many people don’t know about this difference like this some knows especially who belong to the field of brand management or marketing. Coming back to the point, the simple answer a consumer can get may be as the very delicate difference of its name and price too.
In reality, a generic product is identical or bioequivalent to a brand name product in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use. In spite of the equivalent functionality of a generic product to its counterpart brand name product but the question is this why do approximately half of consumers still choose branded products over generic products? Do consumers care about the brand name of the products or the functionality of the products? The answer is again a simple one like prior one: some consumers care more about functionality while others are concerned with both functionality and brand name.
According to two researchers’ theory, there are two main conceptual facets of involvement that moderate consumer decisions: “motivational component” and “reasons for the motivation”. They stated that the former indicates the “cognitive / affective” involvement and the latter points out the “utilitarian / value-expressive” motive. With regard to the cognitive / affective distinction in the motivational component, they suggested that information processing under cognitive involvement differs from that under affective involvement and that the consumer’s involvement is subject to changes over time. For example, a consumer’s evaluation of Apple’s iPod may be initiated by a cognitively involved process that is, the number of songs he can store in an iPod, and an affectively involved process that is, the glossy design of the iPod.
Regarding the utilitarian / value-expressive distinction in involvement motivation, involvement may be divided into two different sub-constructs: product that is utilitarian and brand that is value-expressive involvement. For example, not only may a consumer be involved in his MP3 player purchase decision out of many types and features for example, storage capacity, sound quality, design, and so on of the products in the market, he/she can also be involved in his brand decision out of many different brands for example, Apple iPod, Samsung, Sony, Philips, and so on.
The simple and vivid approach in this article is based on a two researchers’ theory which emphasize on the four dimensions cognitive, affective, Utilitarian, and value expressive. Through exploring the material all around us the conclusion is basically a difference between a generic product and a branded product is not only a name or even a price but it is an emotional attachment of a consumer with its product, and sometimes it might be the value expressive phenomenon that makes the product a brand. Becoming a brand is not a success story for a brand it must be a strong, favorable and unique for its consumers. Unique is important and crucial in a sense that it could solve the problems of the consumers as its first obligation.

May 28, 2010

The impression of relationship in branding!

The issue of ‘relationship’ is gaining importance in the branding area as consumers construct an image of themselves in relation to the brands that they use on a daily basis. Some researchers said that an individual’s long-term orientation towards a ‘relationship’ based on satisfaction with the brand as well as the weak competitor situation in terms of product development, customization, and value-added services.
A brand manager is one who has responsibilities for building a strong, favorable and unique image in consumer’s minds at the top as compared to other alternatives available. He/she are the one who has understands the importance of understanding the notion of ‘relationship’ between consumer involvement and brand perception. There must be an active ‘relationship’ between brand personality and brand attitude.
Brand Personality is the attribution of human personality traits (seriousness, warmth, imagination, etc.) to a brand as a way to achieve differentiation. Which done usually through the long-term and above-the-line advertising, appropriate packaging, and graphics. While brand attitude is refers to what a person feels or believes about something related to a brand. Additionally, brand attitude may be reflected in how a brand acts based on its beliefs. Once formed attitudes can be very difficult to change for a brand as show trustworthiness, reliability and integrity just like human beings.
Consumers always try to match the price of brand and its perceived value in their minds all the time. They identify which product attributes, as well as other variables and contribute the most and the least to the price. So a good marketer should focus on that the branding strategy becomes less about market share and more about emotional ‘relationship’. Consumers use brands less as bundle of benefits and more as ideas that create social meaning and that have the power to generate community acceptance.
One approach for better brand to develop long run relationship with consumers can be the celebrity endorsement which is quite a common now-a-days. Nevertheless, it’s too risky in certain circumstances for a brand to survive with prestige as when the celebrity may face a scandal. 
It is interesting to know that in relationship branding there exist more than one stage and consumers attach with the brand at different levels like some may have only sense of belongingess and other might have active engagement phase. The company should prepare its brand to have a leading edge, emphasize and fulfill its customers’ needs & wants significantly to maintain or even strengthened the relationship paradigm. 

May 26, 2010

Brands as catalyst in building consumers’ relationship!

Brands sometimes facilitate the relationship theory as people interact with each other because of different brand forums, communities & groups. In the other way Consumers develop emotions towards brands. These groups are of both types formal as well as informal. There are so many reasons to join a brand group like people feel socially strong when they identified by using a certain brand. The other reason is to fulfill need of belongingness.
Consumers can make a bad publicity even a less negative and can manage brand reputation more appropriately than any advertising campaign when they have considerable attachments, love and care for brands-these people known as brand enthusiasts. They even support a brand when due to any reason producers don’t want to produce it and the product vanishes from the marketplace.
Within brand communities individuals use brands for their own purposes as well as a medium which facilitates them to define them and express their identities within society. People in a brand community have power to influence each other. Once these communities have developed than there is no ownership exists at all in term of firm/organization. The real owner of that particular brand is now the brand community/group.
The users of these brands develop their own culture to follow keeping in mind brand’s characteristics known as brand culture. For high involvement products these communities are easy to develop and maintain as the product admirers can find each other easily and can communicate more quickly such as in online communities.
There are two ways that brands can contribute to the relationships that consumers experience in their daily life so that they will continue to be associated with and support the brand. The first type is the brand and consumer relationships, while the second is the links that consumers develop with other consumers around the brands which have been viewed as brand communities, brand tribes or brand sub-cultures.
In every case brands demand relationship of any type with the consumers but this is more favorable in those brands where consumer’s interactions with brands are on regular basis. This relationship becomes stronger when it triggers the emotional part of brain although cognitive part matters a little. Product features can be associated with cognitive part more easily.
Shortly, ‘relationship-friendliness’ depends on certain characteristics of both market segments and products features, and that relationships are more likely to exist with high involvement products characterized by inelastic demand with which consumers have regular interaction.

May 23, 2010

A link between profit and customer!

Customer satisfaction means customer loyalty which in turn is related to profitability. Customer loyalty can be defined in two distinct ways; the first defines loyalty as an attitude. Different feelings create an individual’s overall attachment to a product, service, or organization. These feelings define the individual’s (purely cognitive) degree of loyalty. The second definition of loyalty is behavioral. Examples of loyalty behavior include continuing to purchase services from the same supplier, increasing the scale and or scope of a relationship, or the act of recommendation.
When we talk about profitability we must consider satisfaction at first step towards the growth and profits. As more and more businesses is rapidly adopting e-commerce for customer convenience in term of transaction routine processes. So, what employees needs to know is the input-output information of services components and requires little domain knowledge.
Normally a customer satisfaction process for a product is based on the following steps:
1.      Need recognition - realization of the difference between desired situation and the current situation that serves as a trigger for the entire consumption process
2.      Search for information - search for data relevant for the purchasing decision, both from internal sources (one's memory) and/or external sources
3.      Pre-purchase alternative evaluation - assessment of available choices that can fulfill the realized need by evaluating benefits they may deliver and reduction of the number of options to the one (or several) preferred
4.      Purchase - acquirement of the chosen option of product or service
5.      Consumption - utilization of the procured option
6.      Post-purchase alternative re-evaluation - assessment of whether or not and to what degree the consumption of the alternative produced satisfaction
7.      Divestment - disposal of the unconsumed product or its remnants
Moreover, to earn more and more profits from same type of customer is quite a tough job. To address this problem, either behavioral or service system design changes are needed. Changing human behavior and existing lifestyles contribute to the vision of sustainable development, but it proves to be an insurmountable task over a short period of time.
Alternatively, changing the design of product-service system to reduce the behavioral drawback could be a potentially easier way towards sustainable development. Changing system design requires understanding how consumer acceptance of more sustainable solutions is formed, influenced or changed, what are the influencing factors and what is the leverage points for the best results with lowest costs and understanding consumer perceptions and behavior in this context is crucial. However, the consumer decision-making process is much more complex and involved than just a simple decision about shifting from owning a product towards paying per use of it.  
The consumer is a moody creature that swinging between rationality and emotional behavior. In order to foster the development and profitability it is necessary for organizations to go toward sustainable production and consumption systems, the development of new market offers that would be designed as environmentally and functionally sound and tested for customer acceptance prior to market launch is desirable.

May 21, 2010

A Simple definition of Brand!

Brand can be defined in a simple way as an intangible asset. To become a brand a product has to cover up the following steps:
(1) Differentiation. (2) Positioning. (3) Personality. (4) Vision. (5) Added Value.
Differentiation means the first step for branding is to attract attention of the consumers and stand out from competitors. Where there is lack of branding sophistication it is defined as “a term, name, logo, symbol, color and a combination of them”. But in reality “it is a unique association about brand in the consumer’s minds”. The term, symbol, and logos can play only for the purpose of retrieval of brands from memory.
Positioning is delivery of firm’s strategies regarding the brand and this should meet consumer’s expectations. It can’t be sustained over a long period of time as consumer’s demands vary time to time. It provides the clarity of firm’s business and its integrated operations related with it.
Personality means what consumers want to receive plus how they want to receive. It is as important that a brand must have emotional affect on consumers as it is in the cognitive map of consumer’s minds. A brand has a strong personality if it is good for consumers, employees and for society too. It has personality characteristics just like human beings so these characteristics must be more sustainable than brand functionality alone. Always keep in mind consumers feel more confident in selecting brands that reflects their self-identity.
Vision is gaining commitment from consumers, employees, and society. At this step normally a brand promises something to the stakeholders. This promise becomes a vision statement of the firm. It usually strives to consider how a brand values can contribute to enhance societal well-being.
Value added level is the most sophisticated level of branding and company welcome relationship with stakeholders through every point of contact. The other objective is to reduce the customer perceived risk while using the brand. Value addition is based on consumer’s lifestyle. Usually companies use measurement of brand equity to develop brand strategies and value addition.
The ultimate destination of branding definition is as it is a cluster of values that enables a promise to be made about a unique and welcomed experience. This captures the way that highlighting it may initially be placed on functional values, which then become augmented with emotional values, as brand management classiness increases, driving a creative promise that adds value to all stakeholders.

May 19, 2010

The role of marketing in making the markets!

The role of marketing in the construction of markets is essentially per formative. Rather than seeing the economy as embedded in the society, we have the economy embedded in economics, broadly understood as all the activities involved in marketing such as analyzing and intervening emphasize in markets. The heart of marketing game is the relationship that lies between the theory and the practice in order to make a market. However, the construction of competitive market forms requires more distributed and heterogeneous sets of practices and bodies of expertise.
The disagreement developed in this fragment of marketing as a practice is deeply embedded in specific market contexts, spatially distributed, and dependent on complex forms of coordination amongst different performers and heterogeneous bodies of expertise. Making up the consumer turned out to be the drafting of psychological expectations through bodies of expertise (e.g. psychoanalysis) to map the needs of consumers, linking those needs with specific products and their context of usage. In particular, through the application of psychological expertise, the notion of consumer choice was placed in a broader context of subjective meanings and lifestyles rather than linked to the physical attributes and functions of products.
Although this application of these bodies of expertise fell short of providing a full theory of consumer choice. However, their power and worth to manufacturers and their associates, namely advertisers, curtailed from their ability to turn into the process of choice clear in terms of the make-up of psychological factors affecting choice and the potential to control the process at different stages.
The work of qualifying of goods at the heart of market processes is not an easy stage. Markets are continuously being made and remade as a result of the processes of singularization of goods as well as the construction of spaces of similarity where goods can be compared. Marketing agents are deeply involved in these processes of qualification and requalification. Existing market structures and qualification processes serve both as a constraint and as resource for new attempts at requalification and restructuring of markets.
Consumers are trapped in this dynamic and continuous process of qualification and requalification, either sticking to existing routines and attachments or engaging with the efforts at requalification. Attached consumers accept the status quo and are driven by their routine choices supported by the existing apparatus of qualification (e.g. category definitions as embodied in shelf positioning), whereas consumers captured by the process of requalification are willing to re-evaluate their routines, the qualities of products, as well as the systems of classifications of goods. This can be a key of all brands to play in the top-of-mind consumers’ priority and transparently the profitability with performance for manufacturers.

May 17, 2010

A Pathway from customers’ retention to customers’ satisfaction!

Customer satisfaction means meeting or exceeding customer expectations. It depends on the degree to which expectations are exceeded or it can range from satisfied to delighted customers. Customer satisfaction now-a-days have a growing importance. Organizations have pay attention to retain customers in order to flourish their business. There are two reasons to giving such an importance of retaining customers’ satisfaction as: It requires a huge front-end investment and researchers have proved that it is five times more expansive to create a customer as compared to retain them.

A second cause is it as a preemptive approach against the competitive threats. If someone desires to make a market monopoly it is necessary for him/her to retain its customers’ satisfaction level once achieved on the top. However, if an organization meets its customers’ expectation of the most demanding customers it will definitely fulfils the expectations of the rest of the segments. In fact customer satisfaction and customer retention both are continuous processes and should be carefully managed by anticipating what the customers expect on the next stage.  
On retaining customers there are three dimensions which an organization should work to and these are as: firstly, Psychological comfort associated with the processes in order to develop a strong long-term relationship. Secondly, Functional value it provides to the customers through product and value-add services like reliability, quality assurance, economic value, and degree of product and service variety. Third and last one Structural linkage with the customers through a customer database which basically rely on the organization’s information system.
But unfortunately many organizations are weak enough in its customer’s database and so the relative business processes to obtain customer retention and satisfaction. From customers perspective the most important thing in the customer care process is the corporate culture of the organization and its value while on the other hand from organization’s perspective it’s actually the organization’s responsiveness and professionalism toward the customer care approach.
Other important parameters for both organization and customer are the quality obsession means doing the right for the first time. It creates the functional value for the customers and act as a predetermined performance standard for conformance for the organization to identify the failure rate. One more crucial feature is the proactive innovation which means the anticipating the customers’ needs and wants for the next level and try to fulfill the customers’ demands through best approach. Organization should ultimately focus on the market-base loom so that everyone caters according to his/her values and priorities.

May 14, 2010

Web Site-Digital communication & Motivational factors to use it!

The new age is of digital communication and web is one source of it. It is not just an advertising medium but a place to do marketing. Like other advertising medium it is not a simple one sometimes to draw a bright and differentiated line between tasks such as advertising, selling, retailing, delivery of services, and production of product, marketing research, and even the prices.
The positive side of web is it not solely focuses on marketing but a whole market making process and for multiple industrial sectors. Web is now-a-days playing as a marketplace successor with the all distinctive features of television, radio, newspapers, telephone, and e-mail. The other astonishing factor is it becoming transaction cost near to zero day by day. Customer quick feedback and strong consumers and seller relationship also is being developed rapidly.
Web is cultivating consumers’ communities which are actually being utilized by the marketers as a strong brand or product market research. Some amazing facts of using web are entertainment and relaxation. Most customers are happy because through the use of this source of digital technology finally they get rid of the slow transmission, lack of trust, and other privacy issues.
Researchers have showed previously that from other several different sources it is best even in the form of services offered, exposure of different products and addressability of product promotional campaigns. Ultimately it is also seeing as a uniquely responsive application in business. Simply when a consumer visits a web site many cycles of send and respond occurs just in a short span of time. Consumers are crazy for web site visit as it is an on home activity plus it has an interactive mode.
Moreover, to update a web site is a simple job than other sources of communication such as ad catalog. Consumer can select and explore any kind of information due to the search engines offered by the web site. It has a capacity to store the information of even since 50 years. Consumers can explore anything from everywhere without any limitation of place and time. In my belief it is a positive step towards the increasingly interactive future of marketing. It is based on pull strategy consumers can only get those information which they consider vital. But in an epitome in Pakistan it is not in an initial stage till know on the other hand in western countries it has gained the maturity. The things discussed above are all similar but the most sensitive issue is people is not coming to e-commerce utilities due to the fear factor one can say the lack of trustworthiness. That’s why Pakistanis’ are reluctant to implement the advance technology and sophisticated methods of living.

May 11, 2010

A Recipe of Healthier Branding

Building a strong brand is not easier any more in this competitive era especially when a number of ways available to proliferation of communication for brands such as internet, several cable channels, and the smartest one technology of mobile marketing. In addition to this converging of product-performance towards customization made it hard for brands to sustain for a long run. But spending money without focusing on the customers’ buying behavior is a wild goes chase.    
Now-a-days a fashion change dramatically and no one like the same pattern of things regarding the age, social class, income, family size, location, lifestyle, attitude and other priorities settings. Today’s passion is more towards segment based product and marketing. Also one can choose a segment based approach as “starting point” and with the lapse of time can enhance its segments by identifying the reactions of segments that who worth more a particular brand.  
It’s a job of marketer to keep an eye on the most promising future segment and rethink about the brand positioning. Today’s marketer should focus on cost-effective but sophisticated branding approach and it would only be possible after analyzing what customers care about and transformation of brand accordingly. Other factor in building a healthier brand is conceptual clarity of brand in the consumers’ minds which actually will form a basic definition of a particular brand. Moreover, delivering the promise the brand made through a variety of communication paths or what is also known as “touch-points”.
Why my brand is very crucial question a marketer asked for frequently and in defining brand promise a marketer should see it as a key point that its brand would provide a bundle of tangible, intangible, functional, emotional benefits along with a separate identity which work for it in a long-run as a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s the only sign of a healthier branding. The example of such a brand is coca cola, Red Can beverage with which all consumers are familiar, like its taste, and that have a separate identity or an image in consumers’ mind of “an optimistic brand”.  
That‘s not enough for a brand to be alive forever. As previously mentioned that brands have some intangible features that should be relevant to the consumers and differentiate it from those of competitors which tie consumers emotionally with it is the necessity of the time for brands. These features are known as “brands drivers”. It can be one or multiple for a single brand. For coca cola it is “Fun”, “Family”, and “Entertainment”.

May 9, 2010

A milestone of “Experiential Marketing” in Pakistan!

Experiential Marketing is actually what customers’ experience and perceive about a brand. And what customer experience is as “the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company”. Direct contact generally occurs in the course of purchase, use, and service and is usually initiated by the customer. Indirect contact most often involves unplanned encounters with representations of a company’s products, services, or brands and takes the form of word-of-mouth recommendations or criticisms, advertising, news reports, reviews, and so forth. Unfortunately, In Pakistan customers have often proceeded as if managing experiences simply meant providing entertainment or being attractively artistic. The issue is far more complex than that.
Here in Pakistan many restaurants that put photographs of movie stars on their walls think of that they are creating wonderful experience in his customer’s diary but in fact it’s not working actually in such a competitive situation. Brands are ignoring their duties of understanding customers’ needs.
Now-a-days its time of making customers’ experiences unforgettable in term of everything from product or service to the outlet location, smell and entire internal environment of the store, and even in term of voice tone of customers’ service line operators. Mean that through adopting both ways “Mechanics-related with machinery” and “Humanics-related with humans”.
Customers always have an experience -- good, bad or indifferent -- whenever they purchase a product or service from a company. The key is how effectively the company manages the experience. Organizations that simply touch design elements or focus on the customer experience in isolated pockets of their business by providing a quick hit of entertainment will be disappointed in the results.
Companies compete best when they combine functional and emotional benefits in their offerings. Emotional bonds between companies and customers are difficult for competitors to sever. To compete successfully in this field, a growing number of organizations are systematically applying the principles and tools of customer-experience management to strengthen customer loyalty. Unlike many product or service enhancements, the holistic nature of these experiential designs makes them very difficult for competitors to copy.
Customer experience does not improve until it becomes a top priority and a company’s work processes, systems, and structure change to reflect that. In Pakistan there is a need to work on some parameters to improve the customers’ experience diary and elements that play crucial role for a brand to stand out from others are as:
  1. Marketing has to capture the tastes and standards of every one of its targeted market segments, circulate that knowledge within the company, and then tailor all consumer communications accordingly.
  2. Product development should do more than specify needed features. It should also design experiences after observing how customers use products and services. Ideally, product developers will identify customer behavior that runs a company’s expectations and uncover needs that haven’t been identified on customers’ behalf.
  3. Human resources should put together a communications and training strategy that conveys the economic grounds for “Customer Experience Management” and paints a picture of how it will alter work and decision making processes. Since the front line determines the bulk of customer experience, it would be a good idea to study those employees’ individual capabilities, work processes, and attitudes. As for performance management, of course customer experience results should affect compensation. But as we have learned in recent years, incentives that are too powerful are more likely to deform behavior than direct it fruitfully.

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