In Jeff Bezos’ words, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”.
Creating a brand for your company is really important as it will help you to get better recognition in the eyes of the customers as compared to non-branded products and it holds true for any kind of product whether they are the food joints such as McDonald’s or KFC, perfumes like Calvin Klein or Skinn by Titan, clothing brands like Forever New or Tommy Hilfiger or mineral water like Bisleri or Kinley, we just for a moment stop thinking about the price when it comes to consumption of these kinds of products.
This is what branding does for a company, making people realize the superiority of your product as compared to the competitors. Not only this, efficient branding will lead to value creation for the company which leads to customer loyalty and further, it becomes easier for the company to attract new customers.
The Branding Process
Now, if we talk about the branding process, it is not a task for the faint-hearted. The brand manager has to be very cautious and precise when it comes to creating an appropriate brand for the product.
The first step in the branding process is research. In the research phase, the brand manager conducts a lot of field research, gathering relevant information about the business, target audience and/or competitors and try to align all of the information with the company’s vision. After the thorough research, the next step is to develop a branding strategy which includes putting all the research in action so that the brand should cover all the aspects of the business, fulfilling the customer needs and making a brand combative enough to brawl with the competitors’ products.
What is a brand without its very own name and logo?
So, the next step in the branding process is to develop a brand design. Brand design in simple words means the name, logo and/or combination of symbols which is given to your brand so that to differentiate it amongst the plethora of products that are already existing in the market.
The brand design must be unique and special in its own way so that it attracts the customers the very first time they come in contact with the product and it got stuck in their minds forever.
The most crucial step in the process is the implementation of the designed brand. In this stage, your brand is finally rolling-out in front of the public so it is really crucial to select the right channel of communication to advertise your brand so that it comes in the eyes of the target audience. This phase is really tricky as customers can either adapt your product instantly or they will take several months to start building their trust as it all depends on the circumstances in which the product is being launched. The brand managers go through these four steps to establish a successful brand.
Branding during COVID-19
The real question now arises, is this process really going to be effective during this COVID- 19 pandemic?
The whole nation went into lockdown at the end of March and it’s almost the end of 2020 now, still, the situation doesn’t seem to get better anytime soon. Even though the country is witnessing some phases of unlocking, the companies are cautioned about the steps they are taking when it comes to making certain decisions about their products such as pricing during the pandemic, communication with the consumers, advertisement, after-sales services, so on and so forth.
Maintaining the relationship with existing customers is getting difficult and hence some of the organizations are surely facing a slowdown in their business.
If we talk about branding, during COVID-19, branding has become more creative and has tried to maintain the already prevailing trust among the existing customers if not attracting the new ones.
Given the fact that the whole of the nation is experiencing social distancing, the brand manager has to develop a branding strategy in such a way that it won’t hinder the social distancing norms of any of the party as in normal situations, the manager would have had some face to face interactions with the customers, getting to know the needs and wants of the market through the conversation but all this is obviously not feasible in this current scenario. So, in such a situation, the brand manager’s saviour is being played by social media.
Many companies used social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter as the centre of attraction for interacting with their customers so that they won’t lose contact with them. Some of the brands put their creative best foot forward during COVID-19 when it came to engaging their customers and guiding them about the dos and don’ts during this pandemic.
For instance, Nike came up with a campaign “Play for the World” asking people not to go outside rather, stay fit by playing inside.
Another such brand is Facebook which launched a lot of advertisements showing how the general public helped the street vendors to make some money during lockdown festivals under “More Together” campaign.
The companies used a very smart way to attract the customers by not really advertising their product but by spreading awareness in such a way that when people will see the advertisement, they automatically got inclined towards the brand. Apart from spreading awareness, companies used social media to educate the customers about the changes in the operations, how the things are going to be done from now on and the mode through which the services are going to be provided to them.
If we talk about the food giant, McDonald’s, they advertised very effectively by showing the customers all the preventive measures they are taking while preparing the food. It really helped them to maintain trust among its customers and didn’t face much of the hardships when the food joints reopened as people started coming and consuming the food items without any tension.
Another thing that the brand manager has to ensure is that communication should be empathetic. The customers are already frustrated by being in their homes for months and if the brands will start getting anxious, it is only going to irritate the customers. So, every action that the company is planning to take, should be to help the customers during these tough times. The brand must show that it truly cares about its customers and that how much they value them.
The COVID – 19 pandemic had put many things on halt but the things that didn’t stop for a moment includes the company’s constant efforts to provides its customers with all the necessities and comforts that they require.
Many of the superstores such as Big Bazaar, More, Easy Day who didn’t have the home delivery service before, started it during the lockdown so that the customers don’t have to go outside their homes to get the basic items.
The companies have been able to efficiently create an impact for themselves during this COVID-19 pandemic era by going beyond limits in terms of digitization and the high chances are that it’s going to increase manifold once this coronavirus situation will be over. This has given rise to many technological advancements in India and the companies are focusing more and more on using social media and digitization in their favour.
But the companies have to be very careful while using such platforms as one wrong step can prove to be detrimental for the company as it takes years to build trust but a minute to lose it. The company should not in any case provide customers with fake information of any kind and should not sound opportunistic. Their primary purpose must be to educate their customers and hence make them aware. The company should focus on creating brand value but not on the cost of harming their reputation.
About the author:
Anamika Malik is an MBA student from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon. She is the second prize winner of Optimization – an article writing competition organised jointly by Mercur- I, Marketing club of IIM Indore and Marketing Lake.