About Branding

 - by JK

Okay. I know I’ve been envisioning a world where advertising will be transparent, seamless, targeted and minus all the mumbo jumbo that we’ve become accustomed to. But to reach this level of efficiency, a product or service has to first establish itself in the market. Herein comes the matter of branding.

A quick example. When Apple launched the iPhone, it did virtually no advertising. The mere mention from Steve Jobs that Apple is launching a phone was enough to create a ripple onto the sea of consumers. A buzz was created first among newsmen and techies then all the way to college nerds and the average consumers. People formed opinions about the iPhone months before it was even officially launched. And when it did hit the stores, the demand for an iPhone was overwhelming. Even that that time, advertising was minimal.

So what does this tell us? It’s not that Apple didn’t have to money to advertise to create the desired buzz, they just let consumers do it at almost no cost. But to be able to do this, there are 2 key criteria:

  1. The product has to be revolutionary and ground-breaking. Something that consumers have not seen, heard, felt or used before. It has to be a product that taps into a relatively untapped market. In the case of the iPhone, it’s Mobile Phone Entertainment.
  2. An established brand presence; especially as a leader in your market segment. In the case of Apple, it’s The Most Innovative Tech Gadget Maker. It also helped that Apple had already launched other successful products: the iMac and iPod come to mind.

Granted, the big boys with the dough have the advantage. They can leverage on their big brand presence and seamlessly transition into an advertising future that’s becoming more and more minimalist. Let’s say Google announces it plans to launch an application that scans the world’s online documents and creates an article on any subject in a click of a button, with contributing writers compensated. You pay a fee of USD3.99 for each article churned by this application which is fact-checked, referenced and annotated.

Now Google is a big, trusted online brand and people would be happy to part with their money for a product that they know would be of quality. Now if Microsoft announced it wanted to launch a similar product, well let’s just say there could be a couple of issues. Remember Windows ME anyone? Here’s while the product is revolutionary, the brand that is advocating it may have a problem convincing consumers due to past functionality problems. For the record, I would just like to say here that I have nothing against Microsoft.

So what can up and coming brands that do not have the presence do? For them, the product or service becomes critical. They must get it spot on. It has to be of real use to the consumers. It must create a new market or venture into an underserved segment. In short you have to be the first in your brand category, a pioneer. No one else must have what you intend to offer, even differing USPs won’t work; it has to be a brand new product or service.

Here are some success snippets as examples:

Apple, a now revered tech company, created the iPod, a portable, intuitive digital music player.

Nescafe, the world’s largest selling coffee, was the first instant coffee.

Old Town Coffee, now a successful franchise, was the first upmarket “Kopitiam”

Perodua, now the No.1 local car brand, was the first to introduce compact cars in Malaysia

Digi, a leader in the pre-paid business, was the first to introduce prepaid calling.

A word of warning though, just being first isn’t enough. You must also be the first in the minds of the consumers. And you must work to keep the brand presence at Top of Mind levels consistently. This is why Proton is not the No.1 local car manufacturer anymore. It was the first, but never really did anything after that.