Friday, April 2, 1993 was supposed to be the day that brands died. That was the day when Marlboro cut its price to compete with generic brands that were 50% cheaper. The marketing world reacted with shock and promptly started funeral preparations for brands.
But brands haven’t died. They have just changed character. This article proposes one way in which brands have changed.
The starting point of the argument lies in Internet brands. Arguably the strongest brands in the world today are web brands like Google, Facebook, Second Life etc. Equally strong, perhaps, are brands like BlackBerry and iPod which have a strong web component to back up their physical products. The question arises, what is common between these brands and what can older brands learn from them?
All these brands have a social component to them. They help people connect with each other. They also create communities of users who can bond with each other. Very much like smokers of old, who could bond with each other while smoking, sharing a light etc.
Is this only a phenomenon of on-line brands or can it be taken into the real world too? I think that several brands have shown that the idea of creating social value around brands can be useful in the real world too.
The idea obviously works for Starbuck, Café Coffee Day and the like. But it goes much beyond.
My favourite example in India is the Jaggo Re campaign for Tata Tea. It is creating a community of young people who are concerned about the future of their country and want to influence its course. There is a strong product connect and it is based on a strong insight of how Indian youth thinks. The campaign for Idea is on a similar line.
We at Euro RSCG have experimented with portraying the new “chalta-nahi-hai” attitude of youth in our campaign for Dainik Bhaskar – Zidd karo. Before that we created the “India ka dil, India ka AC” campaign for Voltas.
So what do the success of the above commercials mean? We are used to thinking of the rational value of a brand and the emotional value of a brand. Now we have to think also of the social value of the brand.
This social value helps define the users and fans of the brand into a community. Once the community has been defined the brand needs to provide its “members” (not just consumers) with a platform through which they can communicate with each other and with the brand. This is how the strong brands of the future will be built.
In conclusion, I don’t think that brands are dead. They have just acquired an additional layer – the social layer. Brand handlers now need to be conscious of this new rule in the game.
The above article has been written for the Mint, but they will probably not publish it as it is.