Emotional input is essential to create customer relationship
Understand your customers, give them what they want, and do it in a way that brings about lasting friendship - a business formula espoused by branding expert Paul Temporal, who says that a vital ingredient in achieving brand success is the creation of an emotional brand strategy.
Speaking at a seminar in Bangkok, the founder and principal consultant of Kuala Lumpur-based Temporal Brand Consulting, and author of many books, said every brand manager had to work harder to build lasting relationships with customers.
"Brand is a relationship, and when you are building brand, you are building relationships. This is a two-way street, as it is in individual life; relationships only come with care and understanding," he said.
He gave as an example Pampers, the US$8-billion (Bt259.03 billion) brand introduced in 1961 by Procter and Gamble, and which has since become a generic name for diapers. He said he asked P&G executives how they managed to understand mothers, and the key was not only developing the right product, but also understanding factors that impacted on their customers.
"Even big brands are not complacent; they go deeper and deeper to learn how individuals differ in terms of personality and attitude to life," he said.
Samsung, on the other hand, in its efforts to become a global brand, spends billions of dollars every year on advertising and promotion, including $800 million for the North American region alone. But the head of its North American businesses says Samsung is still a second-tier brand because it is not emotionally connected to consumers, Temporal told reporters on sidelines of the seminar.
"Not just buying and selling, so when someone else comes along with cheaper and better products, customers will go. You must get loyalty and trust from customers. Like Apple, whose customers say 'I just want to be with this brand'," he said. "So, understand your customers, give them what they want, and be their friend."
Temporal said present-day brand managers had to cope with a broader range of variables and pressures from the market place and from consumers who were more in control and were the brand owners and builders. Several elements are responsible for the difficulties now faced by brand managers. They include shifting market trends and greater disruption; shifting lifestyle trends; shifting media trends; and shifting sources of consumer insights.
All of these create the need for speed, agility, innovation and flexibility in brand management. In this regard, Temporal cited Zara, which has thrived on an "instant fashion" business model. Having shortened its design-to-shelf cycle to five weeks from an industry standard of six months, Zara has changed the whole fashion dimension for customers, who are visiting Zara stores more often because of their fresher lines.
Temporal said ethical branding was also on a rise as consumers were demanding that companies become more accountable and ethical, and contribute to sustainable development. Evidence of this can be seen in the high growth of Islamic banks and other ethical financial models, such as cooperative banks in the United Kingdom.
He gave Pernod Ricard as an example, for having successfully reinvented its Chivas Regal whisky brand with a campaign entitled "Live with Chivalry", emphasising values like brotherhood, honour, bravery and courage to do the right thing. While being emotionally attached, Pernod Ricard has also used the campaign's messages in its corporate social-responsibility programme.
Temporal also mentioned the case of Thung Kula rice, which has been successful in "getting out of a commodity trap" by building an emotional connection with consumers. The case is included in the first chapter of his latest book "Advanced Brand Management: Managing Brands in a Changing World (Second edition)."
Although more companies are moving from product brands to corporate brands because of the inherent advantages, they should be careful not to confuse consumers, Temporal said, citing the case of Intel, which he claims has too many platforms, brands, and product names.
"We don't know the difference between 'core duo' and 'core 2 duo,'" he said.
Temporal also referred to "networked society" as a "game changer", since Facebook alone has more than 400 million members (and counting) - sufficient to be regarded as the world's third-largest "nation".
He said the philosophy of social networks was "I need we to be me."
"People always want to be part of a society in order to have an 'identity'," he said. "If you're on your own, you don't have an identity. That explains the growth of social-network [websites]," he said.
Temporal warned that if managed wrongly, brands these days paid heavily for mistakes. He said Toyota's quality problem that led to 8.1 million vehicles being recalled around the world could potentially wipe out one-third of the brand's value.
"At all costs, never let your quality slip," he said.