Thursday, 10 January 2013

Marketing Jargon Buster

Notorious for their in-terms, marketing execs need a good de-jargoning. Let me do the honours.

Add your own bits of jargon-busting down below in the comments section - the more confusing terms we can all demystify together, the better life in business will be.

The Daily Babble -

Concept: idea

Ideation: coming up with ideas

Brain dump: the act of throwing down all thoughts and ideas very quickly with no rationalisation or quantification - usually takes place within a brainstorm

Leverage: a hybrid of influence and effectiveness, as in: "The brand has great leverage with teenagers"

Activation: simply put, bringing to life a marketing programme - the plan is 'activated' once it's been created

Execution: how well a campaign was carried out, as in: "Have you seen their new ad? Interesting concept, abysmal execution"

Pesterpower: the harnessing of children's ability to annoy their parents into making a purchase or carry out a desired action

Positioning: Perhaps best explained with examples: BMW is "the ultimate driving machine"; whereas Volvo is known as the car for people who are safety-minded. These are two very different positioning.

SEO / Search Engine Optimization  : So-called "on-site" search engine optimization is the process of writing and coding a Web site so that it will appear – especially, place well – in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific terms, or "keywords phrases." SEO is also used to refer to "off-page optimization," which is the process of building incoming links to a Web site, however that is really part of Internet marketing and social media marketing rather than SEO.

Below the line (BTL): advertising that encourages the consumer to respond somehow (getting into a dialogue with them) - getting them to click a link or post something back or make a call, for example - such as much direct mail, Internet ads that want consumers to click on them

Above the line (ATL): advertising that delivers brand messages to the consumer that doesn't aim to start a dialogue with the consumer and is not interactive - such as billboards, TV, radio and a lot of print ads

Through the line (TTL): a mix of above the line and below the line advertising

Integrated: a mixture of all or many different types of advertising for one campaign

Experiential: a type of marketing that creates an experience (such as an event, ) that the customer takes part in, with the purpose of creating a stronger emotional connection with a brand

Generation X: the teenagers and people connected to music, pop and social movements between the mid 80s and mid 90s, typically born between the mid 60s and mid 70s

Generation Y: the generation dependent on digital technology, typically born in the early 80s onwards and coming of age between the mid 90s to mid 00s

Generation Z: today's kids, born from around 1995 onwards

MTV Generation: somewhere between Generation X and Generation Y

Generation O: recently coined term, short for generation Obama

SWOT Analysis:   A clever acronym that conveys part of the analysis of a company's or product's competitive situation, its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Beyond Figures: Brand Equity for Beginners

Touching upon a related topic now - Brand Equity (very closely related to Brand Value.)

To quickly Wikipedia it, Brand Equity is a phrase used in the marketing industry which describes the value of having a well-known brand name based on the idea that owner of a well-known brand name can generate more money from products with that brand name than from products with a lesser known name. This is because the consumers believe that a product with a better known name is better than the product with the lesser known name.

Makes sense. But how would you 'measure' Brand Equity?

Without trying to sound overwhelming, BE is measured by the popular Aaker Model. Now David Aaker says that BE is a psychological measurement of the retention strength in a person's mind. In marketing, this would be the strength of retention of 'Brand Presence' without aggravation. Hence, recognition plays a significant role in garnering every foothold of awareness.

Let's quickly explore each of these Brand Assets in very simple terms -


Plainly speaking, recognition of a friend's face from another's, or a product from its closest rival is the discerning factor of differences between each. Brand recognition answers why one brand differs from another, which could be positive or negative.

However, types of awareness in Marketing also differ from each other depending on the point of view of the customer or audience.

Brand Recall:

This refers to a particular product class. This is often seen in basic fashion and footwear wherein a particular model stands out. For example, premium basketball shoes equates to the Nike Air Jordan.

Brand Name Dominance:

This occurs when the audience can only recall the name of a single brand. For example, Xerox for photocopiers, Kodak for films, and Coke for soft-drinks.

To create awareness is no easy thing to do or achieve. For most, it takes decades such as those mentioned above; and for some, just a short amount of time is needed with the help of advertising., Flipkart, Kingfisher have made it big among people with an online shopping OCD, a reading interest, and of course a large beer belly. The companies behind them only took 3 to 5 years to be on the leader board and take market share. It also took them millions, may be even billions, of Rupees of spending on advertising costs alone.


Perceived Quality has been shown to directly affect Financial Performance.

It is the single most important contribution to Return On Investment (ROI) which enhances price of the product and the company's stock price.

We often see this among high-end luxury goods like a Sabyasachi, Hidesign, Ritu Kumar etc. Moreover, it is a major driver of customer satisfaction.

Perceived Quality as a Strategic Thrust.

This forms the foundation by which companies base how their own company brand should be perceived as, and reinforced by the right mix of the 4P’s in Marketing (price, product, promotion, and place.)

For example Saravana Bhavan (or take an Adigas) -brands catering to fast, efficient and delicious meals, is priced towards the base of the marketing pyramid. With a  greater majority of the population belonging to the middle to lower classes in India, good food at modest prices makes perfect sense.

Perceived Quality is linked to and often drives other aspects of how a Brand is perceived.

Given the strategic thrust mentioned above, true understanding of a customer's point of view of 'world class service', should be of utmost importance. However, Perceived Quality is not equal to the Actual Quality. The prominence of a particular product in Advertising overshadows the Actual Quality of a product.

One of the top Cellular Telecommunication companies (you know who!) spends billions of Rupees and promises to provide the fastest mobile Internet connection, widest coverage etc. 

But in reality, customers find difficulty in connecting to the Internet and experience slow speeds. Customer service is, likewise, abysmal. In this scenario, it is very important to protect the overall brand than the product.


There is a saying in Marketing which holds true, “It is less costly to retain customers than to attract new ones”. Brand Loyalty encourages and justifies loyalty building programs. Loyal customers will always provide value to a commodity or service through referrals and endorsements with multiple purchases. Empower your current customer to be sellers themselves, multiplying your sales base/manpower immediately. No form of advertising can equal true testimonies of real customers.


Brand Identity can simply mean the colours, shape and look of a company's or product's logo – the yellow arches of McDonald’s or the swoosh of Nike.

However, one should look beyond the obvious and classify Brand Identity as an establishment of relationships between the Brand and Customer by generating a value proposition involving functional, emotional and self expression.


Brand Association reflects the same or equal status of two or more brands in competition with one another or otherwise. In events-marketing, companies often approach similar non-competing brands for sponsorship purposes. Brand Managers from FMCG companies often ask, “Who else is sponsoring this event?” – because brand associations are critical in building a strong brand.
For instance, Nike strategically aligned with another premium brand that is known to think differently. Nike hooked up with Apple for its Nike + Ipod campaign where Nike shoes are fitted with an Apple transmitter that can record the pace, distance and location of its customers. 

More recently, we saw Sunsilk collaborating with the top hair experts from around the world - from New York to Japan. As if stating that they are also a premium brand that’s supported by experts who charge $1,000 per haircut!
Brand Associations can easily position or elevate a brand simply with partnerships and alliances with other brands in creating a new service, product or advocacy for that matter.

Given a brief understanding of the key components of Brand Equity and how it goes beyond the figures, so as to speak, companies can easily identify their position and strategy in creating their own marketing campaigns and promotions effectively.

Ultimately, it is our Brand that forms the very foundation of our business!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Social Media and its influence on Branding

In October 2010, the famous clothing company Gap quietly introduced a refreshed version of their classic logo that was in existence for over 20 years. Following an outpouring of negative customer feedback (their Facebook pages had over 250 comments), the company was forced to reverse its decision and transform the initiative into a crowd-sourcing project.

This is just an example of the power of social media, and how much this new communication tool can influence the brand management of any company, no matter how big and established.

A quick Google search for the two magic words – social media – returns 517, 000,000 results. In comparison, the words” brand management” return ten times less results.

So the natural question is, what impact does social media have on brand management? Does it make the Brand Manager’s job simpler? Or does it add to an already full plate?

From “One To Many” Monologue to “One To One“ Dialogue.

Social media allows for a more profound engagement at a very personal level with the target audience. It also makes it easier and more cost effective to communicate the brand message versus traditional communication tools such as TV and print.

But I guess the biggest benefit is the two-way dialogue and the opportunity to get instant feedback on your brand decisions. Since social media is highly traceable, the 2-way feedback allows Brand Managers to quickly make the necessary corrections to the brand message.

The new communication tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter allow for creating brand visibility and awareness much faster and cost-effectively than before. While not a complete replacement for traditional media such as TV and print, social media channels help spread the word quickly (which can be positive but also a negative). The dialogue is really “open”, which is great for obtaining valuable insights on where your brand stands in the mind of your audience.

From the view of market research, we could say that this has been greatly enhanced by the explosion of social media sites, which force companies (including competitors) to be more transparent. As an example, social media helps greatly in the brand differentiation strategy and positioning process by identifying the perceptions associated with competitive brands. Since the dialogue is very personal, monitoring these online trends can provide a better and more accurate picture than even complex market research studies.

The Need For Brand Transparency, Involvement and Engagement via Social media

The new social media wave, although greatly benefiting Brand Management, also poses some risks. Brands have to become transparent and can no longer hide behind the corporate wall. Social media encourages honesty. Customers are making purchase decision based on independent reviews and the advice of opinion leaders. As a result, the Brand Manager has to make sure every message that gets out is in line with the brand promise.

When it comes to company reputation, the new tools can easily be used to build it. There are companies today that specialize in online reputation management. Because in this fast-paced environment, every Marketing initiative is easily judged and scrutinised. The Gap incident is a perfect example.

The only way brands can engage with the audience is by generating relevant and meaningful content. In an environment where consumers are less responsive to advertising and sales pitches, Brand Managers have to gain the trust of opinion leaders and leverage the power of word of mouth marketing. The effectiveness of the 30-second commercial has been replaced by referrals and information sharing as a more personal way to build (or lose) credibility.

Brands risk becoming irrelevant without fresh content and strong customer engagement. In the not so distant past, the brand message was created “from inside-out,” through positioning and one-way communication. Currently, the targeted audience plays a huge role in shaping the brand identity, values, and deliverable.

The New “Must Have” Job Skill

Love it or hate it, there is no denying that “social media skills” has been added to the list of Brand Manager’s job requirements.

One of the biggest challenge marketers have is to keep up with all the tools and changes that seem to be appearing overnight. That’s because Social Media is added on top of an already complex job, which includes managing the 4 Ps of marketing as well as the additional communication channels.

Brand Management has irreversibly been impacted by the rise of social media as a new communication tool. In the never-ending battle for customer loyalty, managing a brand requires adaptation, transparency, and engagement.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Branding 101

Let's get to the basics of branding first. What exactly is a brand?
From what I understand, I would define it as a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.

But why brand an object, product or a person in the first place? It could be for any of the four reasons below:
  • Branding helps identify products that might benefit the consumer 
  • It Tells the buyer something about the product quality 
  • Lets the seller build a story around the quality 
  • Enables the seller legal protection for a unique feature of the brand. 
But is a brand really different from a product? There's actually a HUGE difference between the two. A brand is more, much more than the mere product it stands for. A brand can be called as the amalgam of the physical product and the notional images that go with the brand.

When we recall a brand, not only do we recall the physicality of the product but also the images it conjures.

To think of an example, take Sundrop Oil. The image that immediately pops up in my mind can be easily put together as below:

Sundrop = Sunflower Oil + (Healthy Family + Happy Children +Loving mother + Tasty Food +Modern Home +...) 

The 'brand' has engrained in our minds this image so much so, that subconsciously I would always pick up Sundrop oil for the well being of my family the next time I go to a supermarket!

Next, let's take an example of a more 'youthful' brand  Pulsar motorbike. Can we try putting up an equation as above?

Pulsar  = Motorbike + ( Style + Extra Power + Macho Image + Great Looks + Reliable Company)  Certainly appeals to the youngsters in their 20's and 30's! 

Simply put, a brand is nothing but : Brand = Product + ( Image)  as seen above.

There are of course other subtle differences. A product is something that is made in a factory, but a brand is something that is BOUGHT by a customer. The key point to note here is the brand is something tailor made for the customers need. Or in the case of clever marketing  its image is so well developed that a buyer feels its exactly what he needs and wants to buy!

Another difference is that a product can be copied by a competitor, but a brand will always remain unique.

A brand is therefore a product, but one that adds other dimensions that differentiate it in some way from other products designed to satisfy the same need. These differences may be rational and tangible related to the product performance of the brand. Or they may be more symbolic, emotional and intangible  i.e related to what the brand represents.

The best way to convey this idea is that 

a product can be quickly outdated; a successful brand is timeless. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Black & White to Gray.

Hello, World! 

I am Aparna Ramesh, and today is an important day in my life as I embark on a new world of possibilities called 'Brand Biosphere'.

am Social Media Strategist and a Branding & Digital Marketing enthusiast by choice and a Computer Science engineer by qualification. 

If you are keen to learn about Social Media Strategy, Branding & Digital Marketing and more so with relevance to the Indian market, feel free to follow my blog posts. At the same time, I request you to post your valuable comments - be it appreciation or criticism. 

Join me in the journey of my learning and sharing, a journey into the Brand Biosphere.

So, Let's get started!

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. "
                                                                      - Lau Tzu, Chinese Philosopher.