BY ASHRAF BIN TAJ
Today’s brands are becoming tech-savvy and digital, but what about the brands of tomorrow? Technology is a double edge sword giving more power to the brands; on the contrary it also fuels the “Future of Brands is No Brand” argument. But brands are here to stay, yet not all brands! Clear differentiation and purpose driven marketing is the key to brands’ survival in the impending non-brand apocalypse.
Due to major technological advancement, there have been drastic changes in consumer perception, consumer behavior, and consumers’ way of interaction with brands to avail products and services. This has resulted in complex and dynamic purchase behavior from the consumer’s end.
How does marketing help a brand to be in the preference list of today’s complex consumers and drive sustainable business growth in the long run? The simple answer would be “change”. To transform today’s business, you need to change the way you market your products and services. The consumer preferences have changed, the media mode has changed, the art of consumer engagement has changed, all the other relevant variables have changed and are still changing. Brands need to cope up with the change and transform their marketing approach to stay relevant and stay effective.
To address the external changes and create a sustainable ecosystem, brands must embrace the only constant element of marketing “Human Values” – Purpose, Passion, Care, Empathy, Reasoning, Harmony, Humor, Collaboration, Gratefulness, Adaptation, Change etc.; and one of the most basic values, Survival. These are values human beings possess and can easily relate when a brand reflects these in their marketing activities. Marketing must be human value driven, and it will ensure the survival of brands in the long run, which is true sustainability – longer lasting marketing impact for the brand and on the society.
In today’s VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), 4Ps of marketing is being replaced by SAVE (Product as Solution, Place as Access, Price as Value, and Promotion as Engagement) [As introduced by Dr. Hooi Den Huan, Associate Professor, College of Business (Nanyang Business School)]. Another way to put it is, digital intervention is compiling the 4Ps into 3ps: People – A focus on communities rather than technology; Portable – Connecting with people when it matters most, Practical – Adding value at every possible opportunity (Social Brands & The Future of Marketing, 2013).
We often confuse social responsibility of a brand with CSR. While CSR is just an expression of marketing, Social Responsibility is the overall human value based marketing itself. A socially responsible brand is passionate and cares about the society, people and the environment, responsible for its action and sensitive about the impact of its actions, and acts as a responsible social citizen. All these are integrated into its core brand philosophy and are reflected to the customers through marketing.
Being a responsible brand is not only beneficial for macro-economic aspects but also for the brand itself. Purpose driven marketing is no complimentary to financial gain, but it is an effective tool to create financial value for any organization. According to Salesforce State of Marketing, 4th edition (a research report by surveying 3,500 marketing leaders worldwide), the purpose brings the customers under the same community. Customers who join the community purchase 2x more & stay 4x longer with the brand, working as an advocate for the brand and driving serious revenue impacts. And more interestingly, purpose driven brands outperform their direct competition by 2x.
Brand loyalty is very hard to achieve today as customers are exposed to multiple options at the same time. The way brands measure loyalty has also changed – repeat purchase is a purchase behavior but not a parameter of brand loyalty anymore. A customer might buy a product not only because he/ she is loyal to the brand, this might be price benefit, unique product feature, or lack of equal quality of competitive product. But what if we remove these variables from the equation as most of the brands today are claiming they are the best? Then comes the role of creating meaningful differentiation. Human value based marketing help create loyal customers who associates themselves with brand for the differentiation.
As per marketing guru and co-author of Marketing 3.0 & 4.0, Harmawan Kartajaya a, brand should measure customer loyalty by willingness to advocate for the brand. Brand advocacy is the new form of brand loyalty. Loyalty can be measured through PAR & BAR matrix: The Purchase Action Ratio (PAR) – measures how many customers are aware of your product or service and are purchasing your product/ services (acting); and The Brand Advocacy Ratio (BAR) – measures how many customers are aware of your product or service are advocating about your offering While PAR is brands conversion power transforming an informed customer into an active customer, BAR is about creating loyal customers who advocates for your brand. Integrating human values helps increase both PAR and BAR for any brand.
Let’s take an example of our RMG industry. We most often tend to think that our RMG industries key USP is cheap labor, but the background story is something different altogether. The sector has opened its doors to female labors (who comprises 85% of the RMG workforce) who are inherently good at sewing due to our cultural heritage. Moreover, RMG factories are being responsible to the people, the society and the environment. 7 out of world’s top 10 green factories, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification by The US Green Building Council (USGBC), are in Bangladesh. RMG sector has been able to rise to and sustain a leading position because of being responsive and responsible.
Brands are now more responsible, and taking up sustainability as their core agenda – transforming their marketing approach through the purpose of sustainability in the long run. The BrandZ Top 10 Most Valuable Global Brand 2019 report by WPP & Kantar, also emphasizes on the value of Sustainable brands. Brands are improving and reinforcing consumer perceptions that they are ‘responsible’ through social, environmental and corporate initiatives. This is not a wake-up call from one fine morning, but consumer behavior which is forcing brands to be responsible. The new generation consumers specially the Millennials and Centennials prefer brands which have a PURPOSE and are RESPONSIBLE.
Thus brands must be humanly responsible in their marketing approach to confirm that they have a purpose and build their marketing campaigns around the purpose, so that customers can easily relate with the brand’s role in their life. In addition to that, the reflection of human values will create meaningful differentiation among the competition. One thing marketers should always remember – whatever the changes may be due to technology and other disruptions, marketing will always be “of the people, by the people and for the people”.
*THE WRITER is Managing Director of International Distribution Company Bangladesh (Pvt) Limited and also the President of Marketing