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BrandZ’s Doreen Wang on what will propel Indian brands during tough times

Doreen Wang, Global Head of BrandZ, Kantar, unveiled the BrandZ Top 75 Most Valuable Indian Brands 2019 report last evening along with a team from WPP and Kantar. Wang has been leading BrandZ globally for 5 years.  

She is a seasoned executive with extensive experience in providing outstanding market research and strategic consulting services for senior executives in Fortune 500 Companies in both China and the US. She currently leads the global BrandZ engagement across 53 countries, and the launch of BrandZ Global Top 100 Most Valuable Brands, and the annual rankings for China, US, UK, Brazil, India, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, France, Australia, Chile, Peru, Canada and Indonesia. 

Also read:
HDFC Bank is most valuable Indian brand for 6th year in a row: BrandZ

Adgully caught up with Doreen Wang at the event to get her perspective about Indian brands, the key growth drivers, importance of maintaining the local connect and more. 

What are your key takeaways from the BrandZ report for India?
Our key finding is that trust and stability are still going to be the key drivers for Indian brands in the future. Overall, the Indian brands, especially the new commerce, have been perceived to be quite disruptive and innovative. However, the key question is how to make the growth more sustainable. We have found that brands like Jio, Swiggy and Zomato are all trying to explore ways to grow not just themselves, but their whole eco-system and provide products and services in multiple product categories and not just home deliveries. For instance, Amazon is providing services in many categories. Amazon is the most valuable global brand today, but five years ago Apple was 6 times bigger than Amazon. In these five years, Amazon grew 6 times faster than Apple in their eco-system. We see that a lot of Indian brands have this potential of expanding the eco-system, just like Amazon has done in the past. 

How do you view Ola’s climb to feature among the top brands now?
Ola is driving a seamless delivery experience in the Indian market today. We feel Ola really understands the needs of the people not only in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but the Tier 2 and 3 markets as well. They know how to service those needs with a very strong local execution team – the local execution and innovation of Ola has been tremendous. That becomes the key driver for success of a brand like Ola. This makes the brand take a lot of share from Uber and not give any space to international competitive brands to enter the market. 

How have you seen brand perceptions changing over years?
Globally, we first need to see the Generation Z, who are now growing up and becoming the decision makers in a lot of families. 89 per cent of Gen Z believes that they can recommend a lot of products to their families and friends. Older generations are learning a lot from them about which brands are in and which brands are out. They are playing a critical role in purchase decisions and their perceptions and choices of brands are influencing other generations and this becomes a very important aspect of the market. 

Another point is that a brand needs to be perceived as innovative and digital. Innovation is really important to Gen Z. If the brand is not innovative, it loses this segment. We also need to look at the lower tier markets and not just city dwellers as the Tier 2 and 3 markets are extremely important. In a country like China, it goes all the way to Tier 6. These lower tiers are important as they are the future growth drivers. Those consumers are going to create so many more new purchase opportunities. Brands that take into consideration this mass market and lower tier segments are going to grow way faster. 

What factors go into making strong brands in today’s market?
First and foremost, a brand needs to be purposeful. It’s not just about money, they need to have a bigger purpose beyond making money. This is because Generation Y and Z and millennials pay attention to it. 61 per cent of the people say that they prefer a brand that has a strong purpose. This is also motivating for the employees as even they care about that. Investors, too, care about purpose more as they support companies that have reduced taxes, which reduces the operational cost. This is the first lesson we have learnt in India and globally. 

Second point is that trust and innovation are the foundation of everything that you do and are still the key drivers for brands. Without trust there is no emotional attachment that a consumer can have with the brand. Lots of brands are running into crisis because of lack of trust. 

For the Top 75 brands in India, we have said that the No. 1 driver for growth is trust. Trust and sustainability will be the key drivers for the consumer’s purchase behaviour because the consumers have too many choices. While trust is the foundation, the perceived innovation is equally important. Today, there are so many choices in front of Gen Z and they have to take a decision in a very short time. 

Has market turbulence become the new norm for brands?
No brand is immune to the global forces. We have already seen the categories of auto and finance really been impacted by this. Other categories will also be soon impacted. The local brands who are digital, such as a delivery service, will definitely grow because they are born and rooted here and have many consumers, there is a lot of blue ocean within the market, they do not have to do too much global expansion, at least in the short term. This is a tremendous growth opportunity for them. 

How can brands and businesses insulate themselves in a VUCA world?
VUCA is a cold war term that we have brought back, because trading issues are making a lot of countries to start thinking about silos being isolated. In the VUCA era, we believe that building global brands with very local strength, are deeply rooted locally is very important. You need to have a purpose and deliver it in an authentic way. They really need to build their eco-system and keep expanding it. 

How has your experience been leading BrandZ globally?
I have been leading BrandZ globally for 5 years. I find myself living on the airplane most of the time. We have 17 countries every year to launch the country rankings. I probably travel to 22 countries every year and it is a very exciting experience. Every time I come to India, I find myself having a completely new experience each time. The landscape changes every year.

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