Guest Column: Weaving branding into the ad equation: Siddhartha Singh

Siddhartha Singh, CEO, Salt Brand Solutions, writes about the importance of branding in advertising, as well as the different kinds of brands catering to the four basic human needs.

This conversation needs to be broken up into smaller pieces, as it is way too vast a topic to write on.

Let’s begin with what a brand is – to me it’s a bias, it’s the reason you will walk that extra mile to get a bottle of your favourite drink (if you’re below 18 and reading this – read that as a soft drink). For a brand is something that defines you – look at it this way – there are people who drink Old Monk and then there are people who drink everything else – get the drift? And yes, that’s my favourite. 

Branding is more than just a colour, logo, symbol, etc., today it’s about the experience and what you feel when you use or associate with the brand. Taglines that paid lip service earlier are today being lived by the brands. Take Nike, for example – it has taken performance as a platform and then taken it to another level – download the ‘Nike + Run Club’ App to see what I am saying. 

Just to stay on this for a bit longer – today it’s important for brands to do rather than just say – take a look at any of the Most Valuable Brands list and you shall see Coca Cola slipping down year on year, whereas brands like Samsung and Apple sit right on top – they are the ones who are constantly evolving and changing to real consumer needs, at times faster than the consumer thinks – whereby creating/ inventing needs and, therefore, creating value! 

When it comes to India and brands, the one thing that we lack today are brands that are ‘cool’ and something that the Americans do very well. Eight out of 10 top brands in the world are American. Here’s a recipe for some of you brand owners out there to move into the cool set – Ego/ Exclusive/ Energy are the three E’s that you need to tick. To demonstrate this – take two denim brands, Levis and any Indian brand, say Killer Jeans, and you’ll see which one is hipper than the other and why people are wiling to pay that premium for something that is cool. 

Just to throw in a bit of theory (how brands connect with their consumers) that I picked up over the years, there are different types of brands – four really – Power/ Explorer/ Icon and Identity Brands. Before I get into each segment, do note that there are four basic human needs: 

Doing – What is the best way?

Being – Who am I?

Growing – I want to be better

Belonging – I want to belong to a larger world…

And, therefore, the kind of brands: 

Power Brands:

Create relationships with people that are founded on performance.

  • “That’s what I need.”
  • “They do it best.”

The connection with performance is built around benefits.

Emotions relate to confidence, trust, security and relief.

Image revolves around the doing.

Some examples of brands here are – Tide and Ariel. 

Explorer Brands:

Explorer brands tap into a person’s desire to grow, learn and test one’s possibilities, “How can I improve?”

Advertising offers an invitation to explore; the possibility of improvement, new experiences, adventures.

Emotions relate to achievement, pride and excitement.

Many Explorer brands are in new categories or represent new ideas, Microsoft, Apple, Nike, NIIT are some examples.

Innovators and Early Adopters are often the target. 

Identity Brands:

Build a connection through user imagery

Have a deep relationship with target audience,

They help people understand “who I am”

Brand acts as mirror, projected rather than literal

Welcome simplicity in complex world

Advertising focuses on the user and lets the user say, “I am one of them. I am part of this group.”

Emotions relate to self-expression, identification.

Examples include – Pepsi/ BMW/ Umbro 

Iconic Brands:

There are few Icons today.

They are leaders among leaders and share a special status.

Icons feel down-to-earth; yet invite people to connect to a world beyond them.

Icons successfully create a symbolic world that, “I would like to become a part of.”

Emotions relate to world created, but include escape, empathy, wonder and security.

Some great examples here – Disney/ Marlboro/ McDonalds. 

Lastly, I believe that brands are people! They have a purpose – Consumers love and choose brands that address an inherent need. 3M Post-its catered to a very strong purpose leading to a staggering Brand Loyalty. They play a role – A simple execution of characters by M&M’s has changed the way people look at packaging and their characters have become collectibles. They are in constant transition – much like you, me and all of us – Brands grow as they learn. They stumble, succeed, invent and re-invent till they find a comfort zone. 

To leave you with a quote, ‘It is not factories that make profits, but relationships with customers, and it is company and brands that secure these relationships’. 

And if you don’t quite agree with this, I’m sure that bottle of Patanjali in your cupboard will get you thinking.


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