There was a time when all it took to be successful in business is to have a good product. If you offered a product of better quality than your competitor, there was nothing to worry about. This was the era of the ‘If you build it, they would come’ mentality – good products automatically create demand.
In the 20th century, brands went through a standardization of quality; pretty much every brand of car had the same functions. Marketers began to use brands as a way to communicate its functional and emotional benefits. This was the era of mass media, where brands focused on a single idea and consistently pounded that message on television, print and radio. Nike was, and still is, one of the masters of the mass media game. The heavy use of celebrity sportspeople endorsements, among other strategies, pushed the brand right up the positioning ladder. Brands strove to have a better brand perception than competitors – the brand that is perceived to be the better brand is the better brand.
But as we now know, mass media branding just doesn’t cut it anymore. Media is too fragmented, customers are too segmented and there is simply too much noise out there. To connect with customers and to be relevant, mere brands have to evolve to become brand enablers. 21st century brands do not just sell products, they enable people to do more and be more. Customers are no longer passive audiences listening to the same message on the same 4 channels. They are now proactively participating with brands, customizing their own experiences with the brand, when they want it, where they want it.
Brands now need to be enablers, not just mere symbols.
I will be talking more about brands as enablers in the upcoming Strategic Branding & Innovation masterclass on 22 & 23 April 2013 in Kuala Lumpur. I will be on the panel of speakers together with the Deputy GM of Mamee Double Decker Berhad, COO of Naga DDB, GM of Kotra Pharma and other notable speakers. Stay tuned for updates and insights from the masterclass!