Sans sustained branding, market leader may lose dominance in postpandemic environment

POSITIVE IMAGING (From left) Snapshots of EO-Executive Optical, Rimowa (with singer, actress and businesswoman Rihanna as brand ambassador) and Everest cooling systems brand campaigns

A landmark MRI brain imaging study conducted by Franz Rudolf Esch, et al. titled “Brands on the Brain,” published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, revealed that emotive associations are far more influential in driving brand trial versus declarative information like name recall advert campaigns.

The same study confirms that continuously building positive brand associations is relevant as it is the primary driver of a consumer’s eventual action about the brand.

Not all brands recognized by consumers are strong brands. Ironically, many are weak brands as they fail to conjure strong positive images and associations from long or short-term memory. The study revealed that strong brands trigger much more brain activity in different areas of the brain.

On the contrary, weak brands have lesser or minimal brain activity. When faced with a buying situation, these stored brand associations are retrieved thus, influencing brand judgment and buying action.

Over time, without sustained positive and in-depth brand associations, a once strong brand becomes weak since consumers constantly form new memories. Old memories without recall triggers are topped over and sometimes replaced by new ones. A brand’s category or noncategory competitors build many of these new memories and compete for memory space.

Building strong brands and positive associations

Building brands via nostalgia: In its Global Trends 2023 report, “A New World Disorder? Navigating a Polycrisis,” Ipsos global research firm postulates the strong appeal of nostalgia as a dimension of feel good messaging and a means to call to mind strong brands.

While the world stood still in the last three years, affecting travel the most, iconic German luggage brand Rimowa remained unfazed, true to its “purposeful journey” brand strategy. On its 120th anniversary, Rimowa launched its “Never Still” global campaign, banking on the personal narratives of global icons, among them LeBron James, Rihanna, Roger Federer and Patti Smith who were tasked to reflect on what travel means to them after the world took a long break.

Trust is a key attribute of strong brands. Researcher Esch, et al’s “Brands on the Brain” study likewise reveals that when potential consumers process unfamiliar and weak brands, there comes with it a perception of uncertainty, risk and a host of negative associations that comes with an unfamiliar brand. Sadly, these negative associations may become permanent associations surrounding the unfamiliar brand if no strategic brand activity is engaged in.

For more than a decade now, EO-Executive Optical has remained faithful to its brand narrative as the preferred source of trustworthy expert eye care, transforming poor eyesight problems into a quality of life situation. On top of declarative information, EO-Executive Optical delivers its message in a witty, humorous and empathetic manner.

People value brand image. According to the Ipsos Global Trends 2023 report, people in Asia, the Middle East and Africa place the highest value on brand image. Thus, despite the pandemic, brands like Chanel, Hermes, Rolex, Gucci, LV, etc. remain on the roll, most especially among consumers with higher incomes. However, when times are hard and money is scarce, brands that address functional attributes and value for money can drive purchases.

Health and wellness theme is a key driver postpandemic when it comes to brand choice. Ipsos Global Trends 2023 affirms that consumers want more control over their well-being. Anxiety is a key issue postpandemic. Since its brand inception, Everest has recognized this issue by providing energy-efficient major home appliances that help bring about wellness and a healthy self and home. Everest’s air conditioning has healthy air filters. Its refrigerator line has odor control filters and its line of television has built-in technologies that enable longer coviewing and socially engaging time with family and friends.

Getting there

  • Focus and sustain. Know your brand well. Keep to your brand story especially when there is continuous brand growth. A worn-out narrative leaves telltale signs, including a consistent drop in annual sales turnover. Thus, don’t be swayed by those who claim change is imminent if your brand continues to exhibit healthy growth.
  • Don’t be in too many places at the same time. Financial resources are restrictive. A brand in a growth stage requires continuous support. Don’t be misled into putting resources in uncharted terrain when you have a growing brand. Strong brands are the result of strategic branding, hard work and well-placed resources.
  • Be bold. Weak and unfamiliar family heritage brands with over 30 years of life span, so long as they do not carry negative associations, are the best candidates to become strong, dominant brands in their category. The right brand strategy and the correct cultivation of powerful and positive strong brand associations can help once weak and unfamiliar brands become the category’s challenger or dominant brand.
  • Be guided by an expert brand strategist. A brand strategist’s reputation precedes him or her. Few family brands can compete with global brands. To become a category leader requires resoluteness, strong leadership and strategic brand expertise. Ill advise by a pseudo expert brand strategist is one of the greatest deterrent to being a major dominant brand.