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The Missing Branding Sauce in the Big Start-up Cuisine

Ok, so we all know that the cumulative impression of a brand is what makes consumers choose or prefer it over others. It forms an opinion in the mind appealing to the senses, emotions and the value it creates in their lives. But most start-ups seem to see this a littler lower in their list of priorities. Besides the core idea, the other two things that get prioritised: is the job to be done (JTBD) and the much imp business plan. But the brand, that lovely magic wand gets a "sure later, or sometime very soon" tag. Moreover and eventually what the consumer is buying into, is this visible/invisible package - the Brand. All other things get magnetically linked to "this" package.

Brands go on, all their lives - building, rebuilding/ assuring, reassuring/presenting, representing "this". And "this" is the not-so-secret sauce that makes all happen. Yes agree, most start-ups walk the tight balance between quick ROI and Brand building, continuously under pressure to deliver outcomes and only outcomes. How do they, then work around this conundrum.

Netflix wanted its consumers to have the freedom to choose movie titles, giving them the option to choose and watch whenever they wished. They keep simplicity at their core, consistently embedding it in their experience. When they say their brand is built on two values: to provide entertainment and make people happy, the narrative builds back and adds-up to the overall promise. Over a period of time the brand gets a clear purpose that consumers associate with. But when we superficially address the issue of branding, the impact the brand creates in the short and the long term, gets limited. A brand is much more than the product - It has the imagery, the symbols, the its personality, the promise, the values and even the shape or form it will take in the digital world. Today consumers will take it into their own world, do their own morphing, playing and many times even rebuild the brand experience to suit them. The chef is no longer curating the dining experience. And thats why, today the brands have to do a lot more. Uniqlo, another brand stays true to its simple and practical values. For that it will use good quality clothing, innovation and the unisexual design format. Another favourite. Guess how many times Starbucks talks about “treating yourself”. Always. That’s what it wants its consumers to feel. Thats what their core is. It's a treat-yourself-beverage for that pep-through-the-day and they never stop hammering that point. Bumble created a brand that broke the outdated norms and gave women the first choice to make a move. They continuously build that proposition making it stronger every time they created an interaction.

Branding also makes the brand unique, differentiating and 'special'. Kantar did a study where they found 'difference' was a strong parameter in the consumer's mind. And this 'difference' comes from a mix of three things: great new experiences, the brand's differentiating purpose and how well they touch the consumers' lives.

As the brand works subtly in the background, making those solid emotional associations, developing loyalists and advocates in the long run, it is powering business outcomes. Branding gives a different kind of perpetuity to the brand and ability to stand the test of time and the changing consumers’ needs. Don’t put it in the back burner. The special cuisine needs this differentiating sauce to make the dream-come-true success dish.

The above post was published in ET: Brand Equity.


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