At a global event, featuring experts from the field of communications, an expression stuck – power brands. In college, it meant ‘an entity whose products and services had high awareness and recall among consumers’. A mentor had an unassuming definition: ‘When the product category is known by your product, service and people’.
It made sense. During a site visit to Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh, back in 2019, a household served “Parle-G”; albeit, it wasn’t it. Parle-G is synonymous with biscuits as Google is with the Internet; and Bisleri with bottled water. Coca-cola’s ‘thanda matlab coca-cola’ aimed for this distinct positioning too.
The last few decades have witnessed a quantum shift in the way brands and organisations have communicated and engaged with their key audiences. Some have focussed on their USP, their key differentiator, while others have deployed proactive means and channels to keeping relevant stakeholders abreast with the ‘événements internes’. Some have even deployed AI-driven tools towards advanced sentiment analysis, and bolstered their KOL/ influencer engagement -- all depending on a brand’s or an organisation’s needs – market share, salience, good-will, and/ or a say in the policy-framework.
What is more exciting is, through social and digital mediums, today, an organisation is able to tell stories, themselves, making way for greater engagement and value – in turn, making it a tenable solution. It is through these channels, that organisations have been able to connect with the woke, the fearless Gen-Zs, the informed millennials, and the geriatric-millennials too, paving the way towards being seen as a ‘Power Brand’.
All this triggers a perennially pertinent question, as it should in the minds of all communicators – what makes a brand a power brand?
With more conscious consumers, conscious citizenry, indeed, an organisation needs to be deeply conscious, not only of its existence but, first and foremost, of its products, services, and promise, how they operate themselves and, then, how does it demonstrate its social consciousness WHILE solving a problem. Subsequently, communicating with purpose will be an extension of its aforementioned aspects and contribute to creating a power brand.
Therefore, a brand or an organisation should, first, begin with some much-needed acknowledgement that no brand or product or service is perfect, but merely striving to be one, trying to solve a problem. This journey of growth is only replete with opportunities and challenges.
Second, a brand or an organisation must reveal itself, almost in its entirety; reveal more than what it has ever done -- declare information to the point of being uncomfortable in today’s times. Moderna, for example, in the light of covid-19 vaccinations, put out their entire protocol on how they were going about developing their vaccines to testing, up to the point of market roll-out. It was for the first time; a vaccine company had done this. It was here, the chief scientific officer (CSO) of Moderna had stated that it was essential in today’s times to “declare information to the point of being uncomfortable”.
Third, having a good understanding of people’s worldview: regular brand audits, pivoted on advanced sentiment analysis, allows for better understanding of the people, their concerns, and feedback – further building the brand.
Fourth, building trust by being sincere in our communications. The power of honest and sincere interactions – even though, the short-term effects may be detrimental in nature – is immense. The end goal must be to build trust.
Fundamentally, today, a power brand becomes a power brand not because it espouses a great cause, or only by a great product – it is not this or that, it is that AND that. In the past, it became one by serving its promise very well.
Today, a power brand will stay one by being in sync with the needs and aspirations of today’s citizenry, society and the world. An upcoming brand will have to serve their basic purpose; address the problem that they are trying to solve as well as how big brands of the past have done. This is the way to building a great organisation.
At the end of it all, everything boils down to having a great product or service, which requires great thinking, which requires great people.
Bob John, Corporate Communications function, Tata Trusts. Communications lead for several programmes including health, Digital transformation - Internet Saathi, water, sanitation, and hygiene.