Key actions for building valuable brands in India
1. Invest in Meaningful Difference
Times of slow growth, uncertainty, or volatility are precisely the time for companies invest in building their brands. Doing so can mean the difference between sinking or swimming. Brands should focus on strengthening perceptions of Meaningfulness (creating an affinity with consumers and meeting their needs) and Difference (being distinctive or trend setting). In a challenging year when the overall brand value of the India Top 75 grew by 6 percent, brands in the Top 75 with high Meaningful Difference grew their brand value by an average of 5.6 percent, compared to an average of 1.2 percent for brands with low Meaningful Difference.
2. Build trust
Trust is evolving beyond standard notions of a brand’s ability to guarantee safety and fulfill functional promises. Related brand attributes like integrity (the perception that a brand is open and honest), inclusion (the perception that a brand treats all as equals), and identification (the perception that a brand truly cares for its customers) can provide a strong boost to overall brand value when combined with reliability.
3. Lead with Purpose
Purpose is one of five vital signs—Purpose, Innovation, Communication, Experience, and Love—that work together to build Meaningful Difference in the proprietary BrandZ™ diagnostic of brand health called vQ. On the whole, top Indian brands are delivering on these aspects of brand health compared to their regional peers. (see charts)
Purpose is especially important for building strong brands worldwide, and is an area where top Indian brands perform strongly. As noted earlier, strong brand purpose can take the form of larger-scale corporate responsibility initiatives that aim to improve society, or simply a focus on making people’s lives better day to day – or both. Indian consumers rated brands including Castrol, Paytm, Uber, WhatsApp, and LIC as especially strong in purposefully “making people’s lives better.”
4. Pursue Innovation
Innovation can come from within large, established companies or scrappy start-ups. India has seen no shortage of innovation from either type of brand in recent years; the true test will lie in sustaining this innovation in the long run. To do so, brands should continue to look outward to surface new ideas, approaches, and consumer insights. But companies should also find ways to encourage innovative thinking within their rich stock of human capital. The next great innovative breakthrough might come from a fresh young trainee who can see into the needs of India’s youth, or from a more seasoned senior employee who intimately understands how innovation can aid the aging segment of India’s population. Today, Indian consumers rate brands including Amazon, Flipkart, TCS, Asian Paints, Indian Oil and Britannia as especially strong on innovation.
5. Push Communication
With the rise of mobile internet, and the proliferation of new gaming, entertainment, messaging, and social media channels, there are more ways to reach consumers than ever before – and brands need to determine their optimal strategy across each and every channel simply to keep from falling behind. Nowadays, communication can mean intuitively appearing on channels just as consumers realize that they’re considering a purchase – as in the case of food delivery apps integrating ads and ordering options into sports streaming platforms. Communication is also becoming a two-way street, as consumers take to brands’ social media accounts to leave compliments, comments, complaints; tools like social response teams, chat support, and AI analytics are becoming increasingly important to addressing this new normal. As a whole, Indian brands tend to perform quite well in the Communication portion of vQ, with brands like Colgate, Tata Salt, Maggi, Swiggy, and Jio leading the pack.
6. Monitor Brand Health
Brand Experience and Brand Love round out the five attributes that contribute to a brand’s vQ health score. Rating low on either could be a warning sign that a brand might not possess the resilience necessary to weather tougher economic times. Brand Experience is important because it is the point where the consumer fully appreciates the brand and its benefits. Experience starts long before a person considers buying a product, and lasts well beyond the moment of purchase and even the moment of consumption. It includes every exposure to an ad, every experience on a brand’s website, and every minute they spend waiting for help at a counter or on the phone. FMCG brands tend to score especially well on providing a good consumer experience, and include some Indian brands that aren’t eligible for the BrandZ™ Top 75, such as Aavin and Amul. Brand Love is something that can’t be easily bought or manufactured, and draws on aspects of the other four vQ variables, as well as concepts like trust and coolness. This year online brands like Amazon, Ola, Flipkart and Paytm scored especially high on Love.
7. Tell the story
An Indian brand could be doing everything right to innovate, pursue a higher purpose, improve customer experience, build trust, and more. But if that brand doesn’t also tell a compelling story through its marketing and consumer touchpoints about how and why it is doing these things, the brand’s positive efforts might not translate into increased brand health and value.