Brand Managers! What are you building, a category or a brand?


One distribution channel is setting up the rules of game in today’s environment is multi franchise organized retail. Now a days the only distribution channel is prominent for the most of the consumer durable and FMCG product is organized retail. This multi franchise model is redefining challenges of branding and product management.
The older brand building activities now become category building activity. For example, imagine a manufacturer of refrigerator who successfully builds a brand and in turn customers turn up to the retail store. But inside the store, story is different. The need trigger or decision to have a refrigerator could have been augmented by the said manufacturer, but inside the store customer is open to buy any brand. For a walk in customer inside a store there are lot of variables available to take a purchase decision. It may or may not be dependent on the branding of the company which prompted the customer to consider the product.
This case implies that the older way of advertising and branding are basically building more of a category than a brand. At this point positioning of product plays a key role. The brand managers should think of which gap or problem they are solving by making a positioning of a product. Because a slight differentiation if exploited properly could play a major role in making purchase decision. These gaps or points of differentiation are available everywhere. It could be price point, product features, point of entry in customer home, geography, channel or even variables like buying need of customer, perceived value of product by the customers etc.
While positioning a product one should be very clear on competitive strategy. As in multi franchise sales network a wrong strategy will give opportunity to competition to win and set the direction of game. It’s a zero sum game. Its like a game of cards where you keep guessing of available cards with the opponents. You check your strong and weak cards along with setting trump card. You make a plan with a sequence of moves. And if your sequence of moves are ideal you can even win with your weaker cards, because you are setting the direction and opponents have to react to your move. But there is one flaw. The whole strategy is based on few real things ( strong and weak cards, trump etc) and more guess work like who are the opponents having cards stronger than your weaker cards. And an assumption that all the best cards are not in one opponents basket. So it is risky. And so it is challenging. When you put a wrong move someone else wins and then he starts setting directions to the game. Since guess work and risk are still on the table, you’ll have to wait for next opportunity to win a move and take the commands of the game back in your folds. Strong and weak cards can be replaced by competitive strengths and weaknesses of any organization.

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