Brand Managers; Let us create an emotional connection with the consumer

The thought of ‘emotional connection’ triggered when I woke up with new version of song ‘mile sur mera tumahara’ airing on zoom on the morning of 60th republic day. It was a surprise that how easily I could make a connection with the two decade old original song with lot of other memories attached with Doordarshan. How would you define the emotional connection established here? I feel it was more of nostalgic feeling of childhood freedom in the form of association with golden past than a feeling of patriotism.

When we try to create an emotional connection with audience, while building or rebuilding a brand; its better to define what emotion the brand is talking about. Recently Fevicol celebrated its 50th birthday and launched ‘Moochwali’ campaign which reminded again the journey of time with a story of a girl bearing adhesive quality of fevicol through out her life and even beyond. I feel fevicol successfully established their journey of 50 years with the adhesiveness as the attribute with this ad.

Let us discuss a case in which attributes of the product does not make a real difference.

Let us take the branding of water; that’s too in India; where water is in abundance and quality of drinking water is at least priority for more than 50 % of the population. Water is a commodity; all major players in packaged water industry build their brands along with the category with a similar set of attributes; like taste, health qualities, source, uses, distribution etc. One of the important emotional connections some major players did with audience by color of packaging and shape of the bottle. Do aqua or blue triggers something when it is associated with drinking water? Can you recall some of your emotion while holding a different shape of bottle in your hand? Definitely yes. I feel it’s a good case to study in differentiating a commodity. In future of flat world, where all information and knowledge will be available to every one, the life of exclusivity will be very short. And there would be lesser scope to differentiate the products on attributes. I can see the branding using neuromarketing techniques to establish emotional connection is going to be prominent.

To establish emotional connection, it’s better to start from the creation of brand identity. While defining the positioning attributes, the brand manager should think of connection of each attribute to the emotional connection. Name, color, packaging, store placement, in shop branding, media and press advertisements; everything defining a brand must connect to the audience emotionally while demonstrating some of the differentiating attributes. The emotion and attributes must be defined to make it consistent across all marketing channel. This holds true for repositioning of a brand as well.

Establishing an emotional connection with consumer is not easy. We need to first understand the ways a consumer respond with each emotional trigger. You will be surprised with the variability in emotional triggers across region, language, customs, culture etc. Understanding target audience needs and emotions and common moments of truth is must. It needs intensive study of consumer. Most of the consumer research will come up with hundreds of ways to define the triggers. Choosing one, need real insight and a business acumen to know the investment and return over investment objectives. However; brand manager must make sure that selected emotional trigger must gel with attributes of the product being positioned.

Some interesting blog posts on emotional branding:

Power of nostalgia in adverting

Building emotional connection to your brand


We are now conditioned to the word ‘cost’

We are now conditioned to the world ‘cost’. It was recession which hastened us to think of ‘cost’, otherwise, I am sure, none of us ever have considered cost as prime strategy. During the recent downturn, most of the companies improved or sustained their relative bottom lines with the help of cost cutting measures. According to a recent Mc Kinsey survey, most of the companies made effective and significant cutbacks in overall costs since the onset of economic downturn in September 2008. As the downturn is supposed to be behind now, I feel most of us overreacted to it and become hyper aggressive in cost cutting measures. This resulted in the reduction of investments in productive area, impacting future growth prospects. One reason could be that in difficult times, when managing cash flow is the prime concern, or it is projected as prime concern, all outflow including future investments appear as costs. In this perspective, we must understand the difference between cost and investments.

According to one of the reports of Crisil, India Inc’s planned capex expenditure will be dropped by 25% over next three years. This is an example of cutting investment which was designed for future growth prospects. In some cases it could be postponements. In both the cases, cutting future capacity investments or postponing capacity addition is actually creating a gap which we may face in next two or three years. Companies conservative on their own plan capital expenditures, will loose opportunity if situation comes back to normal, which seems more likely now.

Situation is actually coming back to normal. According to a recent McKinsey report, the number of households in the deprived segment is likely to drop from 101 million in 2005 to 74 million in 2015. Which means around 27 million households will enter into lower middle to middle class. Can you imagine the kind of increase in overall consumption? Who will cash such demands in an environment where companies are postponing their capacity expansion plan?

There is another similar example in form of manpower layoffs cases. Most of the IT companies, who estimated their manpower as more than adequate in number, discovered an opportunity to rationalize their headcount during the period of downturn. They did it. Most of the other companies in various other industries followed the same strategy. I feel this was a wrong decision in the name of cost. Now, when the growth prospects for IT industry is returning back in shape, (estimated software export growth in coming year is over 20%), the manpower strength is becoming the bottleneck. Almost, all IT companies are now back to recruiting in full swing, to fill the gap created by them only. A sudden increase in demand of IT professional means rotation of same net people strength for short term prospects without filling the actual gap in the industry. This means more lucrative offers in form of salary structures. So, who lost in the process? This is one of the example of cutting investment in the name of cost.

A waste is a cost. It is one of the easiest think to differentiate between costs and investments. To reduce the waste two things are required; one is discipline and the other is investment. Discipline at work place can reduce wastages in the form of stationary, electricity; maintenance etc. and to some extent productivity. Investment in new technologies and new skills reduces wastage by improving efficiencies. A more efficient process takes lesser costs. Instead of focusing on cost why should not we focus on process to make it more efficient? This is a tough decision to make, especially in difficult times, as it needs investments. I am sure that few companies must have thought in such direction.If I assume that a company’s lifecycle is long enough to handle one or two economic downturn and believe the cyclical nature of such fluctuations, imagine the gain a company would have who sees downturn an opportunity to invest in new technologies, training and processes at negotiable rate, and is ready for the time when the downturn cycle turns in other direction.

Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss?

All inherited moral laws taught me that being selfish is the least desired thing. But when I grew up, I learned that this is the most desired option, your mind recognizes when it comes to relative success. Relative success is a success in comparison with some other success referred as benchmark. That is how we earned grades, placements and promotions. In one of my earlier posts “Self Concept” I had argued the meaning of being selfish. And in that context, I’d advocated being selfish is good. Let me keep that separate for a while in this discussion. With all known meanings of selfishness, achieving anything is not adequate to make you happy, as there will always be someone or something as a benchmark to rate your achievements.

If you closely observe history of evolution of human, you will be convinced that selfishness is in our DNA. That is why contentment or fulfillment, inherently, never comes to us. Instead, we brand people with contained or fulfilled, just because of his or her invisible aggression. In this sense contentment is just a philosophy which is difficult to attain. Human beings can not be contained. That is why we are coded for either growth or decline. There is no stagnation. You may check this with physical and mental performance. This is also true in the performance of a relationship or love.

Selfishness and love are inversely correlated. You can not have both simultaneously. If you feel that you have, check the meaning of true love. True love is unconditional and most of us are in love of convenience in which we search for some or other needs. Take the example of great love stories of the past. Why most of those love in the stories triggered at first sight itself? Why selfishness, the demon inside, could not took over to check whether hobbies, thinking and understandings of each other are in right place or not?

So if you are keeping yourself away from contentment to grow more and more, you start making choices for yourself. You start gaining your insatiable demands in installments and start losing the gain of personal and love life. We must understand growth is a must for both personal and professional desires. Remember, there is no stagnation, either a growth or a decline.

So, how would you define the fulfillment of never ending desires? And how would you assess the gain if the desired fulfillment is achieved? I wonder that the extreme of fulfillment is like having everything. That is the point where you need nothing and nothing is available to create a need in you. At this point having everything or having nothing seems equal, leaving no difference for comparison.

Let us discuss the argument made in my previous post “Self Concept”. If I modify the definition of selfish to make it more inwards, towards real self, the inner self, the self who needs to be elevated, I may conclude that being selfish is good. Here, we need to understand the difference between an activity for a self desire and activity for inner self. ‘Bhagvad Gita’ throws some light on this topic in chapter 3 verse 17; “One who remains ecstatic within the self; the self illuminated and fully satisfied within the self only; activities do not exist for him”. Here ‘activities’ is referred as activities for fulfillment of desires.

When to kill a product?

Usually, when a product manager takes a decision to kill a product, service or a segment we assume that a proper analysis must be in place on financial, organizational and strategic factors. This means such products are at the end or at least towards the end of their life cycle. In other words the key performance indicators (KPI) of the product are not healthy. Would you be surprised, if I say that a decision of killing a product should not only depend on the product KPI but also on the business objectives? Rather, a business objective is bigger than the KPI of a product. This means, product managers could often take a decision to kill even their performing products.

So, when is the right time to kill a particular product or service? Based on the observations made on fall of various products in various industries, I have categorized the reasons to kill (or save) a product in three broad parameters which need to be assessed before taking a final call. The notable thing is that the sales and revenue of a product is the part of the first parameter only which may not be appropriate if considered as only parameter. The three broad parameters are:

Product KPI: This is the most visible parameter and product manager often get carried away with the observations made in this category. Declining sales, declining market price because of competition and declining market share are the reasons enough to believe that the product is at the end of its life cycle. In some advance analysis, increasing input cost of the low KPI product can also be considered as the reason.

Brand KPI: We often fail to asses performance indicators of brand while making an assessment of product performance. Brand image especially in the segment in which a product is in question, representation of company in the category and level of customer satisfaction. If you have low brand KPI, it is very difficult to find the root cause of low product KPI. One of the easiest measurements of brand performance is the change in working capital of all the channel partners. If it is declining, it is even more dangerous for a company than the performance of a particular product.

Business Objective of the company: I assume that most of the companies are rational enough to think for a longer term. Short term fluctuations in sales, country’s economy and business environment should not alter the business objectives set for a longer period. Before taking a call on a product company must evaluate the alternatives, alignment of alternatives to company objective and foreseen changes in technology. Driven by business objective, there are companies which replaced their performing products with new innovative and differentiated products and offerings.

Any one or more than one strong observations from the above parameters can be a trigger for a removal of a product from the portfolio. All I suggest is to analyze all three before taking a call. Beware of the fact that some times, a symptom can divert you from the root cause.