Brand building is key to profitable business growth

NEW DELHI: "Branding can leverage customer perceptions and marketing can drive sales." Corporate Brand Strategy vice-president and Worldwide Market Intelligence, IBM, USA Anil Menon opined at fifth Marketing Summit organised by CII, in the capital.

Speaking at a session on brand building, yesterday, Menon said that a strong brand helps consumers make decisions easily and more efficiently. It helps clients choose. A strong brand gives a company the permission to do things, say things and enter markets.



Pointing out that a strong brand can create or change perceptions and frame issues, Menon said, "CEOs around the world have found their business profitability shrinking, while the challenge is to grow profitably. This extends across sectors, from finance to consumer durables. Brand building is the key to doing this."

The need is to focus on Big M marketing not small M marketing, as at present. The marketing discipline will get stronger, but the function will become increasingly irrelevant. The challenge is to become better, Menon said, to run a profitable business.



Marketing has to be so well integrated with other corporate functions of sales, manufacturing and production that the company never gets surprised with "shifts in customer perceptions and tastes." Marketing needs to anticipate and mould to customer tastes, Menon felt.

To build a successful brand, the chief executive officer or the president of the company should own the brand and it should not be left to others to manage and own. "This is how Sony has built and safeguarded its brand. The challenge is to get the CEO, the head of sales, the head of production, and other senior management to care about the brand. That is central to having a brand strategy, "Menon explained.

A strong brand helps consumers make decisions easily and more efficiently. It helps clients choose. Marketing, he said, is the sum of sales, advertising and DGM.

Companies have to make their brand relate to its customers and this, according to Menon, can only be done through gathering and analyzing market intelligence on several parameters related to the company's work. Brands are built as much with these inputs as with creatives.

"IBM has a large team that focuses on just this, gathering market intelligence, which is fed into building the IBM brand," he said giving the example of the Big Blue.

In the traditional scheme of things, a company developed technology, spun off products that addressed perceived customer problems and customers decided whether or not to buy the products. But this paradigm, Menon pointed out, has to be turned around so that a customer business model evolves where customer decides to buy a product and a company develops technology and products to suit the customer's need.

The four Ps of marketing are no longer as relevant as they used to be, said Menon. There are two new Ps that need to be understood and incorporated. The first is Partnership. "Companies need to understand how this works. A common misconception is that a strong brand can afford weak partners but the reverse is true," he added.

The second P is Participation and customers now want to be part of the manufacturing process.

Menon concluded by saying that senior management has to understand marketing to develop and sustain a brand strategy. Brands are the key driver to profitable business growth and are central to acquiring new clients, increasing customer spend on company products and retaining customers.

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