Big brand properties beat big budgets

[Guest post from Prasad Narasimhan, Managing Partner for Asia, based in Bangalore] 

In the good old days of marketing budgets were easier to come by. Organize a flashy launch, make a big TV ad, air it at the biggest event, use celebrities – and voila; consumers would beat a path to your brand’s door! “Good work ain’t cheap, cheap work ain’t good”, was a popular saying in brand circles. 

However, fast forward to 2014 and things have changes. Budgets are routinely  & cynically scrutinized for accountability and marketers are desperately seeking more bang for their buck. Agencies are queuing up with silver-bullet solutions: “seize social media”, “sharpen PR”, "leverage opinion leaders" or “build cross-promo partnerships” to name but a few.

But the above list only covers ‘where’ to focus your effort. Just as important is the ‘what’ – a big brand idea brought to life with a distinctive brand property. With creativity & gumption, marketers have opportunities aplenty to build their brands without spending top dollar. A good example of this approach is the Amul butter brand from India. This brand, one of the most popular and best loved brands in India, was created not by a hotshot multinational company, but a humble farmer cooperative. It has gained and maintained a leading 85% market share with relatively low marketing spend.

The power of consistent properties

 Amul butter's brand idea is summed up with the tagline "The Taste of India". It has been able to own the central benefit of taste in the market through the power of brand properties. First, the brand has a jingle "Utterly, butterly, delicious… Amul". Second, for more than 30 years the brand has used simple illustrations starring the Amul girl. Yes, more than 3 decades of brand consistency, enabling the brand to create distinctive memory structure. 

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Keeping it fresh

For over 30 years, Amul has milked its Big Idea – using the latest news items globally to inspire its advertisements. With an average of a release every week, Amul’s ads are always a quirky take on a recent event. Always fresh, always simple, these ads put a smile across every Indian’s face – a smile of “they’ve done it again”.

The World Cup is no exception. In the qualifying rounds, Amul released ads such as these; reflecting the biggest news of the Cup.

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 The meaty news before the quarter finals was of course was Luis Suarez biting more than he could chew. Amul was out the next day with the advert below.

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The biggest news of course, was the German blitzkrieg of Brazil, 7-1. This ad showed a hapless Julio Cesar as his defenses were breached seven times in a row, in reference to an iconic Bollywood dialogue.

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Freshness not repetition

Building and reinforcing memory structure is not about mindless repetition, its about fresh consistency. If you keep bringing freshness, then you can keep consumers interested. With Amul, consumers across India actually look out for the extremely limited Amul billboards in each town. They enjoy the latest ad, talk about it, and mail it to their friends. All in a day or two – for that's the life of the ad. And so Amul ads achieve tremendous reach & frequency although they spend very little on media. Each copy adds another layer of likeability to the brand. And Amul is today the generic name for table butter across India.

In conclusion, Amul is a great example of how to use distinctive brand properties to create memory structure and so help you get more bang for your brand buck.