Does branding need reinventing for a social world?

Post by Prasad Narasimhan, Managing Partner for Asia.

If you believe all the hype about the marketing world we all live and work in, you would believe that all the rules of branding are broken. But is this really true? Looking at examples of campaigns that have harnessed social media, we suggest the answer is "no". Many of the fundamental principles are just as valid today as they were 20 or 30 years ago. 


The aim of all advertising is ultimately ‘SMS’; sell more stuff. For this, good old-fashioned product (and/or service) remains the key. Ultimately if we want consumers to pay for our brand, the product must offer compelling value that they are happy to pay for. Volvo used this great advantage in their successful campaign using Claude Van Damme. 


Most iconic brands have always exuded a strong sense of purpose, something larger than just making money. Communication that reflects a strong brand purpose can resonate better with consumers. They find in the brand something they can buy into, not just buy. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign highlighted this well. Consumers reward brands that make things better, not just make better things. 

That purpose doesn’t always need to be about something earth shattering. As long as we’re adding value to people’s lives, we earn the right to connect with them.


Interestingly, the biggest brands on social media are not brands, but people. In a social world, it therefore comes as no surprise that the factors that define popular people are also the very factors that make a brand popular. Just as we are drawn to people who are caring, interesting, quirky & inspiring, consumers will warm up to brands that wear an attractive personality. Likeability is key. Old Spice’s ‘Smell like a man’ campaign leveraged personality to the hilt to enthrall its consumers.


In our social world, communication no longer has to be a one-way street. Consumers can now participate and get involved in brand's marketing more easily. The watch-out here is that consumers need a compelling reason to participate, something lacking in many cases, such as this example from Volvic.

Participation can be at different levels. From intellectual/emotional involvement at one end to active participation at the other, ads can evoke participation in several ways. TOI’s Teach India campaign used participation to generate thousands of volunteers. And we posted here on the 20million+ votes cast to pick the 2 teams competing for the Carling Cup in South Africa.

In conclusion, the fundamentals of a brand purpose, personality and product are just as relevant in today's social world. There is more of an opportunity to add a 3rd P of participation, as long as what you have to offer really makes this worthwhile.