Opinion: How to build a strong brand with minimum budgets?

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Piali Dasgupta how to build a strong brand

Piali Dasgupta gives a guidebook on how to build a strong brand within minimum budgets, in the background of changing consumer behaviour.

In order to understand how to build a strong brand within minimum budgets, we must first understand what the key deliverables of a “strong” brand are. 

To my mind, a strong brand is one that does the following:

  • Builds a loyal customer base
  • Delivers business growth and revenue by capturing a large amount of  market share
  • Charges a premium 
  • Has a strong emotional connect with its audience by cultivating a core purpose that resonates with many
  • Delivers on brand metrics such as preferability, awareness, purchase intent, top-of-the-mind recall, salience

A strong brand is not necessarily built with gigantic budgets. There is no denying the fact that budgets are important, particularly, in a day and age where the media landscape has been completely disrupted and with increased competition and clutter, brands are feeling the need to be omnipresent to ensure higher salience. 

But humble budgets can also drive results and nurture a brand. It would take a tad longer to create the buzz, visibility, and business impact with smaller budgets, but in the end, it is a more sustainable route to opt for. 

Great brands are built on the fulcrum of a strong mission, vision, and purpose. 

The vision of a company is its long-term objectives and ultimate goal, the mission is the way in which it plans to reach that goal and the purpose of a brand is its raison d’etre. 

Brands with purpose grow three times faster, enjoy higher market share, engage in at least 30% higher innovation, and see higher talent retention. 

Consumers buy brands, not commodities.

Every product they buy is a means to an end. This means, that every product fulfils certain needs of a consumer. Therefore, great brands are those that solve a consumer’s problem and play an important role in his/her life. 

The ability to create a product that fulfils a customer’s need comes from identifying a need gap in the market and creating a brand that has prominent Attributes, Consequences, and Values (ACV). 

The key to creating a long-lasting impact on a customer’s mind and building a memorable brand is a combination of a great value proposition and fabulous storytelling. Because human beings are wired to connect with stories.  

Take Paperboat, for example. The beverage brand that entered the Indian market in 2013, was built on zero-preservatives, indigenous drinks, great packaging, and greater storytelling. Using nostalgia as its key storytelling lever, the brand built an emotional bond with its consumer by serving them moments from their childhood regularly, bringing back the taste of a bygone era- whether it was through Aam Panna, Jaljeera, or Aam Ras. Anyone who has grown up in a middle-class household in India in the 90s could relate to the brand instantly.

Also Read: Brand Saga: Paperboat and nostalgia-driven marketing in the digital era

Before you knew it, Paperboat was raking in the revenue (Rs 235 cores in 2020), distributing its products to 50,000 outlets and exporting to 10 countries. All this, without any celebrity endorsements, television and outdoor campaigns, or any other big splash. 

Columbia Pacific Communities, India’s largest senior living community operator, is one of the country’s most awarded brands in Marketing and the category’s most preferred. All this in three years and with minuscule budgets. How did we do it? Well, we built the brand on the backbone of insight-based marketing, great storytelling, and nurturing the core brand purpose of positive ageing. The brand's purpose emanates from a simple philosophy – that age is just a number, and one is as old as one feels and encourages seniors to live their best life and look at age as an enabler as opposed to a deterrent. 

Our primary target audience (senior citizens) resonates deeply with the philosophy of positive ageing. The brand believes in empowering seniors, fighting ageism and age-related stereotypes in society, and shining the spotlight on senior citizens. 

We rely heavily on earned media, social media, and organic search, and have eschewed big budget campaigns riding on prime-time television and front-page jacket ads, expensive celebrity endorsement deals, or any kind of vanity marketing. The result? We are the country’s most preferred senior living brand despite being the latest entrant in the category. 

Also Read: Opinion: 11 trends that define luxury marketing in the new normal 

Brand building is a long-term game. A brand’s image depends a lot on what sort of signals the brand gives out at every customer touch point, including the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT). When the consumer is at a “search” stage, the kind of information, content, brand stories and communication that appears in front of her is what largely impacts her purchase decision. 

Creating impactful brands on tight budgets is a lot about building creative and production capabilities in-house to keep costs low, optimizing all free tools – whether it is keyword tools or analytics tools, or even design tools, and using your customers as your biggest ambassadors. A large number of D2C brands today, including Sleepy Owl coffee or BlissClub, are relying on no-frills, authentic content, often featuring their founders or customers, who talk about the salient features of the product. And it seems to be working wonders for them. 

To sum it up, here is a five-point formula for building a great brand within minuscule budgets. 

  • Build a brand purpose and centre your brand around it. Everything from the brand’s story to its corporate culture should be guided by this north star.
  • Tell great stories and form an emotional bond with your target audience. Talk less about your product and more about your audience and their lives. Think long-term. 
  • Invest in SEO. Intent-based traffic is the best kind of traffic. Do everything to rank for the keywords that matter in your category and business.
  • Rely on earned media. PR builds brand visibility, advocacy, and thought leadership in the category. There is nothing stronger than the endorsement of the fourth estate. 
  • Make your customers your greatest ambassadors. 

This article was penned by Piali Dasgupta, SR. VP, Marketing - Columbia Pacific Communities.

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