Marketing is analytical, systematic, creative, meaningful and disciplined: Kevin Keller

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 19, 2012
Cogito Consulting organised an exclusive talk by the internationally acclaimed marketing and brand management guru, Prof. Kevin Lane Keller, on 'The New Brand Imperatives'.

On a day when cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar scored his hundredth hundred, Professor Kevin Lane Keller started his session on 'The New Brand Imperatives', declaring to the packed room, "I am a rare American who can understand cricket." The marketing and branding guru instantly broke the ice with the audience. The rest of the talk, supported with interesting examples, gave branding a different perspective altogether.

Cogito Consulting, the brand consultancy division of the Draftfcb Ulka Group, organised an exclusive talk by the internationally acclaimed marketing and brand management guru on March 16 at the Trident Hotel, Mumbai.

Kevin Lane Keller

According to Keller, it is important for a brand marketer to fully and accurately factor in the consumer into the branding equation. "Brand marketers must strive to stay close to all customers, understand what they know and like about brands, and what they don't know or don't like." He gave the example of his favourite brand Nike - 'If you have a body, you are an athlete'. "This showed that it was not just marketing to athletes, but also marketing to everyone," he said.

As a second marketing imperative, Keller said that it is important for brands to go beyond product performance and rational benefits. He emphasised on the need to have well-crafted products for a full set of rational and emotional benefits. He stressed on how brand marketers must increasingly utilise functional and aesthetic design principles and techniques, as well as understand the duality of rational and emotional dimensions of consumer's relationships to brands and how the two can interact.

Giving the example of Apple, Keller said that it has a strong brand promise. "Intrinsic to this brand is performance and design, but extrinsically, it has a personality and character."

The second example that he gave was that of Pampers and how the brand evolved from a functional to emotional positioning. "The brand moved from being only 'fully absorbing and dry product for babies' to a 'caring product for babies' development'."

Keller spoke on how it is necessary for brands to make the whole of the marketing programme greater than the sum of its parts. He said that it is necessary to develop fully-integrated channel and communication strategies that optimally blend their strengths and weaknesses. The best example for this, he said, is Redbull, which utilises online interactive communication, experiential marketing and traditional media complementing each other.

Keller's fourth branding imperative is that it is important to design and implement a new product development and brand architecture strategy to maximise long-term growth across product offerings, customer segments and geographical markets. This ensures that brands reach their marketplace potential.

To elucidate, Keller cited the example of popular crayon brand Crayola, and how it initially offered different number of crayons in boxes of various sizes. "Later, it decided to go beyond crayons to produce colourful art and craft for kids, and that really worked for the brand."

He also mentioned the Virgin model - to do different things or to do things differently.

The penultimate imperative is to do 'the right thing' with a brand. Keller said that it is necessary to embrace corporate social responsibility and manage brands in the long run. "Avoid over-exposing, over-extending, over-moderating and over-discounting, in short, avoid death by 1000 cuts," he said.

Keller feels that improving social welfare is a win-win for the brand. "This helps to elicit emotional response from the consumer," he rationalised.

Finally, brand marketers must be able to understand and justify their marketing investments by employing a set of models, tools and perspectives that fully illuminate how consumers and brands are affected in the short run and the long run by any marketing activity or programme.

In his final imperative, Keller stressed the importance of taking a big-picture view of branding effects. It is necessary to know what is working and why. "Marketing is and will always be analytical, systematic, creative, meaningful and disciplined," concluded Keller.

For the record, Prof. Keller is the E B Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. His book, Strategic Brand Management, is the most widely used text book on the subject. He is also the co-author (with Philip Kotler) of the all-time best selling introductory marketing textbook, Marketing Management. Several of his articles have also appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Journal of Marketing and numerous other reputed journals.

As one of the world's leading academic thinkers and top industry consultants in marketing, Prof Keller provides best practice, leading-edge strategic guidelines and tactical insights to help create strong brands in a fast-moving, competitive economy.

The Indian version of Prof Keller's book Strategic Brand Management, with Indian co-authors, M G Parameswaran (executive director and CEO, Draftfcb Ulka Mumbai) and Prof Isaac Jacob (head of marketing faculty, SIMSR) was released last year and is today an integral part of business school curriculum in the country. The book contains over 40 short pieces on Indian brands, markets, consumers and media.

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