Ashish Mishra
Guest Article

Embracing the new role that brands must play

The new relationship economy needs deep branding and elaborate meaning systems, says our guest author.

The churn we are in, requires a reset. We must unlearn the conventions of consumerism and shareholder capitalism, and embrace the new role that brands must play.

Now is the opportunity for brand leaders to build stronger relationships beyond transactions, and intertwine constituent participation, public/private partnerships and philanthropy to address global challenges.

Like never before, the world demands businesses to show true leadership and fearless action – because when that happens, new sources of growth materialise, creating immense possibility for all.

And, that can happen when branding goes deep, spawns a culture around an ideology, for a cause, against an enemy, delineating a belief system, a language, its heroes, rituals, and translating it into an experience, persona and feel.

Because only when brands anchor deep, can they go wide.

Trust built due to ideology brands and their aligned meaning systems allows growth across arenas

There has always been a strong correspondence between a brand’s extensibility and its proximity with customers – proximity through the factors of affinity, trust and participation.

This is something that large Indian heritage brands always understood. Whether it was due to the past of scarcity or the stronger societal culture and attuning to relationships based decisions; Indians have always placed the highest importance and admiration for things they trusted. Historically, many Indian brands that could earn trust, also earned the right to extend themselves to many new businesses.

That also explains the consumer psychology behind it. To appreciate this, we need to continue to think about brands as a personal relationship. When you meet someone you don’t just admire, but who also shares your values, helps solve your challenges or needs, is there for you in the moments that matter, there’s a good chance you want to spend more time with that person – to have them more involved in your life.

The same is true of brands. When we have a strong functional, emotional and moral connection with a brand – when this brand delivers exceptional products, unequalled experiences, and acts with uncompromising integrity – we want to spend more time with that brand. We want it to succeed. And, we want it to play a bigger role in our lives. We’re also more likely to trust them as they enter new spaces. We welcome them to ask, what else can I do for you?

The relationship arenas of the ‘super league’ of brands

This is precisely where the exponential growth we see across the ‘super league’ of brands, begins. Built on a foundation of exceptional experiences and strong integrity, these brands can expand in multiple directions, with far more freedom and fluidity than traditional diversification.

It’s not a question of ‘we do this, we can do that too’, but ‘you trust us, and here’s what else we might help you do’. Over the past decade, our study of the best brands confirms this.

This year, the cumulative value of the top 10 super league global brands ($1,649 million) is greater than the combined value of the next 90 ($1,440 million). Likewise, the cumulative value of the top 10 super league Indian brands (Rs 4,949 billion) is greater than the combined value of the rest 40 brand (Rs 3,360 billion).

Consider Apple or Google or, closer home, Jio. It’s hard to fit them within categories (what they do) – things get clearer when taking the perspective of customer jobs to be done (what they help us do). Apple helps us connect, do, belong, play, pay and – more recently – thrive.

Rumour has it that soon it may help us move, too. Google helps us learn, connect, move, pay, work, entertain, shop. So does Jio. JSW extending its brand into cement and paints does feel like arena play, while Asian Paints and Ultratech clearly have begun to play in the broader space of beautiful homes and homebuilding respectively.

What these organisations do is place at their core not product, but brand, leadership. And rather than build their brand around a business, they build businesses around their brand. At Interbrand, we call this arena thinking. It’s the foundation that allows our clients to make iconic moves.

(Our guest author is Ashish Mishra, CEO, Interbrand India & South Asia.)

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