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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” This quotation by Shakespeare in his famous play Romeo and Juliet is a bit naïve. In today’s world, fragrance may differ if the name changes. Not actually but psychologically.

We are in times when the name carries more than just a tag. In the digital Artificial Intelligence world making a name for yourself with durability and authenticity is a challenge. There is a race for mind share. There are too many competitors. The online world has made it possible for millions to compete.

This has created mental traffic jams where market shares are being squeezed. This is a different world from yester years where an industry study would focus on the market leader and challenger mainly and make its strategies based on the big guns.

Names speak. Names sing. Names cry. Names fail. Names succeed. Each name carries a story. The story needs to resonate with its market. The story has to be told in a way and in a style that the market can relate to. That is the reason why companies spend so much on market research. The ability to reach the right insights of what consumers think and how they behave is key to business success.

Most market studies support the fact that branding is a key success factor that may just be the top priority of most businesses. According to a survey conducted by Payman Taei on LinkedIn, 91% of professionals agree that branding is important.

However, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, 95% new products fail every year. That may not be due to the name only but it does signify the extreme danger of not investing in matters that matter to target audience. Let us look at 5 key rules of branding that need utmost attention:

Rule # 1—first impressions count— The first look. The first view. The first impact. They matter the most. Why? Because out of sight, out of mind. The sight period is only 7 seconds. Research shows that on social media it is those crucial 7 seconds that will attract and make an impression.

Also, it takes 5-7 impressions to start registering in minds. This means the name and the look has to be attention arresting. It has to have something unique. It has to be eye catching. Colours are important to attract and recall. McDonald’s yellow and Coke’s red are examples of decades of colour recognition. Logo design may have something different. The Pakistani shoe brand is named NDURE rather than ENDURE.

This provokes the brain to notice. Websites are now your browsing domain. It takes 50 milliseconds for people to see and reject or click further depending on the look, the design, the feel. Some sales promotion bait can get people to explore more. Also the science to keep on appearing on your target audience’s social media browsing is a good way of trying to keep in mind and in sight.

Rule #2—100th impression retains— First impressions need many more and impactful second and third impressions to actually take the customer from consideration to selection process. It may take a century of consistent moments of truths to retain the customer.

Here comes the brand purchase experience. Make people come to the shop face to face, or, if online visit the website. Create an ambience of feeling special. After the impressions have done their job, the journey of ease, facility and satisfaction starts. The free trial attractions are always a good bait of trying to keep customers interested.

Make sure that the free trial is not accompanied by a host of conditions that are difficult for people to fulfill. The easier the process the more deeper the customer involvement. The typical customer complaint process of banks selling credit cards is a reason for losing many customers.

The endless wait on phones of press 1 and then 2 and then 3 and then wait forever is a sure recipe for losing customers who are loyal users. It seems as if they are testing your patience of when you will simply hang up. Unfortunately that also means that they hang up on the brand. Thus create a system that a blind man can follow.

Rule # 3—Underpromise, Overdeliver— This rule is most violated. Brand promotions are full of all sorts of claims. The best, the first, the leading, etc. These claims, in more law abiding countries, are backed by some research but in Pakistan are slogans that are randomly used without any responsibility. Advertising calls it puffery. Tall claims to attract and arrest the consumer attention.

In the long run it may just backfire. There is a temptation in every company to show more and more benefits to get consumer brownie points. That is understandable. How else would you convince the customer to try your product or service. Expectation management is the key to customer loyalty.

While customer interest is based on the hopes of his/her needs matching products, building hopes and not living up to them is the shortest route to brand destruction. Nike in its campaign actually states “Let’s face it, you’re not going to actually do it”. Facebook says, “Making it easier to stalk people since 2004”. Courageous stance. Most companies would fear a backlash. But remember people know more and more.

Rule# 4—Treat the customer as a genius— That is golden rule. Many companies think that customers can be fooled. Even if they can be, that very thought is foolish. Why? With this mindset the product is definitely going to be meddled with. The advertising is going to go for puffery.

The brand communication is going to be misleading. And, finally some intelligent customer is going to put the real story on his Facebook and twitter to make the brand come crashing down. On the other hand, when you envision your customer as very intelligent and picky, your planning is on toes, you are going the extra mile, and your communication is on point. That creates a brand persona of quality, service and commitment.

Rule#5— Value the Values— Brands are not made of trademarks but trust marks. In a world of fakes be authentic. Be true. True to your values. If you do not walk the talk, your brand will not be able to walk at all. Brand personality is made up of the values your company professes.

Recent example of companies seeing their brand equity decrease due to their conflicting stands on Gaza/Palestine is a lesson of breaking this rule. Starbucks’s negative reaction to its workers’ union supporting Gaza was perceived as a violation of their own core values based on humanity. In December 2023 Starbucks shares fell 1.6% and this was the 11th and longest consecutive decline ever. Brand and core values truly govern share values. Break the core values and lose your share values.

With acute customer awareness and a social media penetration in every hand, brand success or failure is literally a click away. It is more than a name. It is more than a game. It is about mind share. It is about heart share. And, more importantly, it is about the soul share.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Andleeb Abbas

The writer is a columnist, consultant, coach, and an analyst and can be reached at [email protected]

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