By Ashish Mishra
The OLD-WORLD PLAYBOOK on branding is out. New codes are in. Finding new relevance and meaning in the changing world is the priority for brands.
What’s the category that Amazon operates in? Closer home, doesn’t Jio defy the conventional categorisation of businesses? There are many new acts of leadership now possible through the brand. But for branding to realise its new potential, it must be set free from its conventional myopia.
Nike Heart Clinic anyone? Clearly it’s deep branding that enables extensibility. What could that mean for the core of branding itself? To remain relevant for the new extreme generations it needs to be embraced by, the micro segmentation it needs to stretch for, hyper-localisation that it needs to flex with; branding needs to go deeper. And to go deeper, branding will have to create what Wharton marketing professor Americus Reed calls “the new meaning systems”. No wonder in a recent survey, we found an overwhelming interest and acceptance for Nike Heart Clinics.
Deep branding is about defining the core richly and then getting radical about it. Indeed, it is time brands began to invest more time in identifying and re-engineering their DNA, looking at rebrands more like gene transplants, not mere refreshes or restages limited to the spruced-up externalities and their guardrails.
Branding will no longer be about visual identity systems but meaning and value systems. Come to think of it, how much time do we really spend defining the brand deeply? Relative to the effort that goes into promoting and advertising it, the all important aspect of defining a brand feels utterly and dangerously neglected.
To put it in perspective, let’s look at how some of the greatest brands in the history of mankind have been defined. Faith brands or even the superheroes of our times are easily the strongest examples of branding, they serve well as an inspiration for deep branding too. From Christianity to Hinduism, and from Phantom to Spiderman; each of these all-powerful influences on our generations have rich and elaborate tenets that they are built on. That’s what makes such brands so powerfully world changing. Certainly, adopting such deep branding can enable regular brands too, to be influential, flexible and spread wider.
Much like how instilling a moral compass in a child allows her to freely explore the world without the fear of going wrong; a rich and deep brand core allows the brand to explore its opportunities to stretch and express freely, and even radically. This will help the brands blur the category lines to find new business opportunities. Embolden them to shrug off static positioning to dynamically lead the changing customer expectations though a series of iconic moves. Enable them to express seamlessly across the proliferating touch points by taking them away from the rigidity of identity into the flexibility of experience. So, the brands themselves can be set free to transcend the ordinary into the iconic.
The author is CEO, India and South Asia, Interbrand