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Reverse branding and the “waoh” factor


Reverse branding and the “waoh” factor

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.

As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They  ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces.

They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and  all who touched him were healed. – Mark 6:53-56 (NIV)


All over the world, corporate organizations spend top dollar on the promotion of their brands. This is done under several cognomens to wit, brand identity, brand packaging, brand positioning, brand communication, brand equity, brand content etc. I have a very strong feeling that more often than not, advertising agencies, masquerading as brand managers are the only ones that can quantify the direct profit they make from promoting various brands. Unfortunately, to the detriment of the corporate organizations who unwittingly surrender their purse to the brand “experts”, the most important dimension of the brand is often neglected or not given the attention and resources it deserves. I am talking here about the contact of the brand with its market to produce the experience that determines whether the brand succeeds or not.

The identity of the brand gives a ‘face’ to the product. The name, the colours, the logo are the things that combine to give a brand its identity. Brand managers convince organizations to spend so much on this dimension of the brand because, according to them, it is what is required to etch the brand in the market’s consciousness. The logic is simple. Keep it before their eyes long enough and they would not be able to shake it out of their consciousness! While this may be true, there is however a twist to this logic. The consciousness of the market does not necessarily translate to its patronage of the brand! Before it went into bankruptcy and eventual liquidation, BankPHB had some of the world’s most ingenuous adverts. Those adverts were simply the bomb; evidence of a well-thought out process of innovative marketing and brand projection. The adverts were simply in your face and completely irresistible. They projected the bank as the financial institution of a future characterized by cars that would run on water and cars that would drive themselves. Bottom-line question. How many customers did it bring to the bank? Not enough to keep it afloat when the bitter reality of distress hit it! Perhaps the market, though enthralled by the creativity of BankPHB’s projection, could not bring itself to wait for the future projected!

Packaging has to do with how the brand is presented to the public. The emphasis here is what I call the type of cloak that the product wears. For a book for instance, it is the cover. While the reader may be initially attracted to a beautiful cover, it is trite wisdom that you do not judge a book by its cover. I have bought several books on the strength of their cover and regretted my spending decision! With some, i was barely able to wade through the first chapter. And I consider myself a bookworm! On the other hand, there are several whose cover I disliked but thoroughly enjoyed the content.

Positioning largely concerns itself with a place in the market. The goal here is to enhance market visibility and consciousness to generate an appeal that leads to higher market share (read brand equity).

Everything about a brand can be summarized in three words viz content, context, and contact. The last one is what ACTUALLY determines if the brand will succeed or fail. This is where the why and how of the brand are brought into the behaviour of the market. By market behaviour, I mean consumer patterns of consumption, spending and attitudes. Any brand manager ignores this to the peril of his brand. Brand attrition is largely attributable to this lethal neglect. While the content of the brand largely presents its face and its value proposition, the context defines its milieu and target market. But the contact level is what determines how the market responds to it. The thrust of any brand is in the quality of the experience it delivers to the customer. Beyond the razzmatazz of the several billions spent on advertising the brand and putting it in the consumer’s face, where the rubber really meets the road is whether or not the customer is delighted enough with his contact with the brand to make a repeat purchase. Furthermore, his experience should not only make him a customer but be able to transform him into a customer evangelist. Brands succeed when there is a significant turnover occasioned by repeat business.

In the emerging market where alternatives compete for space, reverse branding is the way to go. The brand Jesus illustrates this ever so clearly. His value proposition was not only clearly communicated to His audience but everywhere He went, the people’s experience was in consonance with the proposition. People are attracted to whatever solves their greatest problems like ants are to sugar. So, the moment they heard that Jesus was in a particular place, they thronged the place in the confidence that contact with him would mean a solution to their problems. They were attracted to what they had heard or seen him do, not just what He said He would do. When, at the beginning of His ministry in Luke 4, He laid out His value proposition in the synagogue, it was before a few congregants. But when He actually started translating that to an experience for the people, He needed no advertisements. His ‘market’ gladly did that for Him. This is what great brands do. They solve problems. Beyond their ability to come up with a unique, problem-solving value proposition that is strong enough to attract the attention of their intended market and the ability to communicate this offering to the intended market in a simple, everyday language that projects the product as user-sensitive and user-friendly, is their capacity to make the target audience want to risk an experience.

What creates the “Waoh!” factor around a brand? It is neither the huge billboards nor the humongous-budget TV, radio, newspaper adverts and the sundry media campaigns. True, they may create awareness about the brand and enhance consciousness but they do not translate to its market success.

Connecting a value proposition (read brand promise) to the everyday experience or market expectation is until it becomes market norm is the first guarantee of soar-away success. This is the secret of reverse branding!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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