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I Promise

brand consulting firms

“I take you to be my wedded …… and so throughout life, no matter what may lie ahead of us, I pledge to you my life as a loving and faithful …”.

Irrespective of the language you have taken or are likely to take the marital vows in the foreseeable future, the essence remains the same. At the ‘mandap’, these few words easily roll off the tongue; why not, it’s a high point and ones nuptials after all. Then time passes by.  Alas, how many of these promises see the light of day? Separations, infidelity, taken for granted are abundantly visible on the horizon a few years into wedlock … whatever happened to the vows, the promise?

Worry not; this is not a discourse on the vagaries of married life, but the parallels the author finds with the world of brand building. Look around you; every bit of advertising, static or moving, makes promises or ‘claims’ to alleviate, energise, entertain, make life efficient, connect you, make healthy, add glamour and so on … They tempt and entice you to go out and place your money on them, which you do so, in the belief that they will live up to their promise. Reality is that it is easy to ‘claim’, but herculean to deliver …

A peek into why it’s an uphill task for a marketer to fulfil this commitment. Cautioning us that we need to get our house in order before taking the mike and going to town. So here are a couple of cases, one we observed and another from a homegrown brand

The launch of BIAL, brought the all new Bangalore airport to the traveller. You needed to travel a distance to get there, but the new airport promised to transform the passenger experience. One interesting claim they made on signage at the airport went something like; ‘It takes 8 minutes for the suns rays to reach the earth, we deliver your luggage in 7 minutes.’ Being used to waiting for ages in frustration in the past for baggage to arrive, this was indeed a welcome relief. So as many travellers would do, I began to track the airports performance in its endeavour to beat the sun in the dash for the carousel. The results were astounding; 9 times out of 10, the baggage was already there as I turned the bend towards the baggage carousel. Performance … delivered

Take a minute to step behind the scenes. What does it take to consistently beat the 8 minute mark, flight after flight, day after day … the plane should not be parked too far from the arrival lounge, the captain needs to release the cargo hold lock instantly, the unloading team needs to be in start position, unloading of baggage needs to start immediately come rain or storm, the baggage vehicle needs to be given an express and priority route, the loading bay at the carousels needs to be designed to accommodate multiple vehicles, those loading baggage onto the carousel need to be in position and ready, each one of the people involved in this process need to understand and internalise the importance of making it in time, their performance assessment has to match safety to baggage as well as delivery time, the personnel should not strike work, there have to be enough baggage trolleys for peak hours … phew!

All this has to come together in an orchestrated manner for you and I are to be walking out of the terminal at minute 10. Its about design, operational efficiency, routing, co-ordination, capital investment. Picture this, Changi airport has cut through all this … They have an underground conveyor system close to where your plane stops connecting directly to the baggage hall … bingo, your baggage is there before you arrive!

Lets take another example. When retail buyers make a purchase decision on construction steel, they are strongly influenced by the visual look of the steel bar. If its rusted, the intent to consider and purchase declines. Realising this, this brand launched a campaign that went something like this.

At the time of going to market with this proposition, we did not realize what we were setting ourselves up for. It’s a monster of a promise, one that requires you to turn a part of your business operations on its head. Consider this; from the day on which a steel bar is manufactured it begins to rust. The mandate was to ensure that the bar rusts minimally until the customer picks it up. So what do you do? Manufacture Just-in-time, minimise finished stock inventory, stock steel produced in sheds that minimise moisture loss, transport material to the dealer in a protected environment, ensure that the dealer follows the principle of First in First out and that he builds godowns to stock the material. If that is not enough, add a chemical that retards the onset of corrosion … seems an easy recipe? In the instant case, it took 6 -12 months to put this in place. Because you cannot have a single customer coming back with a copy of this ad and saying that your product rusts!

To find a compelling customer proposition is relatively easier, takes some ideation, smart creative and reasonable budgets to propagate the same. It’s the delivery that separates the men from the boys. As we’ve seen in the cases above, at times it takes an organizational overhaul to deliver on the proposition; re-jigging organizational processes, the willingness to make capital investments, change mindset of employees, refine the performance management and compensation systems. And a level of follow up that ensures that company delivers to the promise day after day. This is perhaps more complex in a service business, though we have seen above the same can also true for product marketing. So while the brand team and the creative agency is busy getting their messaging in place, the organization needs to look at the internal capability to back the message, and start putting the pieces in place even before the brand goes on air

If Heads of businesses see their propositions as equivalent to a vow, where they will not take the customer for granted, they will begin to do cartwheels to deliver on the same, and end up securing for their brands a level of trust that will be tough to emulate

Cut to the wedding scene with a fresh lens! Its not just about the couple taking the vows, the immediate and extended family, friends, pets, co-workers et all have a role to play in helping the matrimony one that’s not just ‘made in heaven’ but synonymous in experience. The ecosystem has to conspire to converge together … be it marriage or brand. Time to raise a toast?

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