A couple of days back, my five-year old son came to me and naively told me that we should replace our current hand wash with Dettol’s. I asked him, “Who told you?” I thought he must have learned this from his teachers at school (teachers are the best brand advocates). But to my surprise, he told me that he saw a Dettol’s TV commercial.

It is easy for brands to persuade the delicate minds of kids. But we all know how kids can influence decisions of parents when it comes to grocery shopping. They use their pester power and make parents buy things of their choice. This small episode also made me think that how strong brands influence every person, not just kids, in a consumer society.

As a brand manager, if you are following some tried and tested rules to create powerful brands, you would certainly like to read this article. In our management schools, faculty members always discuss brand building practices followed by Hegarty and Ogilvy. After leaving the institute, we tend to forget those important lessons we learned from the best marketing books. No worries! This piece takes you back to the advertising gospels you read in your college library.

How to Create a Strong Brand

Honesty is the best policy

When I was a student, a question would always puzzle me: can advertising sell bad products? After reading ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ I got the answer and the answer is: yes, advertising can sell bad products, but only once. You can fool your consumers only once; next time the consumer perceives the product is second-rate and never buys it again. This causes severe financial loss to the brand owners or manufacturers, whose profits come from repeat purchases. The best way to increase the sale of a product is to improve the product. This is particularly true of food products; the consumer is amazingly quick to notice an improvement in taste and buy the product more often.

Remember: To achieve permanent place in consumers’ minds and hearts, you may have to bear some temporary loss. This practice is sincerely followed by some car makers, who recall their cars to fix some technical problems.

Trust is at the core of the existence of brands

Gone are the days when consumers used to purchase goods from their local community. Today, the consumer is more mobile and wealthy; he doesn’t have any qualms about buying goods from strangers. This means, consumers trust those strangers and goods they are selling. They know that they are getting a reliable and efficient service or product. This is Trust they put in the brands. Win the trust of consumers and you will get that permanent place in the heart and mind of consumer. To win the trust of consumers, your brand should fulfil the promise it communicates to users.

Think like your audience

I am in the habit of slagging off brand managers, who never think about their audience. During my career as copywriter, I had many altercations with brand managers, who used to approach me with rubbish designs approved by the chairman. I would ask them a single question: Is chairman or managing director going to use the product or service? They would become speechless. My point is that while building a strong brand, brand managers should think like target audience.

Today, owing to new technology, brands are controlled by consumers more than ever. The consumer’s part in a brand’s success is now even more fundamental and indeed precarious.

Hegarty on Advertising, p42

If any brand manager fails to understand this fact, the brand has no future. Great brands have discarded the conventional idea that the world revolves around them – products and services. If as a brand owner, you are obsessed with yourself, your brand will soon become extinct.

The key to great marketing is never to stop thinking like your audience. If you do this then you don’t lose touch with what it feels like to be excited and entertained by a great product or service – you have to be constantly intrigued by the world around you and what it offers. I try to live by that philosophy. I work in advertising, I don’t live in advertising. Understanding the role your brand plays in people’s lives and knowing how to make it more relevant is crucial.

Hegarty on Advertising, p43.

To sum up, honesty and trust are key factors every brand manager should keep in mind while building strong brands. It is important to stay loyal and passionate about the company you work for, but remember that products and services you are selling are meant for audience and not for the company.