Global Automobile Brand Strategy Analysis is focused on Branding only with a case study of Automobile Industry.
Perhaps one of the most easily misunderstood terms today when it comes to products and services is branding. It is so commonplace these days to hear the terms
“We don't need to brand, we just need to sell”
“We’re great technologists. How hard can branding be?”
“We’ll do it ourselves!”
“Our product is so good it will sell itself”
“Branding isn't measurable”
Well, this article is here to tell you that there's more to branding than what meets the customers’ eyes at the end of the day. It's an art all on its own. It needs to be understood and thoroughly thought through before any sort of campaign or misconception as to how easy branding can be, takes over our minds.
It's very convenient to say “Don't judge a book by its cover”. But the hard reality of the world we live in today is that if the cover of the book you’re trying to sell does not do the trick, it doesn't matter how good your book may be, it still has a high chance of failing. Branding is the process, the art of shaping the perception of the customer's minds to adapt to a positive attitude with respect to the brand. The times have gone when people respected a product and bought it because it was good. It is being rapidly replaced by times when people don't buy a product, they buy a brand. They trust in a higher entity, the”brand”. They also blame the brand when things go wrong. Branding is a way of providing immunity for the company or the brand against failure. It has become a stereotype to connect advertising to branding. Advertising is a part of branding, but not the whole package in itself. Several brands have failed miserably in spite of their ludicrous advertising campaigns. Hence, advertising alone will not help forge that emotional tie between the brand and the customer that makes the latter blindly entrust the former with their purchasing power. This takes skill, knack and a great amount of precision. Though advertising can strengthen the already existing foothold of the brand, it cannot establish a basement in the founding phase.
Another major branding myth that needs to be eradicated is the thinking that if some strategy worked for a company, it's most likely to work for another company too. Each brand is unique in its own way and its connection that it forms with the customer, and each of these bonds need to be made stronger with a different algorithm. Using what worked on another brand onto your company has been one of the major causes of failures in a multitude of brands, and has demolished the existing bonds with the customers.
Let us now turn our attention to one of the top automobile players in India, Mahindra.
Mahindra made its entry into the heavy-duty truck segment in a joint venture with a US-based Navistar company, and the resulting venture was named Mahindra Navistar. Their catch phrase said “Ok is no longer ok”, indicating new levels of threshold quality, and inception the thought of advanced and better performance as compared to their traditional counterparts. The initially launched products were prefixed with MN to signify the venture’s name, but following their separation, the new names were not easily memorable and were the farthest from being catchy. Names like Torro, Truxo, and Traco failed to make an impression on the customer. This was further coupled with wrong pricing and extreme paranoia about their competition which led to their downfall. What most companies fail to notice it that a unique strategy to create a bridge between company and consumer will go a long way. Simply trying to adapt with existing strategies of other companies had proved fatal to many. As companies move up the customer chain and the incomes come pouring in, they forget their core value. Their core belief with which they had founded their relationship with the customer. When this is forgotten and moved forward, the customers inevitably lose their trust in the company as a whole. As a part of the new branding strategy undertaken by Mahindra trucks, the company has focused all its attention on better mileage and after sales support in order to succeed in winning the trust of their customer base. The company had to attempt to push their game one step further ahead to gain a clear advantage in the Indian truck industry and also visually demonstrate the claims they were making on its guarantee.
The company was in the process of taking a lot of effort in order to incept the desire to buy in the customer. Now, after nearly seven years of gaining customers’ trust and working hard to understand and fulfill their expectations, Mahindra is now a success story. It is a company which has built its customer perception with great precision and care, and is at a very good place now and is on its way to building the ideal landscape. To back their excellence they also have a Mahindra Excellence transport award to further enhance this perception. Their main target audience is the medium and large fleet owners. To further strengthen their public image, is the face of Ajay Devgan playing its fabulous role in gaining as well as reinforcing brand recognition and attention. The only remnant in this already excellent process of branding is to communicate all this to the larger crowd in their advertisements. The company has reached a fruitful point in their life cycle where their product performance is now key and all aspects of brand recognition and trust have been resolved and death with. Now that customers are in check with external branding, the company now also faces the question of internal branding to strengthen its relations with employees, financiers, and the dealer network. Further, the company needs to always keep a constant check on whether their core values and their actions match so there can be no issues to be raised later. This could be one of the best fits even if the company succeeds in developing valuable partnerships with their clientele.
NEXA has adopted a slightly different branding strategy than Maruti Suzuki. It is a company that desires to move into the position of a premium car segment. It does so by forming a mindset of NEXA as a premium car as opposed to the perception of Maruti Suzuki being a common man’s car. Though they attempt to bring this perception into the car, there exist no visible differences in the performances of both the NEXA and the Maruti Suzuki with respect to pricing, trust as well as emotions of the customer towards the brand. The trouble here is that the characteristics don't match to its premium category image and that needs to be amended. This error holds the stake of the company’s future and needs to rectify. Though the company has firmly established such varying perspectives in the customers’ minds for both the brands, the Maruti Suzuki website still shows NEXA products under the name Maruti Suzuki. This is a fine example to show that co-branding does more bane than a boon to the product and it results in taking the royalty off the principal brand.
For example, the Renowned Jaguar Land Rover preserved its identity and did not fuse with that of Tata Motors. One of the best examples of preserving excellently its brand identity, perception, pricing, target customers and brand strategy is that of the Volkswagen Group. Even companies like Audi, Skoda, Bentley, and Lamborghini make added efforts to match product value with the brand image.
A company that faced issues with being in the same segment was RIN and Surf Excel. In the end, the companies merged as one. This could be the case with Maruti Suzuki as well.
In the case of the Jaguar Land Rover and TATA, it is evident that co-branding shall not take place and each company preserves its identity. This sort of proposition works best when the two cater to a different clientele base and product descriptions. One of the main aspects that decide whether or not a customer is bought into the brand, is the perception. They need to perceive the brand in the way the company wants them to perceive and they need to feel the bond the company has tried to create. In this case, the perceptions of both brands are clear with respect to the customer.
Think of your brand as a newborn baby. The initial stages are the most important and granted, they are the hardest too. At this time, it needs to be cared for and nurtured in the right way, taking its needs into consideration. Only then can it be expected to grow into the company we have envisioned in our minds. Companies like Bharat Benz were created especially for emerging markets like India. This company has not used any existing brands for its recognition. Its name has simply evolved by combining Bharat India, a premium segment brand and Mercedes Benz, the worlds largest truck makers.
With this, on one hand, the other hand we have the company MAN Motors entering India with a similar premium segment image but resulted in establishing itself as a heavy truck segment brand as branding was not focused properly in the right arena. Due to lack of proper branding, MAN Motors is reduced to the same fate as its counterpart, Bharatbenz.
On a parallel note, Daimler and Foton combined in a joint venture to form Auman which found its place in the Medium and Heavy duty truck segment. It's position also lies between the two companies who have joined to form the venture in the first place.
Excellence is redefined as always by the Germans who have made a strong foothold not only Trucks, but also in cars. They have clearly defined their target segment. Brand value and reach, and ensure all this is in accordance with their brand strategy and core company beliefs. For example, though Aston Martin has been acquired dozens of times, it still hasn't lost its brand name and uniqueness.
One of the troubles faced by Volvo was similar characteristics between the Volvo and Renault trucks, with only a minor difference between the two. Due to this, customers preferred to have the Volvo truck that any other truck of the same group.
Two Wheeler Branding Strategy:
Two wheeler has an entirely different branding strategy for each of its products, as well as individual segments. They strategies based on their target customers, products and pricing. The premium segments have an even more elaborate and differing battle strategy for branding. Some examples of the premium segment include Harley Davidson, Triumph, KTM and Indian. Branding, as said earlier involves a great deal of balance, and multi tasking in the multifaceted life cycle of the product, and is not only tested by the strength of advertisements. The two wheeler branding also has some interesting news on the gossip front. TVS is known for making use of cricket celebrities, the Scooty and Scooter segment are endorsed by Bollywood celebrities and at other times, Scooty is advertised by new faces, predominantly women. Also frowned upon, is relaunching and reverting back products with the same name. This raises many questions about the brand as such. For example, TVS relaunched their TVS Victor in 2007 after it was discontinued in 2001. Initially, TVS launched their highly successful Scooty product series. Later, they broadened it to launch various products named Scooty, Scooty zest 110, Scooty Pep and Scooty Pep Plus. A variant, namely Jupiter has made its entry into the market is proving to be very successful in taking the place of Honda Activa. An added advantage to the company is having Big B as an ambassador that has entrusted several customers in its web of trust and legacy. Although TVS is a name that is known almost everywhere, it still has miles to go and milestones to reach before it can be satisfied. They have strongly influenced the mass with well-known faced. Now has come the time to move the mass with its technology and design and take major strides in that area too. Till date, it has achieved this only with its Apache.
Similarly, Bajaj’s signature product has always been the Pulsar. It has extended this product multiple times with changes made in each version of the bike.
There also exist companies like Yamaha which are not entirely keen on relaunching any of their products, though they do have variants of a product in the market. Yamaha have made a bold move as the Brand Ambassador with bikes and mopeds. Furthermore, their advertisements feature John Abraham and Deepika Padukone which have gained them a permanent place in the hearts of speed lovers and respective fan clubs. Bajaj has not taken leverage of the Brand Ambassador title, however they have made significant strides forward with their catch phrases “Hamara Bajaj” and “Bajaj Distinctly Ahead”
In a nutshell, brands and customers share a bond. This needs to be nurtured, taken care of and fulfilled to fully exploit a brand’s name and make it recognizable among the crowd. It doesn't matter if you have a big name or a fancy ad, what matters is the heart and the soul working behind it aiming for excellence. Though the hare and the tortoise started the race at the same time and the hare would clearly be the winner using one’s strengths to win it all is a trick that has been done since all time. Are you going to open your bag of tricks that original and awesome or are you going to try and copy and take a game of risk?