<p>“The Complete Man” is not only just a campaign by Raymond, it is a portrayal of authoritative symbolic association that the brand has built in the consumer’s mind, who no longer consider it just as a product, but as an Icon, and as “their guide” to being dapper. To be an iconic brand means setting an outstanding aura by becoming a part of a customer’s lifestyle and providing more than just a product or service. Iconic brands command highest top-of-mind awareness and recall and the benefit of the instant association, even among consumers who do not frequently buy their products or are not even a part of the target audience. Also, an iconic brand has potential to become the identity of an entire ecosystem and is well positioned to outlast products and markets cycles.</p><p>Following are a few elements that we believe make a brand iconic-</p><ul><li>Superior Products & Highlighted Differentiation:</li></ul><p>The basis of being a good brand, the first step towards iconicity, is to offer superior products and services to attract customers and to maintain their loyalty towards the brand. The definition of “superior” is time, market and segment related, but brands that “cut corners” fail to last long.</p><p>Equally important, along with having a superior product, is the ability to communicate to the consumer the “differentiation”. Real or perceived differentiation has helped brands to always keep their offering attractive to the target segment and thereby in attaining and retaining iconicity. A successful differentiation strategy increases brand loyalty among its customers. Also, it helps an iconic brand to create a perception that the customer will not get any alternate or substitute in the market. Iconic brands do understand that they need to guide the consumer to make the right choices and need to communicate and propagate their benefits and differentiation to their target consumers, so that they do not get lost in a crowded market.</p><p>Superior product and highlighted differentiation have been slotted together as we believe that jointly their power is much greater than individually. know and expect consistent experience. If a brand can communicate and make apparent its “promise” to the consumers and consistently deliver on the same over the years or generations, across products and markets, they can earn the iconic status for themselves. The “trust” capital that iconic brands garner, pushes them to soar higher and grow faster. While this could work over a long period of time, we believe it is best to not let “discovery” take its own course.</p><ul><li>Consistency:</li></ul><p>Consumers develop a brand image through their interactions with a brand. They always want to buy from the brand they know and expect consistent experience. If a brand can communicate and make apparent its “promise” to the consumers and consistently deliver on the same over the years or generations, across products and markets, they can earn the iconic status for themselves. The “trust” capital that iconic brands garner, pushes them to soar higher and grow faster.</p><ul><li>Tenacity & Evolution:</li></ul><p>Being tenacious is holding on to the “core purpose and values” in good and bad market conditions. It is evolving with time to remain relevant, yet not being fickle and led by fads. It is not diluting the core for short-medium term gains, as attractive as they may seem. Fads may come and temporarily disrupt the market, but iconic brands remain resolute and deliver their core promise, evolving with time but never losing their grip on the fundamentals of their business and the needs they address.</p><p>Evolution however is a must. Most iconic brands have steered the future rather than being steered by it. They have led their chosen categories and have marched ahead of others with a vision of the future. Iconic brand have an unflinching eye on the evolution of their consumers and guide them into the future, or at worst evolve with them. Brands that loose this focus, lose relevance and hence fade away.</p><p>Again, there is a certain interplay between tenacity and evolution and hence one has to be looked at in the light of the other. In certain cases, tenacity and being resolute quickly turns into stubbornness and short-sightedness. Brands thus fail to understand the changing consumer realities and fade away.</p><ul><li>Market Disruption:</li></ul><p>Success through innovation means continuous disruption. Knowing the customer’s latent needs and using this information to continuously innovate products and selling more efficiently disrupts the market. While it is certainly good to have 10X innovations, disruptions can also happen through small insights that can be converted into meaningful “differentiation”. Also, as mentioned earlier, brands have the power to lead consumers/consumption and innovations may lead to need creation.</p><p>Disruption is one of the ways to become iconic in a much shorter time frame, as the disrupter changes the playing field itself, to its own advantage.</p><ul><li>Storytelling:</li></ul><p>Most Iconic brands have mastered in narrating brand stories that resonate with their audience, thereby helping them engage with more customers, enhance loyalty and in the process, increase brand revenues. It is not only important to have a story, but to weave the customer’s story – struggles, needs, desires, and aspirations with the brand’s story. This will develop genuine brand engagement and an iconic symbol. Further, storytelling is not just about communication, but the entire brand experience has to be crafted around the “brand story”. The resultant emotional connect with consumers help brands to rise above the basic price versus functionality game and create a more compelling reason for them to pick the brand over other. Another way to master storytelling is through putting a clear vision and mission statement and communicating the brand values to the consumer. This allows customers to understand what the brand stands for and then choose whether or not they want to transact with the brand</p><ul><li>Internal & External Alignment:</li></ul><p>To support all the above requires tremendous alignment and focus, firstly within the organization, then with external partners and agencies that work with the brand, and with all stakeholders associated with the brand. It requires wholehearted buy-in, clarity of thought and consistency in action across levels. The brand values then translate into the organizational culture and vice versa.</p><p>For a brand to be iconic, it has to work on all the above elements, though in different magnitudes, depending on the industry and segment it operates in. A brand has to fare outstandingly well on a few elements, while being good on others. Also, being outstanding on a few elements holds more weightage for a brand’s iconicity than being good on all. Therefore, “excellence” is what an iconic brand should pursue on the chosen elements and being good would simply not be good enough. Lastly, the above by no means are the only elements that a brand can choose to attain iconicity, but are the ones found in most iconic brands. Brands can script their own journey to iconicity and can add new elements to the list presented above.</p><p> </p>
KR Expert - Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi
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