It’s an uphill task for advertisers and marketers to figure out what works and why, and why not
What comes to your mind when I say Titan other than watches?
The same melodious music track that has been played in every commercial of the brand for over 28 years.
What about Britannia other than the biscuit associations - what comes to your mind?
The music track tin tin da din! And so the list of associations goes on, some inherent to the design of the brands in question and the other is the role played by advertising agencies who have been consistent with their execution over the years.
Why do associations matter?
Many of the brands are similar to each other and hardly different. And yet marketers and advertising agencies have to ensure that their brands are remembered from the plethora of choices that the consumer has. This is why colours matter. This is why shapes like the Harpic bottle are recalled. This is why the distinct of somewhat a strong smell of the Amrutanjan pain balm is remembered by consumers and the whole world knows if someone has applied it! There is also an important concept that we need to remember here. Associations that are carefully nurtured and built by careful advertising ends up as a brand property and Titan and Britannia clearly have become brand properties that are worth boasting about!
An association can be an early warning symbol
Not all associations however are positive.
Having a reasonable idea of positive associations, we must quickly bring up another thought about a negative association that actually has the potential to hurt a brand. How many of you remember the Toyota Qualis? It was launched in India in the year 2000 with great fanfare and it achieved tremendous acceptance in the Indian market. People were very happy with its size, the ruggedness and ability to transport people and luggage as it had done in Indonesia. However, another phenomenon was making itself apparent at the same time. Any resort, hill station or tourist destination you went to, you found the Toyota Qualis being used as a taxi. Soon you saw the Qualis everywhere as the taxi of choice and then actual users began having second thoughts about the brand. Why would anyone want to buy a taxi for their own use, particularly if the roads are littered with them? The company then came up with the Innova, a superior more expensive product.
Will history repeat itself?
Let me begin by saying that the Innova is a brilliant Toyota vehicle that has taken to Indian roads and Indian markets like a duck takes to water. It is easily Toyota’s largest selling vehicle in India and the Indian consumer instantly took it as a family vehicle and it became the long trip companion. Remember, India still has a united family that goes on pilgrimages, not to forget young families going in groups for trips and holidays. But another development happened in front of our very eyes. Ooty, Kodaikanal, Mysore and Lonavala were full of these same vehicles operating as taxis, not to forget the airports and the Metros which had their fair share of Innovas. As a consultant who worries about brands and their welfare, I wonder if the Innova might end up like the Quails. So here’s a quick research done by some students who were part of our branding program in the form of an association map which points to some warning signs for the brand as many people mention “taxi” as the first association. Of course a small size research like this is merely an indicator of a possible problem but the company must worry about this and probe this in greater detail.
How can we use this technique?
This technique is very useful to give you an understanding of what the consumers think and feel about your brand. What is the key association with? Nike with shoes for instance. Which brand do they see as contribution to this brand? Which association is more important and which is less important, is a possible result of this. Nike for instance, had spent millions on their brand’s advertising using the legendary golfer Tiger Woods. But this hardly came out in the research which must have got their antenna up.
Yes, associations are a useful brand management tool. They are not complex and don’t need too much investment. It is a simple but effective tool that many brands and consultants have used with great success. Think about some of the brands that you use and check for associations.
The results might surprise you!