Trying to Build a Big Brand? Do You Own THE Right Word?


Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step

–          Chinese proverb

Even the process of building a big brand is not different.

Journey of building a big brand begins with one word

                                                                                – Shall I write my name here or not?

Have you ever noticed, many big and successful brands are so strongly associated with one word that they literally own it?

For E.g. Beauty belongs to Lux, Dettol protects and Thanda matlab… Coca Cola. I am sure you will be able to add many more examples.

“Does your brand own a word?”

When I start working for a brand, apart from many other questions, I invariably ask this question to the client. I am quite keen to know whether he has thought in this direction or not.

And in most of the cases I find that this critical aspect is missing. If a brand doesn’t own any word then the first obvious step is to identify one.

 “Which word should you attempt to own for your brand?”

Quite often I get replies like ‘powerful’, ‘safe’, ‘convenient’, etc.

Sometimes, I sense some degree of impatience in the client. I hear questions like: “Is it really important?” “Is it needed in pharma marketing?” “Can’t we just get on with the campaign?” Obviously the client is under huge pressure to meet the timeline. He is not sure whether the whole business of owning the word is worth or not.

Is it really important to own a word?

How important is it to own a word (or two words in some exceptional cases) for your brand? Well, Indian pharma market is flooded with ‘me too’ brands. It is therefore not surprising when I say that only few of them are able to gather sizable mass. Remaining hundreds of brands just drain the organizational resources.

If you are not amongst the first or the first few to launch your brand, chances are that it is languishing amongst those hundreds.

As a late entrant in the undifferentiated market is there any way to bring your brand to top three? Though odds are heavily against you but the answer is YES…it is possible. But, the only way you can do it is through differentiation.

Every pharma marketer knows well that to differentiate a ‘me too’ brand is next to impossible.

In the undifferentiated market, where every brand has same benefits to offer, the only way to differentiate your brand is through differentiated communication. This involves two most essential steps. The first one is to arrive at right positioning while the second is to build a powerful campaign around it.

Positioning is all about occupying a unique place in the mind of your customers. To do it effectively, it has to be sharp and differentiating. Here, owning a right word will make all the difference.

 “The most powerful concept in marketing”

If you try to pack too many benefits while positioning your brand, it gets blunt. It won’t penetrate in the mind of your customers. Therefore, zeroing down to one word is the key. It also means you have to sacrifice many benefits of your brand. But, the reward of your sacrifice will be the sharp positioning of your brand that penetrates in the mind of your customers.

This concept was first introduced by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their renowned book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” first published in 1993. Law #5 from the book is The Law of Focus where authors state: “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”

The question is, does this hold good even after 20 years? Though the principle remains unchanged, the environment is completely different today. From the world of relatively less brands, we have come to the world of brand explosion. Almost every good word is owned by some or the other brand. Owning a word appears to be a mindboggling task.

How to arrive at THE right word?

This is the most difficult part. Many a times, brand managers either don’t attempt this or run out of patience before taking the whole process to its logical end. The best way to do it is through the process of facilitation involving cross functional team of medical, marketing and sales. The challenge is to have someone as a facilitator who is not just good at the art of facilitation but also has a fairly deep understanding of all these functions. If you can get someone, outcome is worth the effort and the money. I can tell you this from my experience of facilitating many such workshops.

If having such workshops is not a feasible option for you, don’t worry. In my next blog post Trying to build a big brand?  8 steps for THE right word.” I will explain the steps by which you can choose the right word for your brand yourself.

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