A few years ago, arguably the doyen of marketing Dr. Philip Kottler made an observation that for all its manufacturing presence Bangladesh didn't have an 'international' brand identity. There were approving nods in the seminar hall from persons ranging from manufacturing to branding as well as those who seek to elaborate on the essence of branding itself. Theory suggests a brand is a 'promise' and in many ways a 'being' of sorts and from there the discussion flows to brand equity, attributes and muscles. The debate between the superiority of a product or service brand as opposed to a corporate brand continues. Coca Cola sustains both as a brand and corporate, India's ITC survives as a corporate but subtle changes are taking place.
Dr. Kottler's submission was correct but in a world where product quality is improving manifold and smaller brands are either being swallowed in the complexity of mergers and acquisitions and then cleverly killed off, only those with enduring value for the customer will likely survive. Outsourcing hasn't dented brand image now that the rules of origin are amplified based on the simple proposition that the brand takes care of customer need irrespective of the origin of manufacture. Strangely and partly contrary to Dr. Kottler's view Japanese brands outsourced from elsewhere do not carry the same equity weightage. On the flip side, Chinese manufactured products are considered inferior in quality but no one bats an eyelid that Apple accessories are manufactured there. Dr. Kottler wasn't asked the question why the Chinese hadn't succeeded in developing a brand. Ali Baba is one answer if one considers on-line warehouses with zero inventory. But when Huwawei is denied lucrative software and hardware contracts due to 'national security'the question of brand equity competing on strength does pop up.
Branding and all that brand building evokes is to make inroads into the consumer minds in one way or the other and as more and more young marketers come out of of business schools they have their own views of how to make theory work and indeed iron out the oddities of things the way they used to be creased. Views and attitudes change as do habits and even usage. In Korea eating out or bringing in take away is considered cheaper and better value than traditional home-cooking. That can hardly be good news for manufacturers or suppliers of kitchen implements. The real factor is convenience of choice. But cost and competition both have a role to play hence the willingness and rush for mergers and acquisitions. As for tackling the upstart brands its all about the four Ps of marketing-product,price,promotion and placement. If it clicks it sticks and the faithful following don't take too long to congregate in the age of crowdsourcing. The newer answer is adding a bit of bespoke character to brands. Call them Superbrands to make them stand out.
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