Branding in a Competitive Marketplace.
The first response to the book, Branding in a Competitive Marketplace is whether the subject has been dealt with in a unique manner, or whether this is just old wine in a new bottle. The competitive nature of branding is of great relevance to the marketer. The book synthesizes and covers the important areas of Branding including Brand value, Brand Identity, Brand Equity/valuation, Brand Extensions and Brand Revitalization. The authors insights and understanding of different markets in India makes interesting reading, and his lucid writing style, has created a "marketer's soul" ( as described by Santosh Desai, writer and Managing Director and CEO of Futurebrands Limited) in the overall flow of the book.
The uniqueness of the book is the reference of brands in competitive markets especially in the FMCG category. The reader gets interesting insights of different brands be it a brand like Maggi Noodles or a brand like Dettol soap, both which had to augment its generic branding strategy to a more focussed value proposition in order to meet changing consumers' expectations, driven by competition. At the same time marketers are warned of the inefficiency of Marketing Programs, whether it is declining brand equity, unprofitable sales promotion programs, success rates of a meager 10 percent or an even more meager ROI on advertisement campaigns of 4 percent. With the use of brand examples in the Indian market, the author has explained how the supply-chain edge of ITC has enabled them to create a Rs 2500 crore market with Bingo, Aashirvaad and Sunfeast, or the distribution strength of HUL in making a success of Knorr Soupy Noodles in the instant noodles market or the positioning success of Red Bull in the soft drinks market, dominated by Pepsi and Coke. The book seems to reinforce that brands should never say never, to counter competition.
In the subject of Brand Management, Brand Positioning is a core concept that marketers need to develop effective strategies. The book clubs this important subject in the concept of Brand Identity, and in the process, to some extent, undermines its importance. The use of Nirula's as a case to elaborate the Brand Positioning case may be debated, since Nirula's is not considered a benchmarking brand on brand positioning--given the salience of the brand, its limited geography and it's lack of success in the Indian market.
The other key concept of Brand Management is Brand Equity. The author has dedicated three chapters for this with an emphasis on building brand equity, designing marketing programs to build brand equity and the accounting and valuations of brands. These have been a comprehensive synthesis of concepts covered in most books of brand management with the incorporation of Indian brand examples. The author has attempted to convey the relationship between the different models of brand equity. However, this has been done in a cursive manner, and could have been more detailed. The subject could have been treated with more Indian examples.
Brand extensions and Brand revitalization are very important strategies for Brand managers. In these two chapters, the author has attempted at covering a number of issues in branding. The main concepts however have not been detailed with sufficient examples. The detailed cases of Mortein and Kingfisher beer have highlighted the elements that go to successful brand strategies.
With the sterling credentials of the author, the strategic nature of brand management could have been more effectively brought across. However, the book is indeed a smart synthesis of the key concepts of branding and is a very readable book for students and marketing professionals in India.
Professor, FORE School of Management.