Shaveta Bhardwaj
Head of West-Kantar Milward Brown

In this world of 24×7 data, it has become possible to make high-quality brand decisions very fast. When used well, this potential offers a significant advantage. After all, brand value is the lifeblood of modern business, and strong brands generate superior shareholder return. One of the most reliable ways to build brand value is through relatable advertisements that speak directly to, and influence, the target consumer.

In this presentation, titled “Using research to nurture brands”, Shaveta Bharadwaj, managing director (western region) for Kantar Millward Brown, a leading market research firm, described the tried and tested ad strategies of world-renowned brands. She identified standout campaigns that succeeded in delivering a great deal of information about the brand to the target audience, with the least friction. She analysed the simple, powerful storytelling techniques used in these campaigns.

What makes a successful brand

Three key features make a brand stand out from the crowd, said Bharadwaj. ‘They are salience, meaningfulness and differentiation.’ And the payoff?  “Brands that are meaningfully different and have used good advertisements”, said Bharadwaj, record much greater growth than brands that lack these attributes.

Salience is captured by how quickly and easily a consumer can recall a brand. Instant recollection is possible only when the brand has an emotional connect with the consumer.

Before salience comes meaningfulness: is a brand, together with its products, services and advertisements, meaningful to its customers? Does it understand what they seek, and give it to them in the most affirming way possible?

Finally, the brand must differentiate itself effectively from its competitors, in a positive sense, to impress its customers and consumers.

“Our research finds that about 40 per cent of brands are salient, which refutes the once-popular argument that location alone determines the profitability of a brand,” said Bharadwaj. As to the other two key features, “34 per cent of brands are meaningful, and 26 per cent have differentiated their product lines”.

To demonstrate the power of brand value, Bharadwaj screened a TV ad that showed inter-communal harmony developing over a product. In its closing screen, the ad showed just the signature smile logo of The ad went viral after its launch despite getting mixed reactions from people of both the communities it featured. Its success, she said, lay in the instant consumer connection that the Amazon logo commanded. The ad created a huge predisposition towards Amazon in the future, she added.

Another self-assessment metric she recommended to the jewellers in her audience was: what proportion of walk-ins is supported by the retailer’s brand equity or brand power?

The dos and don’ts of ad videos

During her presentation Bharadwaj screened a number of ad videos to illustrate the dos and don’ts of creating brand value. A Volkswagen ad, for example, showed horses at a farm falling over with laughter as one farmer in a small car tried hopelessly to manoeuvre in a slippery farmyard. The laughing stopped when a sleek Volkswagen SUV performed the same maneouvre with consummate ease. This ad, said Bharadwaj, generated instant identification with the brand among the viewing audience.

Another example she offered was a popular Christmas ad by department store brand John Lewis featuring a dog, a boxer, bouncing cheerfully on a trampoline after watching its owners do the same. The implied message was of product quality assurance, but the quality of execution of the ad itself helped make the brand appealing.

Bharadwaj also screened an Emirates airline ad to demonstrate, conversely, how investment in creating visual appeal can fail if the content does not tally with the brand. The ad, she said, confused rather than winning over its viewers.

Building trust, acting on insight

Brand-building, said Bharadwaj, “can never be successful without incorporating the trust factor. If one compares the top 10 Indian trustworthy brands, across categories, with their international counterparts, consumers held a staggering 83 per cent less trust in Indian brands.” In other words, consumers trusted the international brands nearly twice as much.

In a category like jewellery, she said, “The key lies in building relationships with your customers and leveraging them to the fullest by providing maximum information and ensuring transparency.” She singled out well-designed buyback options as an important and meaningful way to establish the necessary sense of security among consumers of jewellery.

According to research by a sister company of Millward Brown, said Bharadwaj, a brand becomes powerful when it unites “trust” and “dare”. “This should come as a useful tip for India, which is full of entrepreneurs and new ideas,” she said.

Finally she screened a TV ad promoting Makeup Pro, an app by cosmetics brand Lakmé. The app helps a user to select the appropriate “look” for a given occasion by surfing and buying a range of customisable makeup options.

“This is an FMCG brand using technology to enter e-tail,” Bharadwaj explained. “Business frameworks are changing across the world and one doesn’t have to stick to retail stores to expand.” “There are new media available and one should explore them to reap the maximum benefit in brand awareness.”

Access to quantities of detailed, fresh and well-analysed data certainly does offer a brand invaluable insight into its customers. But turning insight into genuine brand-building is no automatic or easy task.