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The power of brand imagery

S. Ramesh Kumar Powerful imagery can make or break a brand.

Liril moved from green to orange to create fresh associations with the brand

CONSUMERS are exposed to several kinds of advertisements during a day — some of them may have a conscious impact and some sub-conscious. (A consumer may start liking the brand or develop a certain association with it because of the constant exposure over a period of time even without realising it.) During a TV serial which may be watched by thousands there are several kinds of advertisements. There are consumer products. There are durable category brands and there are services brands. Some of them use lifestyle appeals and some use celebrities. Given the clutter of marketing communication and the limited time which consumers have to comprehend these, it is critical to have the right kind of imagery associated with the brand. Imagery is the kind of associations a brand could get linked with over a period of time. It has an impact on how consumers perceive the brand and how they will react to it in the long run. For example, Horlicks had a `drink for the sick' association a few decades ago. Will consumers have clear associations for Boost? What kind of association would a niche drink like drinking chocolate have in the minds of consumers? Brand imagery plays an important role in shaping the association in the consumer's psyche. Several years ago there were only a few brands in most categories so it was easier to develop an association with a brand. Once an association was developed it stayed with consumers for a long time. Today's context is different, with several brands attempting to create an image. Old brands are in a complex situation — it will be difficult for them to suddenly develop trendy new imagery, and the images which they have developed are either not very relevant today or competitive brands are developing more relevant images. For several years, Robin Blue was associated with whiteness in fabric wash. The packaging and the bird on it symbolised whiteness and was a household brand. Bajaj Scooters had a

which was positioned as a value-based Indian brand of watches. a brand which was launched later. Imagery is required to sustain a brand's association (managing imagery is a different aspect in itself and is not addressed in this article). apart from bringing emotion into the travel situation. The new bike brand. The evolution of this stereotype is conveyed by this positioning. which has not been seen in recent years. Centra from TVS.`family vehicle' image. Formula 44. Now Honda. It uses imagery which goes beyond the functional attributes (for which the brand has established a reputation). Raymond's current TV advertisement shows the corporate type playing with pups. for several years relied on the `attribute' image but has taken a new approach to create a `mood' around the brand with its `Bye Bye' commercial. Liril was associated with fresh. Iodex. Fast Track and Sonata brands are both from Titan but have a clear image with regard to their target segment associations.') Why is brand imagery important? It is important because it conveys the stance of the brand. Imagery is useful for a brand to create a contemporary image. Creating the right kind of imagery prevents confusion from arising in the minds of consumers. Imagery is important because a company which has several brands for several segments could use it to ensure strong associations be created with each of its brands. had taken a different kind of imagery and is adapting it to the changing scenario with the use of variants. which leads in the scooter category. a brand which was identified with sprains. (Several pioneering brands have a low market share or are no longer there in the market. in packaging and visuals. has resumed. was overshadowed by Titan which developed distinctive and memorable imagery (besides providing sophisicated technology). has developed a different image. Imagery is important because a brand has to adapt it to the changing environment. The commercial. HMT. Brand imagery or not being able to sustain it is one of the reasons for their being absent in consumers' `consideration set. Advertising for Vicks' popular offering of yesteryear. attempts to create imagery associated with fuel economy. VIP. . Imagery has to be sustained. is overshadowed by other brands which have developed several associations which may be relevant to the times. also showcases the ease of handling which may be an attribute which consumers look for when they select their luggage brand. It may be interesting to find out how many consumers currently think of pioneering brands in any category and the reasons they probably do not think about them when the need arises. which places an emphasis on the finer aspects of the lifestyle which executives would like to follow. Vicco's facial cream for skin has all along been positioned amidst the occasion of a wedding. especially when competitive offerings arise. green and waterfalls but has attempted to create novelty through the `orange' variant. Imagery may also be useful to create fresh associations with a brand (circumstances under which such strategies could be adopted is again a conceptual issue which requires in-depth understanding of the market and consumer behaviour). For almost three decades. Fair & Lovely. the luggage brand.

Imagery is very useful when a brand attempts a new and radically different strategy.When several brands in the category were using functional attributes. An attribute conveying a strong benefit could also be used by a pioneering brand if the benefit is relevant to the consumer. Ezee liquid detergent from Godrej and the Brylcreem brand of hair cream are probably some of the brands from the past which could have made better use of imagery to create a contemporary perception about themselves. courage and perseverance were the personality traits which could be associated with the brand. The current positioning of several brands in durable categories attempt attribute type of imagery supported by visuals. consumer perception about the brand cannot be altered. Promise toothpaste has started using its clove oil attribute in its TV spots. Without such a change. Its Trinitron and Wega TVs were advertised with this kind of approach. introduced a variant with moisturiser and employed a different kind of imagery. Kinds of imagery There are various kinds of imagery brands could use. Imagery is useful when a brand introduces a variant after it has established itself on a specific benefit. This imagery helps a brand if it could constantly stay ahead of competition through its attributes which are well received by consumers. Timex entered India with its low-end offerings and in the last two years. Sony with its strong thrust on technological innovation is an example. . Attribute imagery consists of amplifying the specific characterstic which is being used by the brand. it has introduced a number of high-end watches creating the appropriate imagery in its advertisements. Imagery could also involve logos to enhance awareness levels among consumers about a brand's proposition. Air India's Maharaja symbolising hospitality is an example. PUF was highlighted by Godrej in refrigerators to create `attribute-based' imagery and enhance the brand's perception. Imagery could be created through visuals or copy in the advertisement. Certain kinds of attributes such as oxygen in a toothpaste or colourless cola may not convey clarity from the point of view of consumers. Iodex pain balm and Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate. Dettol soap. After a long interval. after establishing itself on the protection-from-bacteria proposition. Caliber introduced a brand personality to convey the self-esteem associated with the brand by the use of a story with appropriate imagery. Decades-old brands such as Lifebuoy and Lux have managed themselves with several kinds of imagery during this period of time with variants. The `Sixth Sense' pitch of Whirlpool refrigerator and the Atom (denoting compact size) air-conditioner from Hitachi are examples. Fortitude. Herbal ingredients as an attribute were blended with the stereotype of an elderly lady by the Himalaya brand (formerly Ayurvedic Concepts) which specialises in herbal over-the-counter products. Eno's (digestive powdered drink which probably created the category in India several decades ago.

' The visual was effectively backed with the copy `Owner's pride: Neighbor's envy. Britannia's success in the biscuit category could be attributed significantly to the use of imagery with a focus on health.Colgate was perhaps the earliest of toothpastes to advertise the benefits of using the brand. Onida was probably the first TV brand to use the status appeal. Hero Honda's Passion Plus and Kinetic's Zing had `cool' features to back up symbolic imagery. For certain categories of products. Moov also effectively used imagery to compete with Iodex on the `staining' aspect of the offering. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are well known for their imagery associated with symbolism in the Indian context with the backdrop of celebrities. BPCL's Speed brand showed the reliability of using the brand through an emotional reunion of alumni. cars and television. . It could be observed that this imagery did little for the brand when it came out with other electronic products. the soft drink concentrate from CocaCola. Bacardi used this approach to create awareness about the sub-category. conveys the benefit of economy to appeal to the segment which may not frequently be consuming soft drinks. Symbolic imagery which revolves around fantasy. Even well-known brands such as Mercedes and Rolex strengthen their symbolic imagery with attribute-based positioning at periodic intervals so that consumers would be able to perceive the brands as superior offerings. this approach is used by apparel brands for men and women (Be: and Allen Solly being the brands for the latter). Sunfill. created an appealing benefit-based imagery leading to the brand's acceptance. Almost all cigarette brands at the higher end of the market were using this approach and may continue to do so with the new categories they are into in the form of brand extension (Wills Lifestyle apparel brand).' It should be noted that in a durable category the brand should offer technological features concerning the quality of the offering or the aesthetics to sustain such a symbolic imagery. cigarettes. Ericsson's mobile phone advertisement illustrated the compact size of the brand. Kanan Devan's tea brand captures the freshness benefit in its packaging. LG's Golden Eye too used a `story' to convey its benefits. status. apparel. It created the Onida devil which symbolised the jealousy of the `neighbour. Fast-moving goods which do not have a glamour aspect (like a dishwashing bar) could make use of this approach. self-image and group fun is popular in certain categories such as soft drinks. liquor brands. Imagery and its management is a crucial aspect as brands are perceived through associations and not reality. As mentioned in the earlier part of the article. which was not the pioneer with regard to pain balm. Samsung conveyed its `extra space viewing' or one of its TV models using a theme. Moov. benefits could be conveyed directly so that consumers can quickly understand the benefit. Low-involvement categories such as lubricants can also use benefits. Vim followed this approach to reinforce its durability.

Indian Institute of Management.) . He has been awarded the ICFAI Best Teacher 2004 award by Association of Indian Management Schools.(The writer is Professor of Marketing. Bangalore.