Multi Dimensional Approach to Brand Building: A Conceptual Model for Indian Retailers
A. Indian Retail Scenario: Organized retailing has exponentially emerged to contribute to the growth of Indian retail sector. It constitutes 3% of the total retail market and expected to grow at a rate of 42% in 2008. According to estimates provided by Technopak, organized retail in India is expected to receive investments of $25 billion, taking the size of modern retail to $75 billion by 2011. These investments imply that share of organized retail will grow from the present 3 % to approximately 15-18 % by 2011-12.
With the onset of a globalize economy in India, the Indian consumer's psyche has changed. They are well versed with the concept of value for money, quality and service standards offered worldwide, in turn they are becoming more demanding. These demands are the visible impacts of the Indian organized retail sector. The evident increase in consumerist activity is colossal; it is replicated in money making recess for the Indian organized retail sector. Indian Retail is in the midst of a retail revolution, seen in sprawling number of malls developed from 50 operational malls in 2005 to 250 mall by 20083. Multiple formats have sprung up across different cities. City landscapes are dotted with malls and customers have problems of plenty as far as deciding shopping destinations is concerned.
Rising and double incomes becoming a norm in urban areas, increased advertising and enlarged number of working women have made buying more attainable and exciting to a larger portion of the population. Branded merchandise in categories like Apparels, Cosmetics, Shoes, Watches, Food and Beverages, even Jewellery are slowly becoming lifestyle products that are widely accepted by the urban Indian consumer. Indian retailers with the right formula face enormous growth opportunities, as consumers become richer, and more aspirational than before. Indian consumers are on the march and domestic modern retailers must act quickly to seize this opportunity.
B. Brand Building Process: Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of these that identifies the products or services of one seller or group of seller’s and differentiates them from those of competitors. (Philip Kotler, Gary Armstrong, 2007). Brands are more than just logos and names. They are the culmination of a customer’s total experience with the product or services over a long period of time. That experience could be made of a multitude of good, neutral and bad encounters in terms of; performance of the product or services, advertising message, a press report, a telephone call, or a rapport with a sales assistant. Branding is about developing a pull rather than a push, identifying a core value that resonates with customers and attracts the business that is desired. A good brand reduces the risk of poor choice and offers the consumer a guarantee of consistent performance, quality and thus satisfaction. While many consumers are happy to shop around, they are unwilling to risk their money on a product which they fear may not deliver.
Building a brand involves a process that demands attention to establishing a system and structure that simplifies the marketing process and efforts to a large extent. Matching the differentiated offerings with the willingness and ability of customers creates value for both the customers and the company. Main objective of brand building process is to attract a large number of loyal customers. In order to be able to attract, it is essential to build a strategic brand platform, on both external and internal touch-points which affect the customers’ decision making process. Melin (1999) has identified six external factors; commitment, brand sensitiveness, brand awareness, brand association, value added and brand loyalty which culminate into brand building in customer’s mind. He also identified six internal factors; product attributes, brand identity, core values, positioning, market communication and internal brand loyalty which transform the effort into building the brand.
Considering internal and external factors as identified above a company need to follow certain stages mentioned in figure 1 for building an effective brand building strategy;
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Figure 1: Brand Building Process
Effective brand building starts with gathering information about how the brand is perceived by the customers. Both quantitative and qualitative information should be sought to get a clear picture of company’s place in the mind of the customers. Gathered information is reviewed, to compare the needs that exist in the market and the competitive advantages the company has or wishes to acquire over competitors. With a clear picture of the features company can deliver well, and an understanding of who would value these features, key benefits are defined and linked to a feeling, the core value, to create further focus. The visual image, verbal message and experience that will be delivered are developed to communicate the brand perception. While staff, headlines and images may change from year to year and campaign to campaign; this structure creates a stable base that allows for flexibility without veering off course. It is desired to educate staff members for maintaining consistency.
C. Retail Branding: Looking at the growth opportunities available in Indian Retail scene many players have entered in a short time, crowding several categories. The phenomenon has lead to standardization of propositions like, fast services, availability, patronage and low price on account of technology infusion in data base management, billing systems and supply chain networks. These factors have become the disguised satisfiers; customers do not seek openly rather expects the retailer to meet these, nevertheless. Any mismatch may lead to dissatisfaction reflected in reduced footfall and store switching behaviour of customers (Peeush Ranjan Agrawal, Vibhuti Tripathi, 2006). Modern Retail Formats are emerging as brands on account of no or little distinction between product and services. Intensified competition is leading to a need for differentiation in experiential delight. As a part of this evolution the need for multidimensional approach to brand building arises for retailers. This paper explores these developments through a synthesis of interdisciplinary studies.
Fierce competition has led to the need to understand the value of retail formats as brands rather than remaining as retailers selling brands. A retailer may derive a strategy for brand building out of the traditional branding process involved in product branding, by extending and synergizing with the intangibles like services and facilities. The retail brand has moved beyond two dimensional approach of highlighting product and services to a third dimension of store environment and experiential delight. A retailer’s brand equity is exhibited in consumers responding more favorably to its marketing actions than they do to competing retailers (Keller 2003). The image of the retailer in the minds of consumers is the basis of this brand equity. Martineau (1956) described the personality of the retail store as the forms of thoughts and feelings that lead to an acceptance and influence their shopping behaviour and loyalty. Store image is described as the overall perception of the store perceived by the consumers (Keaveney and Hunt, 1992). Retail Brands are more multi-sensory in nature than the product brands. A customer is exposed to multiple contact points in retail on account of inseparability of products and the services. The retail branding process is more comprehensive.
The construction of store image comprises of both tangible and intangible elements. These can be defined in multiple dimensions that combine the store’s functional qualities with the psychological attributes that a customer could relate to refer figure 2. These dimensions are further explained in detail below;