How to establish strong, sustainable brands
By Bae Jung-hee
It takes tremendous time and efforts to establish a brand which customers love and aspire to. However, it only takes a couple of mistakes and misjudgement to lose the customers’ interests.
The recent slump of Toyota Motors, the Japanese carmaker whose case has been taught in many business school marketing courses as a successful brand building story, is a point in case, although it may not be fair to say Toyota has lost customers’ interest.
The massive accelerator pedal recall case hurt Toyota brand very badly, because the brand’s core promise was good quality and safety. Arguably, some industry insiders say, if it happened to other brands whose brand promise is style or driving experience, it would not have been as brutal as it were to Toyota.
To answer why, we need to understand core components of strong sustainable brands:
(1) brand promise which resonates with target customers, (2) consistency of product offering and business system aligned with the brand promise, and (3) emotional attachment.
To make a highly complicated story simple, Toyota’s brand image was severely hurt because it was not robust enough, and yet has not established strong emotional ties with its center-of-gravity customers. That could be because its brand promise was too functional, i.e. good quality and safety, the basic traits of a vehicle, to resonate the center- of-gravity customers’ hearts and emotion.
The recent rise of Korean brands is surely encouraging. Samsung Electronics ranked No. 17 in the Best Global Brands 2011 by Interbrand. LG and Hyundai Motor brands are also following the trend. Those brands are not “value for the money” choices for smart shoppers anymore; they started to generate enthusiasm and excitement around their brands.
However, Toyota’s recent fall gives meaningful lessons to Korean brands whose global position is yet vulnerable to external attacks. First of all, most Korean brands’ core promise is “innovative,” which pushes those companies to hectic position at the cutting edge.
Compared to long lasting emotional values, innovation is by nature short-lived. To build a robust protection mechanism around still fragile brands, companies should consider adapting key processes and tools of the proposed “brand resilience approach.”