Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Not local enough

Published in Jan-Feb 2017

A review of Branding Matters by Arshad Awan.
Mohammad Ali/White Star.
Mohammad Ali/White Star.

It’s always welcome to see branding/marketing books written by Pakistanis. There is woefully little literature on the subject of a localised nature.

Branding Matters by Arshad Awan appeared to be a welcome addition. It had an eye-catching red cover, albeit with the much-used thumbprint. It’s a short compact book, just over 100 pages and retails at a somewhat pricey Rs 700. At that price, you would expect at the very least, that someone would have done their job proofreading the draft.

The chapters function as individual articles rather than guiding the reader through a step-by-step process of what branding is about and what it entails. This is a pity, because the writer has attempted to raise the right points with some good examples. There is stress on research and consumer understanding and the need for relevant insights. Awan talks about the all too necessary emotional connect, the need for consistency and differentiation.

Unfortunately, this is all what we already know. There are valid points raised about how P&G decided to differentiate their brands, which were in the same category, to avoid cannibalisation. Unfortunately, there are no examples or case studies cited here which would have helped illustrate the point to a student or rookie marketer reading the book. Unilever too followed the same route, which is why Sunsilk and Pantene compete with each other, and Clear competes with H&S. And at the same time Sunsilk and Dove speak to wholly different audiences.

In a chapter about brand differentiation, Awan falls prey to a superficial overview of Nike, one of the greatest branding stories in the world. Nike, he says “is acknowledged as the premier athlete [sic] supplier in the world. Nike has everything for the modern athletes – from shoes to all sorts of sports accessories.” He goes on to state that their brand strategy is to “offer high-quality sports materials and customers will be willing to pay higher prices.”

Case studies of local or regional brands, what made them successful and why, would probably have proved more worthwhile and would have been truly welcomed.

There is no explanation given why customers would be willing to pay high prices. And the implication is that Nike produces goods that are superior in quality to Adidas or Reebok, which is why we would pay more for them. Adidas is on price parity with Nike, and by all accounts, produces equally good products. If the topic is branding and how that differentiates brands to create loyalty, then perhaps Awan should have delved a little deeper into that. People don’t buy Nike because it is better, but because it speaks to the amateur athlete in all of us, telling us we can ‘Just Do It’; that within every amateur, there is a soul that is as driven and passionate about sports as the professional. This is what the budding marketing executive needs to understand. That high-quality products and excellent service is a no-miss, but what your brand stands for, how it communicates to the audience, and who specifically it chooses to talk to, is what makes it different and recognisable.

Again in the chapter ‘Surviving the Ever Changing Brand Strategy’, Awan refers to Volkswagen. I was expecting a case study of the famous DDB campaign ‘Think Small’ which tackled the barrier the car manufacturer faced in the US ; this was the Baby boomer decade of larger families and larger cars and hence the ‘Think Small’ campaign, which reversed the perception about the Beetle and created an intensely loyal market. Yes, there was a ‘commitment to quality’, but quality alone does not guarantee success. There is no explanation of what the VW strategy was and what they changed it to, or why.

Cursory references to international brands abound. Wikipedia and a skimming of several marketing /advertising publications give more in-depth information. What is truly unfortunate is that there are no local references. Case studies of local or regional brands, what made them successful and why, would probably have proved more worthwhile and would have been truly welcomed.

Branding Matters
By Arshad M. Awan
ZAK Books Karachi
107 pp. Rs 700

Rashna Abdi is Executive Creative Director, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi.