Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

What Makes a Pakistani Brand?

Published in Nov-Dec 2022

Sheikh Adil Hussain discusses the different components that go into creating a successful Pakistani brand.

The task before us is monumental. How do we deconstruct what it requires to create a successful brand in today’s environment? There are just so many components in this statement.

A search on Google for the most successful brands in history will lead to a set of brands listed in a certain order. Apple, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Nike and more recently, Amazon, Disney, Facebook and Google. What makes these brands consistently rank among the best in the world is a pertinent question to ask.

The obvious answer would be brand recognition and fame. All these brands are widely known across the world. They have a clear identity, in that they stand for something and communicate this consistently and frequently across mediums all year round. They customise for different target segments and keep renovating and reinventing where needed. Most importantly, they have all been successful in creating a strong connection with their audiences, sometimes with a one size fits all approach, as in the case of Coca-Cola, which uses music, sports and other passion points to connect usage, or customising their messaging for different target segments, while keeping the same tone, as is the case with Nike for their American consumers versus their Middle Eastern consumers.

Great! What’s next?

The above should mean that a successful Pakistani brand would essentially follow the same rules. Therefore, a brand should be widely known locally (in Pakistan to begin with), have a clear identity and communicate consistently over years, while keeping on customising for target segments and reinventing when needed. The same rules apply to a successful Pakistani brand. Do they?

When you search for the most successful Pakistani brands on the net, you get mixed responses. I found one result categorising the fashion brands available in Pakistan (international and local). Then I found a list of textile brands; one for the top multinationals in Pakistan and top business houses/families in Pakistan. However, when it came to brands, I didn’t come across a single authentic list.

Thus, we are left to our own devices to figure this one out. The first thing I can do is list down every local brand that comes to mind without stopping to think. So here goes: Bykea, Careem, Daraz, EFU, EveryDay, Golden Pearl, Gul Ahmed, Haleeb, Jam-e-Shireen, Jubilee, Kala Kola, Khaadi, MilkPak, National Foods, Olpers, Pakola, Rooh Afza, Shan Foods, Sooper, State Life, Tarang and Tapal. I may have left out some glaring examples and the most obvious are international brands with a big footprint in Pakistan, such as Cadbury, Coke, Lay’s, Lux, Sunsilk and Pepsi. However, we are talking about Pakistani brands, so let’s stick with those. What makes it difficult to measure the success of our brands in Pakistan is the fact that most are owned by private entities that are under no obligation to publish their numbers, making it nearly impossible to gauge their size in terms of volume or turnover. Also, in the absence of universally accepted independent third-party surveys, one cannot judge the brand satisfaction scores – the two metrics used internationally to judge ‘best’ brands.

In an earlier article I wrote (Why Are We Failing Our Brands?Aurora’s Sep-Oct 2020 issue), I already had my tirade about the issues that exist in brand building in Pakistan. A summary is that:

“The companies and people responsible for building brands have not done their job. Brand custodians, creative and media agencies and production houses are all equally to blame. There needs to be a moment of introspection followed by a collective sigh and acceptance. The troika of brand custodians, creative/media agencies and production houses are responsible for churning out the communication around brands. So, what are they doing wrong? Brand managers have become ‘yes men’, Creative agencies are not partners in brand building anymore and local producers have become door-to-door salesmen, hawking concepts to anyone who will listen. Suffice it to say that it boils down to short-termism and a lack of vision. The components to build a successful Pakistani brand are the same as those required for an international brand, it is only the will to do it that is lacking.

Having said this, things have become even more challenging. We have gone through a pandemic, political turmoil, economic recession and devastating floods – all in the last three years. These converging calamities have resulted in an ever-changing reality for the next year if not for even longer. Things were simpler before. A catchy jingle, a little song and dance, a foreign shoot and you had a campaign. The great Pakistani brands of yesteryear were built on great jingles – Lipton, MoltyFoam, Naurus, Selsun Blue or State Life. In the era of a single state-run TV channel and radio station, this was perhaps easier. As the media environment opened up, things became slightly more challenging. Thought had to go into media planning, day parts and genres. Then came social media with its own set of challenges – video formats, skippable or true views, reach vs conversion campaigns, real vs fake audiences and so on.

However, no matter how much the environment or the media changes, the principles remain the same. A connection is still coveted. The 4 Ps still apply, albeit they need to be used judiciously given the situation. Brands still need to stand for something and communicate it consistently across all relevant mediums. The basics still have to be followed and the hard yards put in. This is perhaps best illustrated by the example of Haleeb, once the dominant UHT milk brand in Pakistan. They forgot the basic and perhaps the most important P of the product when they tinkered with the formulation in pursuit of profitability. On the other hand, a good example is Shoop, which identified a new segment in the noodles market and went after it with consistent communication after fixing their product and thereby gaining a significant share from the market leader. The big multinational brands are good at consistent communications; take the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign by Snickers – an all time personal favourite. Or more locally, the Surf ‘Dirt is Good’ positioning and the Knorr ‘Iss ka magic hi aur’ sign-off. Consistent communication is essential to establishing a connection and building upon it.

Other principles touted by the modern masters of marketing are interesting to note. Byron Sharp propagates continuous penetration building and getting new users into the brand franchise, via increased physical and mental availability. Les Binet and Peter Field in The Long and Short of It, talk about the 60:40 Principle, which says 60% of spending should go on long-term brand building and 40% on short term tactics, which will result in better sales performance. Mark Ritson talks about the importance of segmentation and getting the market map right before moving to targeting, positioning and the 4 Ps – getting the fundamentals right.

In conclusion, consumers will always seek value both in terms of quality and price. A brand offers a promise of a standardised value delivery every single time. If you can marry these consistently by following the above-mentioned principles, you may have a successful brand on your hands.

Sheikh Adil Hussain is Marketing Director – Hair Care, Unilever Pakistan and a member of PAS’ Executive Council.