Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The Silent Giants

Muhammad Ali Khan comments on the brands that continue to flourish despite never advertising.
Updated 18 Jan, 2024 01:50pm

In today’s hyper competitive business landscape, it seems almost counterintuitive that some brands manage to not only survive, but thrive without investing in any form of advertising. Yet, such success stories do exist and they offer valuable insights into how some companies employ alternative strategies for the organic growth of their products.

Growing up, we have all encountered a multitude of products, yet we cannot recall ever spotting them on television or any other mainstream platform. These include brands like New Town Butter, Kite Matches, Piano ballpoint pens and more. Despite the growing array of choices in the market, these brands continue to command a significant presence without spending anything on mainstream advertising. If such a Utopian situation can exist, then brand managers and strategists should obviously aim to achieve this status for their brands. Or should they?

Getting the basics right: These lesser-known but widely available brands stay successful because they consistently provide high quality products that people love. They rely on good reviews and word-of-mouth rather than flashy ads. In a world with many choices, their commitment to quality and customer satisfaction keeps them strong. By ensuring high quality consistently, they have made a place for themselves in people’s homes and hearts. An example from the global market is Krispy Kreme doughnuts, known to have never been advertised, yet maintain a strong following from their loyal customer base worldwide. This is because such companies have found that the meaningful experiences consumers have with their products hold a significant place in their affections. What counts in terms of brand reputation is the development of a positive image in the customer’s mind. The best way to achieve this is through personal experiences and word-of mouth recommendations.

Stick to your niche: An interesting aspect about these brands is that they have not faltered in their brand offering or USP – they have maintained it at every point of their cycle. For example, New Town Butter was known for being a low cost high-quality butter brand, ideal for cooking. Despite many new brands entering the market, including giants such as Unilever with their Blue Band margarine, the proposition of New Town Butter remained unshaken – low-cost high-quality butter to cook with. Similarly, Kite Matches have been in the market long enough for almost every kitchen to have at least one of their boxes lying around, despite the widespread availability of cooking lighters. They were created to do one thing and continue to do it effectively without ever giving people much trouble.

Play by volumes, not value: One of the main commonalities of brands that choose not to advertise is that in most cases their margins are relatively low, but they generate enough sales to retain their value and earn high returns. For example, while we see extensive advertising for savoury snacks, such as Lay’s, Kurkure, Kurleez and others, we never really come across advertising by smaller local players, such as Zee Snacks, Wah Rey and Nice Nimco. The sales for snacks marketed under big brand names may be large, but smaller players are selling at par with them due to their price points and their availability.

Leveraging legacy and loyalty: These unadvertised brands often draw strength from the legacy and the loyalty they have built. Customers who grew up with products such as New Town Butter or Krispy Kreme, often develop a deep attachment to them. The memories associated with these brands, passed down through generations, create an almost nostalgic connection that transcends their need to advertise – a powerful reminder that maintaining a consistent brand identity and quality can foster long-lasting customer relationships. For example, United King Bakery in Karachi and Imtiaz Supermarket have been around for decades, consistently delivering high quality food and service to the extent that they gradually grew their presence in the market and achieved high levels of success through word-of mouth. These brands have now come to a point where although they still do not advertise, they have started spending on marketing efforts aimed at cementing their position at the top of the pyramid.

However, the approach can establish a solid market presence, but does not guarantee a lasting top position. Newcomers and challenger brands can threaten the position of established legacy brands. As newcomers gain popularity, legacy brands may be overshadowed, necessitating a shift towards advertising to regain attention and remain relevant. The ability to adapt and innovate is crucial to staying competitive and maintaining consumer loyalty. Take Rooh Afza. Right from the start, it secured a solid foothold in Pakistani households without major advertising investments, remaining highly profitable. This continued until it started losing ground among the new generations. Yet, in the face of intense competition, Rooh Afza has rekindled its advertising efforts, striving to maintain its relevance and popularity in an ever-evolving market.

Silent giants in marketing: In a world where marketing noise is high and advertising budgets skyrocket, these unadvertised brands serve as silent giants. They exemplify how success can be achieved by prioritising customer experiences, staying true to a niche, and playing the volume game. While they may not boast star-studded endorsements or top-dollar ads, they have managed to carve out their space in the market through an unwavering commitment to delivering value and trust. Their journeys underscore the enduring truth that in the world of advertising, it is not always the loudest voices that prevail but those that understand their customers.

Muhammad Ali Khan was AVP/Manager Communications at JS Bank and currently teaches Media Sciences at SZABIST Karachi and the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture.