Creating the meaningful brand

Updated: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 7:38:48 AM

Creating the meaningful brand


Hollis and Millward Brown Malaysia country manager Nitesh Lall with Hollis’ latest book. 

MARKETERS today face so much time pressure and so many tasks daily that they may forget what makes their brand valuable assets, says a marketing expert. Nigel Hollis, chief global analyst of market research firm Millward Brown, says marketers worldwide are facing “a very different and very difficult environment today, much more fragmented and cluttered.”“Consumers don’t have a lot of time. Marketers don’t have a lot of time. And marketers spend so much time executing – figuring out what to do – that they forget why they’re doing it,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Hollis’ latest book, The Meaningful Brand: How Strong Brands Make More Money, is now available in Asia. In it, he cites four components of a meaningfully different brand: purpose, delivery, resonance and difference.

He says purpose is what difference the brand makes in the consumer’s life.

On delivery, he says: “Are you really delivering on their expectations and the promise you make in your marketing?”

The brand must also resonate with the customers or consumers.

“And last, but possibly more important: what makes it different.

Unless you (the brand) are both meaningful and different, then you’re a commodity. If the brand meets people’s needs and does it well, and other brands also meet people’s needs and do it well, you have nothing new to say yourself,” he says.

Hollis admits that these ideas are not revolutionary but says they are forgotten by most. “So this is a little call to go back to basic principles.”

Hollis’ new book grew out of a conceptual framework called ValueDrivers, which was jointly developed by Millward Brown chairman of global solutions Gordon Pincott. Hollis and Pincott created a workshop around that learning, which they conducted around the world since two years ago.

“There are many big companies that will tell you they have a very good understanding of what makes their brand meaningful and different, but in most of our workshops, when we asked people what their brand stood for, people have found it very difficult to answer,” says Hollis.

“They may have read something, but they don’t really feel it – it’s not part of their existence,” he says, noting that people working on the same brand often have very different understandings of what the brand stands for.

“This is particularly when you’re working with a group of different companies – advertising agency, media agency, PR company, social media, digital media. All those have to know what the brand stands for as well; otherwise, it becomes very fragmented in terms of communication.

“As soon as the brand lacks clarity, then the consumer starts to lose track of Why am I paying for this brand? Why is it worth the money I’m spending?”

Hollis points out that if the marketers know what makes their brand meaningfully different, it becomes much easier to identify what is effective and what different marketing avenues would make the most sense. “So even when budgets are tight, you can use your money more effectively and efficiently.”

“As a market research company, we know that maybe one in five brands is truly meaningful, different and salient. An awful lot of brands fall in the middle. For the one in five brands on the other end, people have no idea what they stand for. When people don’t have an idea what the brand stands for, it becomes a commodity and the only thing it sells on is price,” he explains.

On the main challenges for marketers, Hollis says it is very easy to identify what is important in a product/service category, but it is also very easy to end up with blinkers.

“You see the category as it is today. And the big challenge for marketers is to envisage how the category might be tomorrow. How can we change things to our advantage?” he says.

“AirAsia is a classic example – democratising air travel. They’re going to make it affordable for people who never travelled before to travel. That guides everything they do, from the business model to marketing. Life becomes a lot easier.”

Asked what he sees as a key global trend in marketing, Hollis mentions the use of neuroscience to understand people’s behaviour and instinctive reactions to brands.

“The technique that we (Millward Brown) believe that we have validated and proven is facial coding. We monitor the facial expression of people watching a video, and you can tell the different basic emotions that they’re feeling. For example, concentration – when you concentrate, your forehead furrows. These things are consistent across cultures. That study is pretty robust and easy to apply,” he says.

Millward Brown, part of WPP’s Kantar Group, has introduced facial coding in Malaysia and globally, and Hollis says it will be an integral part of its offering this year.

“We have done a lot of work with brain scanning too, but it is very difficult to make sure that the results reliable and they are very subject to interpretation,” he says.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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