[SERI COLUMN] A kinder, gentler brand strategy

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[SERI COLUMN] A kinder, gentler brand strategy

Philip Kotler, a world-renowned marketing guru and the author of “Marketing 3.0,” says that a brand needs to have integrity to survive in the current market environment, which values corporate social responsibility.

A brand will possess integrity when it respects and cares about customers and gains their reliance, trust and respect. Integrity is something that all brands must secure to build a trustworthy relationship with consumers. Even makers of high-end luxury brands or the latest “it” item will not possess integrity unless they treat consumers with the proper respect and care.

How can a brand achieve integrity? First, companies should view their brands and consumers as intimately connected and then seek ways to gain people’s trust.

In order to gain trust and respect, three conditions should be met: dependability, benevolence and predictability.

Dependability refers to expectations based more on qualities and characteristics such as honesty and reliability that identify the partner as a trustworthy person.

Benevolence involves a genuine concern for another’s welfare and the motivation to maximize positive outcomes.

Predictability refers to expectations of a specific type of behavior.

There are three preconditions for a brand to establish a trust-based relationship with customers. The first is competence, which comes from basic capabilities such as product and market leadership. Second comes caring for interested parties including customers, the market and society. Third is consistency in marketing principles and brand identity.

One global brand that satisfies these preconditions is Procter & Gamble (P&G), one of the most respected companies in the world.

While most of its products are already in mature growth phases, P&G keeps on innovating by adopting customer insights and developing new network systems. Febreze, a household odor eliminator, represents a successful transformation of an ordinary product into a high-value-added one through an unconventional container design.

The company also promotes socially responsible activities in developing countries as part of its care-for-customer strategy. It launched the deodorizing bar soap Safeguard in Pakistan and actively promoted regular hand washing with soap to reduce the incidence of diarrhea, which is the main cause of infant death.

At the same time, it launched an animated brand character for Safeguard called Commander Superhero to promote a friendly image to consumers, especially young people, through advertisements and Web postings.

The consistency of P&G’s brands lies in its observance of basic marketing principles since the company was founded 170 years ago. P&G sticks to a method of discovering what consumers want and then providing it.

A marketing survey department established in 1925 at P&G later gave birth to a marketing research team that carved a place in business management history and exemplified P&G’s management strategy of prioritizing an understanding of its customers.

Integrity is not confined to high-end or globally recognized brands. Discount brands can also maintain integrity through professionalism, care and consistency.

Southwest Airlines is another brand that secured a competitive edge in airline service by focusing on short distance routes and punctuality.

The airline has an organizational culture that cares for its employees, which also increased customer satisfaction. This sparked the creation of the Southwest Care program that pursues harmonious growth with society, which in turn promotes the brand’s friendly image.

Also, while other airlines have squeezed their budgets and raised fares in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Southwest Airlines kept its prices unchanged and resisted layoffs, showing an employee-first policy.

Korean companies should also focus on integrity to form a trust-based relationship with global customers. They should go beyond producing quality products to transforming them into brands that can be trusted.

A strategic approach is needed in this regard, including the measurement and management of integrity. To become a trusted brand, the most important thing is to trust management with providing sincere care for customers and product development.

*Translation by SERI staff.
The writer is a research fellow at the Samsung Economic Research Institute.

By Choi Soon-hwa
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