A year after Rediffusion dy&r launched bav or Brand Asset Valuator-one of the world's most sought-after brand management systems-in India, firms may have found better ways to grow in recession times. The study, whose annual expenses hover around $108,000, was conducted in eight cities, including relatively obscure ones like Guntur and Ranchi, covering 1,252 brands the 3,000 respondents used.
"For the first time, brand health, their strengths and weaknesses are being measured by the finest global standards. As it moves through our clients, the benefits of bav will revolutionise brand strategisation in India," says Rediff chairman Diwan Arun Nanda.
How does bav work? In buying a product, consumers move through four stages-awareness, interest, desire and action, the aida model. Says Rediff president Sandip Goyal: "Conventional market research doesn't help differentiate a brand. bav not only highlights the brand's strength but gives reasons for its weaknesses. So it helps both Indian brands struggling against global rivals as well as tnc brands failing to understand the market's price mechanism and multi-segmentation."
Take the brand development cycle of one of its prime clients, Maruti. As the brand-especially Maruti 800-developed, it also built its relevance factor among consumers to become a strong mass brand. Alongside, once-prime brands like Premier Padmini and Ambassador faded in the face of its technological edge. On the other hand, bva found that consumer perceptions were changing against Maruti's other brands facing competition from Santro, Matiz and Indica, forcing Maruti to rethink its price and marketing strategies.
"As brands develop stature on the basis of their strengths, they move into the leadership area. They become strong names with megabrand potential. Sometimes, like Maruti, megabrands themselves," says Rediff executive VP Kartick Kumar, who heads the bav cell. But wrong differentiation can also push an established brand into "the eroding potential area. These are brands exhibiting warning signs and can decline even further, ultimately fading from the consumer's consciousness". Kumar cites the Onida TV example. When launched in '85, it was positioned as a product to enhance social status-Neighbour's Envy, Owner's Pride. But with the entry of other TVs, a ctv was no longer a status symbol. "bav showed that Onida did not talk of any technological features and slowly lost the race."
Wrong differentiation could sour things for even strong tnc brands. Thomson and Grundig came in when brands like Sony and National Panasonic were well-known. A focused analysis showed Thomson created much better differentiation while launching its top-end products, and today its products are better placed than Grundig's. Similarly, Eveready batteries' market differentiation was so much larger than Toshiba's and bpl's that it remained a megabrand.
The bav study is helping Rediff realise how to better target the customer. For example, the common factor between people opting for Taj hotels and those driving Opel Astras and whether they can be tapped for Maruti Esteem. According to Goyal, differentiation makes a brand personally relevant and meaningful. "If a brand is highly relevant to consumers, the response is esteem. And ultimately, brand knowledge is earned. That tells agencies that the first question they must ask when they create campaigns is: What will this communication do for the brand's distinctiveness? It has to reveal the soul of the brand. "
Adds Kumar: "One way to grow through bav is to integrate brand-building ideas into point-of-sale communications. Also, bav enables a multi-product company identify if its products fit its brand value and market perception. It helps it understand that everything from its stable can't do wonders." Pond's Dreamflower soaps took the market by storm, but the toothpastes sank against market leader Colgate-Palmolive, which won because it religiously protected the integrity and the idea of the brand in the customers' minds.
Having established its bav credentials with fmcg clients, Rediff now plans to utilise the model in stockmarkets, something its parent does regularly on Wall Street. "We're trying out initial studies to see if firms with different brand profiles have better profit margins. This we plan to correlate to stock performance and valuation to make an investor feel more secure," adds Kumar.