Friday, January 02, 2009
City branding and Real Estate branding
By Harish Bijoor
Q: Cities are pushing themselves to the fore in India by building themselves as brands that attract investments. What gets invested in building the brand image of a city?
-BP Gururaj, Hyderabad
A: Guru, the brand is an amorphous entity. The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people's minds.
A city's brand image is therefore the collective set of thoughts that a city enjoys in the minds of people. These minds include the minds of the people who live in the city, and equally the minds of people who do not live in it.
The brand image of a city has therefore an intrinsic aspect, which is all about the image enjoyed within the city, and an extrinsic aspect which is the image enjoyed outside the city.
A city's image is created by a whole set of disparate elements altogether. It is about the weather, the culture, the politics, the society, the people, religion, language, attitude, tolerance and a whole set of 48 other factors included. To that extent, the brand image of a city is really not an engineered one. It is an accident. A literal small part of the chaos theory that abounds in much of our lives altogether.
In a technical manner of speaking, brand-engineering is a new science, art and philosophy on its own. Creating the brand image of a city is not about creating it from scratch on a drawing board. Instead, it is all about using its positives, its history and its heritage to advantage as one builds on the basic foundations that abound.
To that extent, Brand Hyderabad is all about leveraging on the image of its hoary past, its politics, its food, and everything that is old and super-imposing onto it the modern icons from IT. ITES, Real Estate, Retail and Biotech included.
Q: The Real-estate industry is getting onto the branding format. What are the fundamentals in branding the real-estate developer?
-Rohit Bhargava, Mumbai
A: Rohit, branding is very critical to the Real Estate industry. Particularly in times when there is so much clutter all around. And most certainly in times of uncertainty such as the ones we live in today with the big names of Wall Street having crumbled over the last week itself in the US, sending tremors of uncertain economic times the world over.
Cities and their Real Estate offerings need to re-invent themselves on the path of credibility for a start. Take Bangalore for instance. The city has been home for decades to builders, developers and the entire real-estate fraternity at large. We started with a high repute developer by the name of SI . Chennai and Bangalore saw developments which were unique. This builder promised the earth and delivered the sky. The builder promised delivery on a date and did it by that date.
Today, even as I answer your question, builders in Bangalore are getting a negative image on delivery, quality and at times consistency of what is promised being delivered. There are builders who have promised delivery and have defaulted on this count by more than two years. The stories abound. This is bad for the brand image of Bangalore and the builder at large. No amount of branding input will help correct a credibility issue.
While the real-estate industry benefits a lot from Brand Bangalore, it is time for the industry to start contributing back. The first step would be to follow the basic rule of transparency, credibility and honest delivery. The image of a city is the responsibility of all its stake-holders. The Real Estate fraternity is one such key stake-holder.
Branding helps only when the offering is honest. The brand is an honest consumer statement.
Q: There is so much being written on the use of celebrities and its impact on brands. What’s your view on this? Should we use? Should we not?
-Shefali Luthra, New Delhi
A: Shefali, celebrity use in advertising has fast emerged as a lowest common denominator item in Indian advertising. When there is nothing else that is working, just pick a celebrity, use his/her awareness scores to bump up your brand awareness scores as well.
Celebrity use works. But works at one level only. And that is at the level of building awareness for the brand in question. This works when you are launching a new brand, or when you are re-launching an old one that needs to get back into the awareness mindset of consumers again.
At awareness creation it works 8.2/10. At Interest development in the brand, it works 2.2/10; at desire development it works 1.6/10, on creating the action of purchase and buy-in: 1.6/10. At creating positive cues post-purchase (and in the process of reducing post-purchase dissonance) it works 4.1/10. This is as per a very recent study of ours across categories involving 81 advertised works over the last two years.
Celebrity use therefore works best at the stage of awareness creation, and a wee bit at the stage of managing post-purchase dissonance. But that's it.
This is the reason why you see celebrities being used for categories where they have no brand fit even. The brand-manager knows this, but is desperate to bump up his awareness scores, never mind if he is using Anupam Kher to advertise a new housing project. Brand fit goes for a toss. The immediate objective is celeb-linked awareness building.
The overuse of celebrities is causing the killing of the golden goose that used to lay silver eggs at least. Now, it is rotten eggs only!
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.