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The ‘Mother’ brand

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Bitan Chakraborty, Marketing Head - Hiland Group, Kolkata

If one were to look up the definition of brand in the traditional tomes penned by a our thought leaders, one primary definition we would come across is: “a brand is a name, symbol….”. Thereafter, we have had various more comprehensive definitions of the term, which have been evolving over time to convey the changing paradigm of marketing as a whole.

One universally acknowledged functional understanding is that ‘brand’ encompasses everything that the customer perceives about it. Though apparently ambiguous, it says a lot and is perhaps one of the most comprehensive ways to define brand. However, the bone of contention here is that, customer ‘A’ and customer ‘B’ might have a lot of ‘perceptions’ about the same brand which are not in common. In such a situation, should we consider those uncommon perceptions to be part of the brand’s universal traits or should we consider those as individual aberrations and choose to ignore them.
Faced with this dilemma, I had been striving to find a solution. And I found solace in a very unlikely analogy – a brand is like a customer’s Mother.

Like all of us, her functional definition is the same – she is the one who has given birth to us. And for most of us, she is also the one who has nurtured us. When we think of her, various thoughts might come to our mind like affection, trust, anguish, pain, comfort, insecurity, security… the list is endless. All of us would not subscribe to all the adjectives and many of us would actually end up subscribing to conflicting adjectives based on our own personal experiences. However, in no way would the meaning of ‘mother’ change from one part of India to another or from a person in an urban setting of the most advanced civilisation to someone from an unknown race living in Pacific Island.

The smell that we remember when we think of our own mother would be different for each of us, but then it would mean the same person (brand). The taste of our favourite dish, which she used to make is unpatented, but strangely cannot be recreated by anyone else! The sigh of relief we feel when we return home and find her there to take care of our needs cannot be had even in the best of places. The trust in her comforting words even when we know the odds are heavily against us cannot be had from the most knowledgeable person. All these and more comprise our imagery and perception of the brand ‘mother’.

My cup of coffee and your cup of coffee of the same brand might technically taste the same but would evoke a world of different associations and feelings. So our perception of the same brand of coffee would be that much similar and at the same time that much different, based on our experiences. The sum of positivity or negativity we associate with that brand of coffee would determine whether we would go back to the brand and if so, how often.

Almost all brands of coffee shops would have ‘camaraderie’ as one of their brand attributes. However, if I have had my last break-up at a particular brand of coffee shop, ‘camaraderie’ is the last word that would come to my mind, right? Wrong!

Apparently, I would feel antagonised or sad and would have negative feelings with that brand of coffee shop because of the spat we had. But actually, I would be feeling hurt because I’m missing that ‘camaraderie’ which I had previously enjoyed at that brand. Of course it’s true that all that camaraderie led to a negative outcome, however, the engagement with that coffee brand while the relationship was still on was enjoyed and would leave positive memories of the brand with me.

As for mother, so for coffee; and for all the mundane brands strewn across our daily life. Amen!

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