What makes a brand powerful?

You do not alter a Vera Wang, you alter yourself to fit into a Vera Wang.” This is the power of a brand.

This is an iconic quote, oft used, to describe the craze for an iconic brand which makes wedding gowns – Vera Wang.

Thousands of fans queue outside stores, wait the entire night, with bated breath, to see just a glimpse of their most-cherished iphoneX. The story is very similar for Harry Potter books.

There are many such instances wherein consumers have gone great lengths to lay their hands on their most-cherished brand. And money, surprisingly, never seems to be the deterrent.

But what makes a brand so powerful … so irresistible?

In an endeavour to establish our brands quickly, we forget the most critical aspect – brand experience.

Let us take a few examples to understand brand experience better. Your Vera experience begins the moment you conceive that you may be wearing that gown for your special day. You start living that experience. The first point of contact is calling the office for an appointment. Now imagine what happens when the customer, who is living a dream about her Vera wedding, faces a rude behaviour over phone from a person who may be just an office bearer having a bad day. We must remember that the person on the phone is the first point of contact of the brand. It is a crucial element of brand experience.

Another instance where a similar incidence happened was with a close banker friend. She had once visited a luxury boutique in Delhi for a impromptu buy of a tote. She has been a very loyal customer of that brand and a strong advocate of it as well. While she is almost always in her formals, that day she was dressed in a tee and a torn jeans. She entered the boutique, and after a quick glance, she asked the salesperson to show two totes she has shortlisted. The person, after checking her out, told her, quite rudely, “Ma’am these are very expensive costing over a lakh. You may wish to check out our small accessories and coin purses.” She has been an ardent buyer of luxury brands and has a Hermes Birkin in her collection. She felt extremely insulted and left the boutique. She swore never to buy anything from that brand. That brand lost a loyal customer and a brand advocate. Had she decided to take the social media route the brand would have suffered greatly, resulting in erosion of its brand value. Whose fault was it? Just one touchpoint, who misjudged the customer based on what she was wearing, ruined the brand experience thus alienating her permanently from the brand she loved.

In my upcoming book “Dark Luxe” there is a tale inspired by history (not limited by it) of a Maharaja, who visited a Rolls-Royce showroom and inquired the price of a high-end model. The salesman, failing to recognise him, mocked him and said he would not be able to afford it. The next day the Maharaja, dressed as a King, reached the same showroom and purchased all the cars…just to convert them into garbage vans to humiliate the brand the way he was humiliated. Was Rolls-Royce, a brand that runs of reputation, at fault? It was just one touch point gone wrong that the brand faced such an erosion.

So what makes the brand powerful? Is it the logo, the style, the luxe, the promotions, the brand ambassadors or is it the exclusivity factor? It is all that and a lot more… it is whether a brand is able to live up to its promise at every touchpoint with its customers, it is whether the brand is able to ensure every moment of discipline — this, dear readers, is the brand experience.

The brand experience is a holistic parameter of the power of a brand – luxury or otherwise. It is that x-factor that is a heady mix of all the brand elements that keep a customer loyal and make him/her a strong advocate of the brand.

Not only the CEO, but every executive and every element of the brand is responsible for making or breaking it and delivering a world-class brand experience to its customers, and making a brand powerful.

What makes a brand powerful? It is the customer’s aspiration and love for it. And as long the brand is able to keep that love and aspiration alive in the hearts of its customers it will remain powerful. Brand experience is the only strategy by which a brand can ensure that customers will always be by their side … making the brand, in turn, powerful.

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Mahul Brahma
Prof (Dr.) Mahul Brahma, FCES is Dean and Professor of NSHM Media School. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Business School, Bath Spa University, UK. He is a Fellow of The Commercial Education Society of Australia. He is former Professor, Dean of School of Media and Communications and Director of Communications at an Indian university.

He was honoured with a DBA by American Council on Management and IT (ACMIT) and is a member of its Academic Council. He is a D.Litt (hon) in luxury and communications, and a PhD in Economics. Prof Brahma was Chief Editor and Head of CSR, Corporate Communications and Branding, Publishing and Conferences for a Tata Steel and SAIL JV, mjunction. He is a TEDx speaker on the mythic value of luxury.

He won Sahityakosh Samman in 2022 and 2023, Crisis Communications Leader of the Year Award in 2021 and several other national-level awards in communications and CSR. He is a luxury commentator and award-winning author of 10 books – 'Bharat, A Luxe Story', The Quiet Luxe, Aesthetic Leadership in Luxury, Mostly Missing: Be Silly Be Slow, The Mythic Value of Luxury, How to Communicate Strategically in Corporate World, the Luxe Trilogy (Decoding Luxe, Dark Luxe and Luxe Inferno) and Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona.

He is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta, St Xavier’s College, MICA, Sri Satya Sai University, and University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He is a golfer with a 7 handicap.

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