Thursday, 15 September 2011

Article publié le Mercredi 10 mars 2004.

Let the brands talk and lets listen carefully

WATCH this space. It will be entirely devoted to brands and branding. Brands are so close to us in our daily life that we tend to ignore their presence. Just check out what underwear you are wearing right now ! It has a trademark, delivers a service to you, may have a promise and above all has a life cycle. What about the car you are driving and your banking institution ? And your star David Beckham or Britney Spears ? They are all manifestations of brands that interact so much in our life. But do we listen to their voices and care about what they are trying to tell us ? Not necessarily all of us !
Now lets take the case of manufacturers, distributors, brand managers and marketers. They are struggling to make sure the brands they work for, talk to us every second. Everyday from breakfast to bed, we, as consumers have to filter hundreds of messages. Millions of rupees are invested everyday in the media and on the market place to try to influence us in buying brands at the expense of others. But the ultimate buying decision is ours.

Where do we exert these “brand votes” which are directly related to our purchasing power ? During the last number of years, the retail landscape and the value chain has gone through a deep transformation with the onset of hypermarkets. Starting with Continent, considered as a then mega-project, various groups of global repute have stroke strategic alliances with local conglomerates involved in consumer branding to set up chains of hypermarkets. We all have had nice family shopping experiences at Super U, Spar, Shoprite, Jumbo, Winners, and local GSR’s in urban conurbations - while in rural areas traditional street-corner groceries have been forced to switch to self-service mini-markets faced by changing consumer behaviour. How will this look in 5 or 10 years ? How will consumers then behave ?

To what extent do we really realize the full potential of brands ? Are consumers really aware of the power that they command from their tiny wallets ? Do we exert our choices in an optimal manner or are we just influenced by advertising and marketing communications, without taking time to rationally analyse the wider and wider choices available on the market today ?

On a more macro-economic scale, Mauritius has not been spared by Globalization. Given that we are highly integrated in the world economy, it is quite normal that consumer brands like Coca-Cola, Kit-Kat or Gilette, industrial brands like Caterpillar or Black & Decker and Corporate Brands lke British American or HSBC are very much active in our country. All these brands help us in numerous ways and have a very specific set of mission to accomplish.

Anti-globalization groups can protest very actively in the vicinity of World Forums or have indeed very important international gatherings to rightly fight against injustice committed by multinationals, but the fact is : Brands are here to stay ! They bring value to consumers, serve a purpose and some very compelling brands, like Harley Davidson the famous US freestyle motorbike brand, has had its logo even tatooed on its customers’ skins ! This gives us an idea to what lengths brand loyalty can go in influencing people in their lifestye. Who can claim that at some point in time, one has not fallen in love with a particular brand to the point of being treated as an addict ? Just shake the original Orangina bottle, let the Mars bite melt in your mouth or enjoy reading the latest Stephen Covey ordered on the internet from and you will be convinced how brands are important to you.  

What about Mauritius ? Can our country be considered and treated as a brand ?Nation branding is increasingly being looked as a powerful means to exert positive influence in more and more complex world markets where technology, innovation and trade liberalization are emerging threats that need to be integrated in national survival strategies. What is the value and significance of the ‘Made in Mauritius’ label. How are we fighting against giants like China, competing against rivals like Singapore or working with allies like Madagascar? And what about our ratings in the field of anti-corruption, protection environment or on equal opportunities ? On an internal front are we as Mauritians proud of our country ? What is our personal degree of commitment to our quadricolor flag ? Are we progressing or regressing in terms of civism and do we care for the less fortunate or do we just accumulate wealth at the expense of all other life objectives and values ?

In the wake of the celebrations of our 37th year of independence and with a more or less sociologically-tensed fabric, perhaps it will be useful if everyone of us stops for a while and assess the extent of our love and commitment for our Nation. This is a unique opportunity to forget our differences and direct all our energies under a single banner to make sure we win the battle against fragmentation, ethnical rivalry and focus our attention on defending our various positions in the global jungle out there !

Branding is all this at the same time. Its part of us and lets us answer basic questions about ourselves, our ideals and ambitions through or purchasing behaviour and beliefs.

Well, Brand-Talk is for all those who think we need to stop, think some seconds, do some intelligent sharing before proceeding further. Brand_ Talk will also be aired soon on Radio One and a dedicated web site will be launched soon for all brand passionates to express themselves and share their views. As the Nike tag line states very simply : Lets do it. Together !

In the meantime, I would be glad to get your views, concerns and feedbacks on

Ashraf Oozeerally

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