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Innovation and Marketing—Synergising branding, new products and marketing

Branding Branding enables consumers to choose between products and reduces a consumer’s risk in purchasing products. Underpinning branding activities are the positioning platforms on which companies choose to base their brands. Positioning helps bring clarity and focus to—

  • What the brand competes with

  • The brand’s target consumer base

  • The brand’s unique strengths

  • The brand’s offerings and unique selling proposition

A strong positioning reflects what the brand can offer and can help cut through “clutter” (e.g., advertisements from competition, etc.) Developing an appropriate position is typically directed by factors such as the competitive marketplace, specific corporate goals and organisational strengths. In his book Differentiate or Die (2000), Jack Trout recognised that differentiation takes place in the mind of the consumer, writing, “If you understand how the mind works, you’ll understand positioning.”

Indian retailers face the following challenges in branding and differentiating their stores—

  • Absence of store differentiation—Leading retail stores offer common brands, similar ambience and similar layouts, resulting in limited scope for differentiation.

  • Merchandising confusion—Some long-established (smaller) retailers (mainly in the department stores format) have been able to successfully withstand the expansion of larger modern trade outlets. These retailers have been able to leverage the consumer insights they have with regard to product, selection and price. This rich and detailed level of consumer insights has enabled original retailers to survive successfully!

  • Discounting—Given the widespread availability of the same brands, large retailers have to cope with discounts offered by smaller retailers. Large stores can secure larger margins from most suppliers. Small retailers are tempted to pass on lower overheads in the form of discounts to customers.

The importance of branding is imperative in today’s increasingly crowded retail marketplace which not only comprises several brands but is also characterised by the consumers’ fickle mindedness about choosing products. The best brands are those that are innovative (in formats, product design/features, marketing and promotion, etc.), aggressive and always looking for the next great “need” or “want” to satisfy in their target consumers.

Some market analysts believe that a slowdown is an opportune time to invest in brands and in branding. At this time, retailers can grow their store networks (leveraging lower and more rationalised rental rates), improve customer service, harness insights from customer data captured through loyalty programmes, launch new products, etc.

Strategic Issues for Retail CEOs* : Perspectives on Operating in India’s Retail Sector

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