‘Brand promises must be kept’ –Victor Ariyibi-Oke
Question 1: There is a growing concern that some Brands don't measure up to the Promises made in their Advertisements, do you agree with this?
Yes, that is a very well known fact; most Brands make what we call ‘bogus promises’ in their Advertisement. Nigeria is a country that people do so many things and get away with it, but this is fast changing because consumers are now getting conscious of the promises brands make in their advertising campaign. This problem is caused by what is call a ‘brand gap’ between Advertisers and their Advertising agencies or Brand agencies. A brand gap occurs when there is a breach in communications between Brand agencies and their Client companies. In order to close brand gaps, the Brand Manager needs to work hand in hand with their Advertising agencies on the brand message. Because Advertising agencies want to create ‘MAGIC’ with their Ad campaigns; they tend to exaggerate some of the features of the brand while not putting into consideration that consumers tend to take them very serious.
Question 2: What do you think is responsible for the situation?
Like I mentioned earlier, this is caused by a gap in communication between the Brand Company and the Brand’s Department of Advertisers.
Question3: How can the situation be managed or corrected?
Let’s first establish the definition of Branding, what exactly is a brand? A lot of people have different misconception of what brand is all about, first let me dispel some myth that people believe in: a brand is not your company logo, a brand is not your company’s name, it is not your company’s Identity or colour, a brand is not even a company’s product or services. A brand can simply be defined as the consumers’ perception about a particular product or service. A brand is not what a company say it is, but what the consumers say it is; so consumers defines a brand. Companies can influence consumers’ opinion, but cannot define their own brand. Consumers always base their decision on TRUST. Trust comes by meeting and exceeding consumers’ expectations, and trust comes from keeping your brand promises to consumers. Brands are promises that consumers believe in, so WE ARE ALL IN THE BUSINESS OF SELLING PROMISES. The reason why people will buy a certain ‘XYZ’ product is because of the promises attached to such a brand. These promises are made in various forms such as; the message on the advertising campaign, the information on the brand packaging, mission and vision statements, company’s core values and so on. Getting back to the question asked on how the situation can be managed and corrected; advertising agencies and brand managers should work as one in their advertising campaigns. They should focus on the strength of the brand, enhancing the brand’s strong points without necessarily telling a lie.
Question 4: There is a place for regulatory oversight, be it in advertising or brand management, would you say they have indirectly contributed to the aforementioned situation?
I will not particularly blame regulatory bodies for brand gaps, because regulatory bodies don’t have the power to control the message of an advert, the role of regulatory bodies be it APCON or AAAN is not to monitor the content of ad campaign except it is vulgar or not appropriate (among other functions).
As much as the regulatory bodies have their short comings, I will not particularly blame them for bogus brand promises made by Advertisers. However, I think brand lies arises as a result of intense competition among brands, brands wanting to outdo the other and also trying to generate more patronage. They think one of the ways to go about it is making bogus brand promises in their ad campaigns.
Question5: Let's talk about internal branding, what does it entail?
Internal branding is a process of branding from inside out. A lot of people have asked the question, what is internal branding? What people are conversant with in this part of the world is external branding. Companies that are experiencing brand crisis spend millions of money, year in year out on external re-branding such as; changing their logo, changing their slogan, changing their uniforms, repainting their building, spending on advertising campaigns and lots more (don’t get me wrong, all these are also important). However most times, some companies do all these afore listed things and still experience the same brand crisis all over again. What they fail to realize is that every brand has what is called ‘brand character’. What most companies are supposed to be spending money on is not just on ‘external branding’ but also on the internal branding process. As much as it is important to change the way the brand looks and feel, it is also paramount to influence the way the brand behaves. You can change the way a man looks and not influence the character. Let me give you a real life scenario; imagine picking a mad man from the street, take him to a beauty parlour, cut his hair, give him a clean bath, clean cloths, perfumes, most expensive after-shave, and the best of anything available on earth. If you put the same man on the street, he will return to his old ways because he is still fundamentally a mad person. This same principle applies to external branding without proper internal branding process. Internal branding starts from the moment the customer walks into your company or comes in contact with your product. I can’t really exhaust internal branding in this interview because it is a complex course on its own. People can visit www.victorariyibi.com for more information on the internal branding training for their organisations.
Question 6: How do you think a brand or company can effectively balance what it offers and what it promises in its promotions and advertisements?
I mentioned earlier that your brands are promises consumers believe in, I also mentioned that we are all in the business of selling promises. For instance; if I am stuck in traffic and I’m thirsty, the natural thing to do is to buy bottled ‘Pure water’. If I peradventure call a street hawker and ask for a particular brand of bottled ‘Pure water’, I am expecting the water to be pure if not cold, because it is called ‘pure natural water’. After buying the particular brand of bottled ‘Pure water’ and I find particles swimming in it, that brand has failed in delivering its promises of ‘pure bottled water’. The next time I see such bottled water, no matter how thirsty I am, I will not buy and also discourage as many people as possible from buying it. That particular brand has generated one ‘bad brand ambassador’ and I will make it a point of duty to discourage as many people as cared to listen that the bottled water in question is bad. This is the same principle that applies, when you make promises you cannot live up to.
Therefore, I would advise brand agencies to inform brand owners not to make promises they can’t keep. So many companies especially in Nigeria are in the habit of making such bogus promises. For instance a promise of complete satisfaction; (satisfaction is something you cannot give a general measurement for, what satisfies ‘Mr. A’ may not necessarily satisfy ‘Mr. B’ and the truth is that one man’s food maybe another man’s poison so it is advisable to just say ‘an assurance of satisfaction’ instead of promise); other examples are ‘tested and trusted, first and the best, one customer company, committed to serving you, selfless service, best customer service, etc’. Please don’t quote me wrong, these pay off lines or brand messages are good, but let companies be ready to work as hard so as to equate their brand messages.
These are all statements used by organizations in their advertising campaign and they see it as ordinary slogans but consumers see them as promises that they have to live up to, the principle in branding is “IF YOU CAN’T ACHIEVE IT, DON’T PROMISE IT”
Question 7: What would you describe as a bogus claim in advertising?
I already mentioned some of these claims in my previous response but like I said bogus promises are promises that you can’t live up to which is call ‘BRAND LIES’. The problem with some companies is that, they don’t carry their organization along in their advertising campaign. If you have made a promise of customer friendliness which is in your company’s core values, it is simply ideal that you inform your customer service team about the promise you have made on their behalf. If you have made a promise of cheap and affordable product, don’t make your product a premium for the ‘RICH only’ because consumers will hold you to that promise. I have seen some organization promise effective and qualitative service and they are not necessarily fast but they keep their promise by simply delivering qualitative and effective service slowly.
Question 8: To what extent should advertising claims get?
I will say as far as the brand can keep. Which means advertising companies should not make promises that the brand cannot live up to, this opinion does not mean to stiffen the creativity of an advert agency. There is always a level of exaggeration allowed in advertising but it should always be kept in moderation so that it does not result in a ‘brand lie’.
Question 9: How do you enlighten consumers on how to sift these bogus claims in advertisements?
Unfortunately we are all victims of bogus claims in advertising because we all tend to judge every product either by the package design or the advertisement; where there is no luxury of recommendations or word of mouth. The only way of knowing a bogus claim is by asking for people’s opinion (people that have tried such product or services before).
Question 10: What's your advice for brand managers who have gaps between their brands and the advertisements?
My advice to brand managers is to pay attention to every single detail in their advertisement because when they generate one ‘brand ambassador’ that believes in their product and the promises of what they can deliver; the brand ambassador will in turn generate other ‘brand enthusiasts’ who will patronize and publicize such product and service.
When giving advertising agencies free hand for creativity, they should also be warned to be conscious of what is the company’s core values, corporate philosophies, the vision and mission statement; all these should reflect in their advertising campaign.
This interview is Also available on http://nationalmirroronline.net/interviews/5921.html