Evergreen brands

The role and responsibilities of brands have been redefined in recent times

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The role and responsibilities of brands have been redefined in recent times.
Buildings age and become dilapidated, machines wear out, people die but what live on are brands," CEO, United Biscuits.
We all know of great brands that have withstood the ravages of time. Coca Cola, Lux, Volkswagen stories are stuff of legend that continue to fascinate.

Brands guided by a clear vision and single mindedness of purpose. Volkswagen was the answer to a seemingly impossible challenge: to create a car that everybody could afford to buy and run at a time when cars were only for the rich.
Everything, beginning with the name (peoples' car) was built around this vision. Coca Cola courted the media on its mystical and quite likely mythical history of a 107-year-old secret formula of its flagship brand locked away in a safe in Atlanta, establishing the belief through repetition that anything so secretly guarded must be special indeed.
Little wonder Coca Cola retains its hold on the #1 slot in Interbrands' latest annual ranking of the Best Global Brands. In the last few years one notices a change. Tech brands are rapidly taking over and dominating almost all such lists of top ranking brands.
Companies like Google and Facebook have accomplished the same kind of market capitalisation over the last five years as cherished brands have built over decades. Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Nokia are all members of the successful new breed. Have the rules changed in recent times?
Times have changed. Yesterday's brands were 'presented' to the consumer in a manufacturer-determined form with little or no scope for customisation, whereas great brands of today are characterised by innovation, imagination, involvement, individualism and influence.
Give customers what they want even before they know that they want it is the mantra of today. And let their own imagination then take over to define new ways to use it. It is this involvement in co-creation of individual brand experience that propels the brand exponentially.
It influences the way people do things as experiences get rapidly shared and spread. Just look at Apple, perhaps the most loved brand in the world. Carrying your entire music collection around has almost become the norm today and the iPod commands 70 per cent of the MP3 player market.
Four billion songs have been purchased from iTunes. Apple gadgets just get sleeker, smarter and totally irresistible. Or take Google which has taken on the task of organising the world's information. Two out of three searches take place on Google and the name is commonly used as a verb.
Google's collection of digitised books can potentially change reading habits. And with its web services, Google has been slowly duplicating everything that we can do locally on our computers. Nokia's is another success story built on constant innovation.
Mobile communication is converging with computing, digital imaging and the internet, making it possible for people to use handheld devices for filming video, listening to music, playing games, surfing the web and more.
Brands as citizens
We live in a highly inter connected world and today the role of brands has risen above cornering the largest market shares.
Brands are expected to be socially responsible citizens looking into the future and acting on the signs seen today - citizens who actively work to make a difference to their families, communities, organisations, country and even the world.
The impact of global warming and the pressure of an ever-increasing carbon footprint have companies looking for innovative ways to be less dependent on fossil fuels and far more reliant on renewable energy.
Car manufacturers today are looking at investing resources on energy efficient cars instead of focusing on sleeker and faster models. An idea that would have fallen by the wayside a few years ago, but today the signs are all around us and the shift is imperative.
GE, ranked at #4 among the world's Best Brands, has extended its reach from ovens to credit cards, and the 'ecomagination' push makes GE look like a protector of the planet. Overall, the role and responsibilities of brands sure have been redefined in recent times.
Great brands are expected to push the envelope - to constantly find innovative and imaginative ways to actively engage and involve audiences and influence behaviour, yet never lose sight of the greater good in giving back and making a positive difference.
The author is executive director, DDB Oman

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Evergreen brands
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