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Are small local brands looking at branding with renewed vigour?

While there is a thin line between marketing and brand building, small local brands are learning to read the differences and use it to their advantage

It is not uncommon to come across family owned businesses in India. Be it your local ‘kirane wala’ or a multi-million dollar conglomerate, a lot of businesses in India are like legacies that people hand over from generation to generation. While local organisations have traditionally relied on knowledge and know-hows passed on from their elders to run their operations, many are today looking at branding in a new light.

According to Saurabh Uboweja, Brand Guru and CEO, Brands of Desire, a major reason why small local brands are now looking towards branding and brand building is that a lot of second and third generation entrepreneurs are privy to an ivy league education in business management and want to change the way the business have been traditionally conducted in the country. The world view that travels to other countries is also another reason why many entrepreneurs today are looking at branding in a new light.


Another reason why brands today, whether small or big, are looking at branding is because they realise the importance of a “brand”.

“The idea is that the brand is a magnet. In an ocean of commodity offerings, it is the brand that gets picked. It is the brand that helps establish the quality high-ground. And it is the brand that helps companies derive premiums for their otherwise commodity offerings,” said Harish Bijoor, Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

While brands (whether big or small) have traditionally spent much of their monies on advertising, today brands are recognising the need and the perks of branding. Although the concept of branding is nothing new and dates to thousands of years, it is only fairly recently that branding as a science and a topic to study emerged. This is also reason why the knowledge people have about branding is very shallow.

Drawing attention to why advertising is not branding, Bijoor said, “Advertising is not branding. Advertising is the mere execution of the brand elements that you wish to convey. Most small companies tend to confuse the two and end up sending a humongous amount of money on advertising which just does not deliver. When you craft your advertising starting with brand strategy you build a reliable route to market. When you use mere advertising, you fail mostly. In the one odd instance you may succeed as well, but then that’s happenstance.”

But what people often look past is that although marketing is the more glamorous of the two, it is also the more expensive way of getting the word out. Smaller brands, devoid of the baggage that comes with being a large brand, are also more agile and adaptive to change.

But the misconception that branding is for larger players with a lot of money to spend deters a lot of small time brands from looking at branding as a possible way forward in building a better brand. Right philosophy, right positioning, right identity, right packaging are some of the essential pillars of building a brand but they are not the most expensive aspects of brand building.

“While the general perception is that big brands are made because of the fortunes brands spend on marketing, the basic requisite for a brand to succeed are nuances like the way they are positioned, whether the product or service is solving a problem or not, the consistency with which the brand performs among others,” said an industry source who did not wish to be named.

Therefore, it becomes essential for any smaller brand trying to make it big to understand these nuances of brand building. The road to building a great brand essentially lies in understanding what branding really means and not confusing it with marketing. As small local brands assimilate themselves to the new meanings of brand building, they might be the ones to look out for in the future.

“I think the next generation of brands will really come from small businesses and not the large businesses as you see now,” said Uboweja.

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