A human being is considered photogenic when he looks better in image than in person; quite the same for brands as well. In this case specifically, the ability to cultivate an attractive imagery that rises above performance parameters, thus bestowing an enviable advantage. Genuinely photogenic brands have the power to command customer loyalty that is often sustainable and have the legs to cross boundaries of geography and segmentation while compensating for transactional deficiencies.
Imagine for a moment that you are dining at Bukhara in ITC Mughal or even Karim’s in Old Delhi and the meat is not up to the mark. You are unlikely to own up to this publicly fearing that your peers will not believe you or perhaps disregard your judgement due to the photogenic qualities of the brands that supersede the odd bad day. Levi’s 501 or a pair of Armani jeans may find you less spellbound that the original expectation but the sheer momentum of affection will render your assessment fairly inconsequential. The same is certainly true for a visit to Disney World or the Eifel Tower, where you are truly a spectator and not a commentator, compelled to add to the adulation and disregard any criticism. You will scathingly criticise Air India for even the most minor transgression while the celestial perceptions about Singapore Airlines will make you forgive otherwise notable service failures. Which was also the case with a Shah Rukh Khan movie till recently where the overwhelming imagery of the master brand eliminated the possibilities of dissent, till, of course, a succession of failures slowly tilted the scales.
A major attribute of photogenic brands is to build a shield against performance shortcomings, thus giving the manufacturer an extraordinary opportunity to redeem the inevitable failures in experience. The first reason for this is the purely emotional nature of this relationship, like that with a near family member or a dear friend, which makes us suspend the habit of constant judgement. So, we embrace the next experience with much delight and anticipation, almost as if the brand is doing us a good turn by reappearing in our lives as opposed to transactional realities, slimming the chances of perceived failure. Additionally, we are conscious of the global adulation that the brand enjoys and fear that we would look rather silly if commenting negatively, against the tide of popular wisdom. Which is exactly why mainstreamers consider it sensible to add legs to their own stature as sensible connoisseurs of such acclaimed experiences. Although emerging social media patterns are encouraging the dissenter that will remain a niche sentiment like the love for an incomprehensible art movie.
Great brands have built their photogenic quotient over the years by investing sensibly in distinctive stories, creating an air-cover of virtue that rides above daily considerations of performance. Which can be with a mission or cause, like Body Shop, an inimitable attitude, like Apple, Pepsi or Nike or with overwhelming creativity, like Disney, or even with legendary service standards like hotels or airlines. These stories have invariably been built by investing in a branding programme that rises way above product features of transactional excellence by a mix of paid advertising as well as powerful interventions, both augmented by customer referrals that become truly viral. They are considered to be case-study material, discussed in business schools and business forums equally as milestones in human influence, crafted lovingly by both practitioners and academicians, social phenomena and not just business successes. In the pre-digital days, they were carefully created through the tools of public relations and demonstrable missions but today in the digital age, the opportunities of amplification are truly vast. In fact, implemented quite successfully by many new-age online brands led by Google and Facebook–elevating their performance objectives to fundamental human causes for the betterment of living.
Every brand must start investing in their photogenic qualities for which the foundation quite certainly is awe-inspiring performance, consistent and above industry benchmarks laced with sustainable uniqueness. Then comes the tipping point of building a brand legend, converting performance to dramatic or perhaps, cinematic levels of story-telling that forges a formidable emotional relationship with the customer. One that manages to elevate her self-worth or self-belief, a valuable aid to building a distinctive persona that we all desire, a blend of substance and projection. The demonstration of an Apple device makes everybody look very creative while the usage of a Nike + device makes us technologically above-the-game while the patronage of a Jet Premiere Platinum makes a sure statement about our business credentials. Thanks to the techniques available easily today, it is possible to bestow such super-natural qualities on many experiences but for that we must look beyond performance-based or transaction-driven engagement devices, a springboard merely to greater glories.
A necessary component of successful brand management is to cleverly balance the present and the future, currently skewed majorly towards the former due to relentless pressures of financial delivery. When done successfully, this will actually become an insurance policy for short-term performance, giving products and services valuable breathing space to manage competitor onslaughts or experience shortcomings that are bound to occur in this dynamic environment. If your brand is truly photogenic, its image will positively influence reality, which is certainly very desirable.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: email@example.com)
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