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Brand 4.0: new brand thinking in digital intelligence Era




Dr. Cao Hu, global partner of Kotler Consulting Group and President of China

I’m Cao Hu from Kotler Consulting Group (China). We are a global marketing strategy and brand strategy consulting company founded by Mr. Philip Kotler and Mr. Milton Kotler, the father of modern marketing. At present, we have served nearly 376 “Fortune 500” enterprises and more than 200 innovative enterprises… I’m very glad to discuss the construction of high-end brands with you!


When we talk about brand, we must first take specific consumers as the premise. Because it is meaningless to talk about brand without specific target user groups and specific market segments. The fundamental purpose of enterprise management is to create customers and brands, and any brand is based on specific target groups and target customer groups.

Three challenges of current brands
So, at present, our brand is facing three severe challenges:
1. Intergenerational differences: five generations are using the same brand
2. Digital invasion: Digitalization and intelligence have changed the way of brand building and business model
3. Wealth extremes: consumption stratification and consumer stratification are becoming more and more obvious
Based on this, our current brand opportunity lies in the great changes of customers. Whether in the international market or the domestic market, two types of customers are becoming the customer groups concerned by all brands.
Two customer groups that the brand focuses on
The first category of customers is called “growth of ESG consumer”. This is a group of people who pay more and more attention to the enterprise business model and brand values behind the product in addition to the basic use functions of the product itself.
So what kind of impact will this group of people bring to our society? How can we create social value for them?
In my classification example, the common characteristics of these people are: the brand they choose and their purchase behavior are largely driven by values. They will consider whether the enterprise behind this brand can develop sustainably, protect the environment, care for the earth and carry out circular economy
Therefore, when a group of consumers become ESG groups, the development and advantages of these groups will also promote our ESG enterprises to resonate with consumers at the level of values.
At the same time, we also see that the second category, the growth of new consumers, is also growing rapidly. Whether at home or abroad, for post-95, Post-00 α Generation a, generation Z… This group of people born from 1998 to 2005 pay only increasing attention. In China, we define this kind of people as people with new consumption growth.
How big are these people? According to the population statistics, there are about 150 million to 170 million. In terms of brand cognition and category selection, this group of people’s expectations for the brand are very different from those of previous customers. This group of people are in the age group of 20 ~ 30 years old, with stronger information collection and comparison ability, stronger desire for self-expression, and more hope to express themselves and define life by using and owning brands. They have a stronger sense of national pride and self-confidence than the previous generation, and have higher standards and international aesthetics than our Post-70s and post-80s generation. These are reflected in their interaction with the brand, their choice of the brand, and even their communication with the brand. These people are new consumers.
Therefore, no matter whether we are talking about high-end brands or mass brands, regional brands or national brands today, we can’t ignore these two groups. They are angel consumers and core consumers of many categories and brands.
Then around these two points, we can carry out the follow-up discussion on high-value brands.
When it comes to what is a high-end brand and how to build a high-end brand, I agree with Mr. Duan Chuanmin, President Yao Jiqing of mousse and general manager song Zhaowei of Casati. I only add some personal observations and experiences for your reference:
1、 The real high-end brand is “de” high-end. Those real high-end brands never deliberately boast that they are high-end. Why? Because their high-end products no longer need to sell melons – boasting, but consumers really feel the high-end of their products.
What is high-end? High end is leading, inspiration, technology, CO creation, exploration, transcendence, love and belonging.
The word “high-end” is more like a framework. We can subdivide many feelings from it, and these feelings are what our high-end brand needs to spread to consumers through products, services and communication experience.
The action of putting the high-end into their own brand communication and attaching the high-end to their own label is extremely insecure and not high-end. If the enterprise itself is not confident, how can it make consumers follow you to become a better self and lead us to achieve a better society?
We can have a look. Almost all advertisements with the word “high-end” are suspicious “pseudo high-end”! Do LV, Hermes, Tesla, Huawei, Duanmu Liangjin and Rolls Royce need to label themselves as “high-end”? We need to define what is the real high-end for our users, rather than typing the word “high-end” opportunistically, that is, high-end. High end is user-defined!
The practice of imposing “high-end” labels may be effective for consumers in the low-end market and consumers who have just come into contact with a certain category. However, in the face of truly mature consumers, consumers in the highly competitive market and highly exposed to Internet consumers in the first and second tier cities, such high-end labels will have negative consequences.
2、 The brand is high-end because of customers. The brand is not high-end because of your enterprise, but high-end because of the customers of the brand. It is because high-end customers lead the formation of high-end brands after using this product.
Therefore, the brand does not belong to your enterprise, but belongs to customers. We must not deceive ourselves. The real high-end brand is created jointly with customers. The brand has always been a distributed asset, distributed in the hearts of customers!
Let’s think about it. What are your high-end brands? What do these high-end brands say in advertising communication? Are the users of your favorite high-end brands the same as you? Do these brands attract you because their customers are the same as you, or their customers are people you really want to be, a little higher than you? You want to be them, so for you, high-end brands are the inspiration of brand dream and life dream!
High end brands are high-end because of customers and are created together with customers. I think this is the basis of our conversation. We are talking about real high-end brands, not pseudo high-end brands.
3、 A real high-end brand should meet three things: high value, high technology and high touch.
Only these three can support our strong sense of belonging, strong premium and strong brand loyalty of high-end brands.
Four expectations of customers
So what are the expectations of our customers for high-end brands? I think there are four expectations:
First, we expect high-end brands not only to be tall, but also to have an attitude and responsibility!
The era of making a fortune through silence has passed. Our consumers, especially the new generation of consumers, hope that the brand can have an attitude towards our society and our life; Being able to advocate positive social values can make our society better. In the face of various challenges and difficulties, our brand can stand up and embody sincerity, courage and wisdom… This is a very scarce quality in our vuca era. If we want to become a high-end brand and a brand to be followed, we must have an attitude and responsibility!
Second, we expect that the brand can help us cultivate interest, bring new meaning and new ways to our life, and become the cultivator of our life and interest, rather than simply peddling a product.
Third, we expect high-end brands to become the builders of our interpersonal relationships.
Because of the brand, we meet and communicate; Because of the brand, we have become good friends; Because of the brand, we have more possibilities to explore ourselves; Because the brand makes my life richer
Fourth, we expect high-end brands to bring us trust.
What is trust? Although I don’t necessarily understand the advantages and disadvantages of this product, I can trust you. Many high-end brands are in complex product categories with high customer unit price. Consumers in these categories need to have a lot of knowledge, and the purchase decision-making process is relatively complex. Therefore, at this time, trust must be established between consumers and high-end brands. Whether it’s Casati home appliances or mousse mattresses just mentioned, many of the examples we mentioned before are complex products purchased at high customer unit price. We all need to build this trust.
Where does trust come from? Just now, technology, commitment and temperature.
The trend of brand development in the era of digital intelligence
Next, I would like to share with you a few trends of brand development in the digital intelligence era, which also echo the high value, high technology and high touch I just mentioned.
First, in the digital intelligence era, we call for the emergence of value products. Our brand no longer only tells how good the product function is, or tells some trivial emotional stories. We need to have a deeper impact on the society and the country. Therefore, our brand should actively intervene in social affairs, express its position and participate in social affairs. And from the perspective of business model, we should make the brand sustainable, rather than making up stories to spread.
Want to become a brand that cares for society and community, emphasizes social common development and makes money for all stakeholders. We need to optimize the supply chain and turn the past poverty alleviation model into empowerment. Instead of making an advertisement that he sponsored superficial behaviors such as hope primary school.
We call for brands with values. What is an important source of loyalty between brands and consumers through communication? It is the resonance of values.
In fact, there are many brands that do well like this. For example, Vanke in China, Unilever abroad, body shop and Nike are famous value brands. They not only sell products and shape emotional stories, but also express love for customers in difficult times and assume the responsibility of making the world better in difficult times.
Second, our brand is becoming a narrative brand. In the past, when we built a brand, we immediately thought of advertising and popularity. Advertising and popularity are still important today. In the scholar research just shown by Mr. Duan Chuanmin, it was mentioned that popularity is highly related to purchase behavior and brand narrative, which I agree with.
But we must also realize that the marginal income of popularity is declining. In addition to popularity, we need to change from communication to narration, content and operation; From the worship brand of “45 ° look up” to a brand that can communicate, create and inspire each other like friends, and become a brand of “180 degree intimacy” friends.
In the past, our forced communication content will not create too much value for customers, but become narration. By telling stories, we seek emotional connection, resonance and inspiration. Narration will bring you a lot of valuable content, so that you can better understand this category, yourself and brand. In other words, the communication that we didn’t value to consumers in the past has become the construction of valuable narrative content for consumers, making consumers better themselves and more effective decision-making.
Narrative brand, it should change from product brand to scene brand. Song Zhaowei, general manager of Casati, said just now that I want to evolve from product brand to scene brand. Why? Because what consumers buy is never a product. What consumers buy is a solution to the problem. Cold products need to be integrated into the boiling life through the scene!.
Therefore, the washing machine has become a family cleaning center, the TV has become a family living room entertainment center, and the mobile phone has become an important existence connecting people and enabling people
Third, structured brand. What is a structured brand? This brand is not only a static brand to shape brand assets, but also a growth engine to drive business growth.
Fourth, factor brand. We should brand science and technology and make science and technology the standard we must buy in our category innovation. For example, often our parts enterprises will be accompanied by the combination of complete machine brands. Such as Leica, Dolby, minicooper, Zhongchuang Chuang hang lithium battery, Gortex, etc. are all factor brands.
Therefore, in the era of digital intelligence, we should summarize how brands drive the growth of the company and how to enhance the value of the company.
The most critical brand concept
Finally, what is the key brand concept in the digital intelligence era?
“The essence of entrepreneur management is brand assets and customer assets. What entrepreneurs can really inherit to future generations is not capital, patents, land or cash, but a beloved brand.”.
So we entrepreneurs here, we need to make efforts to build brands. The life cycle of brands is far longer than that of products, that is, iron brands and flowing products.
Professor he Jiaxun once said: “brand is beyond the life of entrepreneurs, is the real heritage of entrepreneurs, can be inherited and can affect our society”. I agree very much that enterprises should build high-end brands loved by consumers.
Creating brand and serving customers is the mission of every entrepreneur. Brand is a value commitment. Let’s deliver this commitment to our customers, people we love and people who love us!
Original title: brand 4.0: brand new thinking in the digital intelligence era (speech essence)



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