Brands surround us. Sometimes they define who we are and what we stand for. A brand can mean different things to different people. So how does one define an approach to create or promote an entity that’s highly multi-dimensional? Is it even advisable to have a single approach as we build, evolve, and grow brands?
Marketing experts and strategy leaders have explored different methods of creating a brand. Designers, marketers, content writers, and strategic planners all touch a brand in some way, and their way of viewing it can differ from one another. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. If you’re someone who is new to brand strategy and wants to escape all the clutter, the 4Cs Model can be a good start. The 4Cs consist of four elements — Company, Category, Consumer, and Culture.
Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese organizational theorist, developed a 3C Model which offered three of the four elements for strategic success — Company, Customers, and Competitors. He suggested that only by integrating these three, a sustained competitive advantage could exist. Ohmae refers to these key factors as the three Cs or strategic triangle.
In recent years, a fourth C, Culture gained prominence, making the triangle into a square. Culture in this context indicates the extended culture we live and breathe in. And it’s constantly changing. Brands that are unsuccessful in standing the test of culture fail to maintain momentum. And then, let’s consider the element of Competition as “Category”, simply to widen its purpose beyond merely signifying a comparison between brands to a larger goal of understanding the entire classified group.
These 4 Cs are just the starting point. Rigorous research and questioning within each of these elements needs to be conducted to uncover insights. Tough questions need to be asked to the stakeholders to understand their vision for the company. Trends and shifts in societal behaviors need to be analyzed to establish the role of the brand. Most importantly, examining consumer needs and behaviors would get us closer to the “why”, enabling us to discover the brand’s purpose in the lives of the consumer.
The real challenge is what Ohmae says in ‘integrating’ these four elements—telling a story by combining the four Cs. Each represents a unique role in the life of the brand. Their relationship with one another and to the greater meaning of things makes the brand a successful part of this world. Brand strategy is the beautiful union of these four elements.
The magic is in the way you connect the dots. Like a good story has a hero, a reason for his quest, a life-altering event, and an end reward; a good brand strategy is the story of the brand, our hero, and his journey and meaning in the life of the consumer. Amul is one such Indian brand that has been able to maintain consumer trust and stay relevant for over 70 years. Its high quality products and iconic mascot the ‘Amul Girl’ have consistently delivered the same unique taste and message. Its witty advertisements have made successful commentary on pop culture keeping the brand alive while maintaining its original style. The Amul brand has evolved masterfully making a mark on its consumers.
On the contrary, several traditional banking brands are struggling to stay relevant and tell their story convincingly. The category is disrupted by fintechs challenging traditional practices and ideologies. Trust in banks is at an all time low. These brands will have to adapt with the changing trends or might slowly turn obsolete. A way forward would be to innovate and develop a new narrative by looking into the 4 Cs; with utmost honesty.
Jui Khopkar is a brand strategist and designer based in New York. She is most passionate about uncovering human insights through research and investigating culture. She is currently an Associate Director of Research and Insights at SpotCo, a Broadway marketing agency in New York.
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