In client-agency meetings the issue of ‘branding’ crops up when it comes to planning a new commercial or dissecting an existing one. A major grouse among clients is that very often you recall an ad, but not the brand. Or attribute the ad to a competing brand. No arguments on the fact that all the strategic planning and slogging on the creative product is a waste if it does not impact your brand. But very often, repetition of a brand name several times is considered sufficient enough to aid branded memorability. Is it? Can there be such hard nosed rules about branding? As an aside, ‘branding’ is more about the process of ensuring that the brand’s promise is kept consistent across channels and not about the number of times a brand is mentioned.

The worry is real though. All of us have been through it – we recall and ad or it’s situation but not the brand. In this context, the recent commercials for Vodafone announcing a new call rate (all local calls at 60p/min) and the availability of Amar Chitra Katha on the phone have no ‘branding’ – the brand name is not even mentioned once in audio. It comes just as a super at the end.

Some say that big established brands with huge media budgets can get away with it but not others. Isn’t Vodafone a ‘new’ brand for India? So who is right? Those who focus heavily on ensuring that the brand name is mentioned in an ad (almost like ticking a box) or those who say that number of mentions has no correlation to branded memorability. The answer is a very eloquent, ‘depends’. I think the Vodafone ads stand out because of their simplicity, uncomplicated narration of a story, the minimalist approach – all of it makes it clutter breaking. If the story telling is riveting enough and the product reveal (the ‘aha’ moment) happens in a relevant yet distinct manner, it doesn’t really matter if the brand name is mentioned just once. Remember the M-Seal ad?

I guess branded memorability is linked to more than one thing:

Start with the product: is there new news? Is the offering unique and relevant for the consumer? Is the product category a high involvement one? An ad for a bike is likely to generate more involvement than say, an ad for for a candy. A lot of me-too products in cluttered categories depend solely on advertising to deliver the cut-through. The iPhone ads for example, didn’t have to go beyond a simple demo. The new iPod Shuffle has a voice feature. With features like this, the benefit is apparent and the ad could write itself.

Hang on to an insight: call it creative perspective or insight, a new way of looking at things helps if it’s a me-too or low-involvement product. An advertising friend of mine defines a powerful insight as the ‘unthought known’. Fantastic. So if you can get the viewer to say, ‘yeah that happens to me’ by presenting a unique slant, it could aid branded memorability. The example that comes to mind is Tide to Go. The insight that stains are a distraction and ‘shout out’ was brought alive beautifully in this ad.

An engaging, relevant story: the Neo Cricket ad for India-Pak cricket series went beyond merely announcing the telecast. While the tension associated with India-Pak cricket matches may have diluted over the years, the story telling was fantastic. Ditto with Naukri’s Hari Sadu ad.

A unique brand signature or style: the somersault of the kid in the Sundrop ad, the Rin lightning, Britannia’s tune and the Bingo sound mnemonic are all properties that are hardwired to the brand. Even the signature look & feel of a Mercedes Benz print ad is unmistakable.

Simplicity, above all else: it all boils down to this I guess – focus. Most of the ads we all have come to love manage to say just one thing and say it well. More the layers, less the chance of memorability.

Any thoughts on branding and branded memorability? Why do some ads get recalled but not the right brand? Do share.

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