Ujaya Shakya
Apr 25, 2014

Dispatch from Nepal: Is advertising the same thing as branding?

In Nepal, the distinction is still sinking in.

Ujaya Shakya
Ujaya Shakya

Working in Nepal, it has always been challenging task to convince clients that advertising is not branding. Being predominantly a trading economy for most key brands, there has always been the notion that they're both the same. Most clients in the region tend to believe that some form of media presence will actually take care of branding as well. Having worked in advertising for the last 13 years in this part of the world, it has always been a uphill battle to convince our counterparts in the client’s side of the business that both these activities are two necessary evils with the single objective of further strengthening their business.

We have always been persuading and making them understand that every commodity needs to brand itself, but at the same time, the brand itself is meant to sell something which needs to be advertised to promote sale. The two coexist, but it’s important to understand the value of each so that they can be used as force multipliers. It’s like the “chicken and egg” discussion, but in most cases an advertising campaign can be made more effective if the brand strategy is documented first.

Advertising is the collective use of all forms of above- and below-the-line communication tactics. In advertising, certain vehicles are very popular like television, radio, print, outdoor and lately the digital media is also getting more popular even in Nepal. Advertising’s strength is in its ability to reach sheer mass. And in major cases, advertising are “campaign oriented” so it generally reflects the shopping/buying habits of consumers.

What is a brand then? It is a perception of a commodity that people have which is created from the certain patterns of an advertisement and it is also the impression of an experience offered by the product or service. A branding concept of a particular brand can be recognised by the following key ingredients: a unique name, a unique logo or visual identity, and a distinctive value proposition. A brand is used in business to differentiate one's goods or services from others and helps create some form of association in the minds of consumers which leads to awareness, preference and ultimately purchase.

I always tell clients: Advertising is like telling a girl in a discotheque 'I’m a cool dude', while branding is to actually be cool and behave accordingly. Certain brands like Nike manage to create an aura using advertising, but at the same time they also create the brand perception through the products, the stores, and a whole lot of user experiences and associations.

Building a brand requires a holistic approach—everything from customer service, stationery, website design, the way phones are answered or the way customer complaints are handled. Whoever tries to “build a brand” first without having these elements will end up with a chaotic and confusing brand story.

Another dilemma for most companies in the region is that they forget the fact that branding is an ongoing process. It takes time, effort, commitment and cannot be invented with few flashy advertisements. It is something that everyone at the company has to “live” with every day—and it’s not just about slogans, it’s about making sure that all stakeholders feel connected to the larger mission and goals of that organisation. The most successful and strong brands in the region are those with clear, authentic and easily communicated stories.

Many times I make it a point to ask the following set of questions to my counterparts from the clients’ side. Do you understand and believe in your brand? Do your employees and customers feel the same? Unless the answer to these is 'yes', mass-media advertising isn’t going to make much of a difference. First you need to figure out what your brand stands for and then only should you start worrying about buying advertisement space in any of the mass-media vehicles.

Ujaya Shakya is the managing director of Outreach Nepal. He is a communication entrepreneur, speaker and brand evangelist. You can tweet him your comments at @shakyau or reach him at [email protected]



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