Tshiamo Tladi
Tshiamo Tladi

Becoming a much loved ‘people’s brand’

by Tshiamo Tladi. Premiumising a brand is not all that it’s cut out to be, especially for certain brands that hold more market share and sales dominance.

by Tshiamo Tladi. The world of advertising and marketing is at a point in time where brands in certain categories that have been winning in both market share and sales, further solidify their dominance against their nearest competitors with close to no retort. This may come off as a surprise since more often than not, once brands have achieved a certain degree of market dominance, the natural step would be to maximise their margins by opting to premiumise as part of exploiting their established demand. So, the question is, whether premiumising is still necessary?

So, why do brands premiumise?

There are a variety of considerations that prompt a brand to opt to premiumise. These could either be changes in economic conditions that affect the manufacturing and delivery of a product; to reaffirm consumer brand choice; or to help it establish category leadership through innovation. Most brand managers would argue that any change in pricing upwards, or introduction of an innovation, should be the precipice of a natural change in brand positioning to a more premium identity. This is done to ensure that there is no discrepancy in ‘offering versus consumer brand perception’.

However, for this article I would like to argue against this notion. Though all signs to optimise market domination are beset with a myriad of reasons to premiumise its brand positioning, there are also cases where this change has been done to the detriment of a brand. Premiumising is not all that it’s cut out to be, especially for certain brands that find themselves in the most desirable position of holding more market share and sales dominance.

A change in perspective

The notion of ‘premium’ has been defined by some sources as “consumers’ predisposition to pay more for a brand, due to their perceived value versus perceived value of the competitors”. Which in a case, where a brand is sitting at either a net positive or negative on that scale, means that there is potential for this brand to either leverage the introduction of an innovation, or risk losing or retaining share should they consider an upwards change in price. In the case where a brand is sitting at a net positive, I believe there is merit in exploring the opportunity to optimise margins. However, we shouldn’t be in a rush change the current positioning too. If a consumer is in the predisposition to believe that the value they extract outweighs its current positioning; then that brand is received as truly invaluable in consumers’ minds. Hence, in this case premuimising would not be necessary. This is how consumers fall in love with brands!

The ambition of any brand or marketing manager should be to continually strive to make and remind consumers to learn why they will fall in love with their brand. Consider the sneaker reseller markets, or vintage car auction spaces. These are clear examples of branded goods and products that have garnered such great consumer affinity and love, that consumers would easily be willing to pay two or three times more than the initial retail value of those items. In this instance, I believe that consumers were genuinely in love with those brands to the point where premium positioning or pricing was no longer a factor when making the purchase.

Recent history has also shown how certain big brands, which were in positions of power (holding majority volume share and positive equity perception), effectively tanked following a change to more premium positioning. There are dominant global and local brands that have tanked since they opted to premiumise much loved, accessible positioned brands. However, I think there is merit in resisting the temptation to premiumise, and simply stay true to being an accessible, loved brand.

What does it mean to be a loved brand?

To be a loved brand is simply about understanding what your consumers love about your brand offering, and honing in to both attract and remind consumers why they too, can still fall in love and stay in love with your brand. However, achieving and retaining brand love is not always within the control of brand custodians. It sometimes requires a little reliance on allowing consumers themselves to determine what about the product or brand is invaluable to them as consumers.

There are definite reasons why consumers offer certain brands unsolicited share of their wallets and baskets. These could range from some of the most explicitly extrinsic reasons to even the most subtly intrinsic of reasons. However, the onus is still to hone in on that and build on it as the central cue and reminder to why your brand is worth choosing time and time again.

If it’s loved by consumers, then there might not be a need to premiumise. I know this goes against what most of us within corporate South Africa are taught. In fact, when we feel that our brand has achieved “loved” status, there is a sudden urge to premiumise our positioning too. However, I believe that there is still merit in being an unapologetically accessibly positioned brand to consumers, even if price positioning might change to offset negative changes in economic conditions.

The world needs more brands that are unapologetically the people’s brand. It’s the simplest of things that make consumers fall in love with brands. In fact, it’s about time we acknowledged that leading in being accessible and reliable is actually okay. Not all consumers aspire to consume ‘Apple-esque’ premiumised offerings. Sometimes all we want are brands that are positioned as simply being there for their current consumers.


Main image credit: Photo by Shaira Dela Peña on Unsplash.



Tshiamo Tladi is Strategy Director at 34 Degrees, the specialist through-the-line and retail agency. Tladi is a seasoned strategist and shopper marketer with years of experience developing winning strategies that have guided creative work and commercial growth from both agency and client side.



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