The ‘6E’ Framework for Building Brands

Ashita Aggarwal

Author: Ashita Aggarwal

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 18:10

Strong brands are assets to the business as they earn a premium and create consumer preference. People trust brands which form the basis of their purchase intention and loyalty over time.  Branding as a discipline borrows heavily from the social sciences and psychology. Strong brands are not created just through product design and communication but by finding a place in the consumer’s heart.

Marketers can follow a simple six step checklist to determine if they are nurturing their brands well and if their relationship with the brand is enduring enough.

Essence: It is the intrinsic nature or indispensable attribute which determines the brand character. The essence is the core identity of the brand. It reflects what the marketer wants the brand to stand for. For an example, the essence of the brand Fevicol is ‘sticking together’ or building bonds. The core essence of brand Google is ‘search’ and that is what remains indispensable to the brand.

Efficacy (promise): The unique and differentiated advantage of the brand defines its promise. The promise that the brand makes and the value it bestows to customers signifies its brand positioning. The brand’s value proposition can be functional (when it is a new category, new market or significant competitive advantage in terms of technology etc.) or emotional (when the product is a non-differentiator, brands try occupying a share of the heart). For an example, the value proposition of Dell is its superior customer service and customisation which is clearly functional. Dettol antiseptic on the other hand owns the proposition of ‘protection like that of a mother’.

Emotion: Branding is a process of taking the product from the left side of the brain to the right. Therefore, irrespective of the fact that the brand differentiates itself on functional or emotional benefits, it needs to identity an emotion through which consumers can connect with it. For example, Dairy Milk owns togetherness and Fevicol has emotion associated with lifelong association (the tone being humour). Today it’s not just the B2C brands but even technology and corporate brands that are trying to find an emotion to associate them with the consumers. For example, Cummins associates itself with passion to perform.

Employees: Before the brand interacts with the external customers, it needs to build association with its internal customers i.e. employees. If your employees do not believe in you, the customers would not. The people who deliver the brand experience or are at customer touch points need to be as knowledgeable and passionate about the brand as they actually make the brand. Ex. When Ponds launched their new range of anti aging solutions in Middle East, the launch was first done with Unilever employees so that their own internal customers could become brand missionaries.

Experience: This stage involves creating brand experience at every touch point. Brand experiences are created through appropriate communication channels including mass media, activations etc. Distribution channels and intermediaries play an equally important role in creating the right experience for the consumers. This stage would hence include most of the steps in the brand implementation plan, including communication, distribution, packaging, promotions etc.

Engagement: To have a large base of loyal customers, it is critical to engage them with the brand. This instils a sense of co-creation as consumers feel they are a part of it all. In a socially connected world, companies do not adequately utilise the potential of social media by using it only as a vehicle for information dissemination. When you are engaging with your consumers effectively, you are building a sense of ownership for the brand and hence deeper commitment towards the same. As marketers, we need to personify our brand and ensure that consumers find a friend in it.  

Building brands is like nurturing children. They require the care and passion of a parent and continuity of investment and efforts to ensure long term success.

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Dear Ma’am, The checklist of 6E ‘s is quite useful and more so ever because businesses are in dire need to understand customer segments, to improve two way communication with customers, and to fulfill customer segment needs because today’s customer is harder, shrewder , more expensive to win and once won, more expensive to keep. An example could be that of E commerce players where customer loyalty is close to zero and maintain a customer a particular company has to keep on offering higher and better incentives, which ultimately burdens the company. As customers begin to assume that products and services will be of high quality, the competitive differentiator becomes price or value. Technology (Internet) makes it easy for customers to shop for lowest price, which makes a neighborhood retailer to a global marketplace of sellers. This ultimately creates further pressure on a business’s bottom line. One way to respond to this pressure is to develop and market products to specific customers segments using the 6E’s. The application of 6E’s not only helps in improving profits but also helps in designing more customizable products (with multiple marketing plans). This is what seems like a strategy to me: Turning one- time customers into ‘customers for life’. For such a strategy to be successful, it requires a great amount of understanding and delivering greater perceived value than competition which I think brands such as Zara are setting an example for. Understanding the wants and needs of each segment involves market research and gathering information from multiple sources, including Voice of Customer. This is again something where I can’t think of a better example than Zara. Not only the staff at Zara stores do real time customer experience mapping but also they do hell lot of research on fashion trending round the globe. A dress worn by a model at Paris Fashion week finds it place at its stores all around in globe in less than 3 weeks. Such is the level of commitment and customization which gives a brand its essence, efficacy, emotion, engagement, experience & employees.

Thanks Madam for sharing 6E frame work for building brands.I agree that strong brands are assets to the business. coincidentally title 6E reminded me of Indigo flights, such is the power of creating strong brands . I got curious to know if 6E in Indigo’s flight numbers meant the same, but it is not. The takeaway is strong brand can help to have a good TOM score. Since Indigo has popped up in my mind, I want to analyse Indigo as a brand . Indigo as a brand has shown the essence of serving customers on time and being consistent, this is demonstrated with their more often than not being on time and they proudly announce after each and every on- time / ahead of schedule landing as happened as per Indigo standard time. As mentioned by in the article that employees become brand ambassadors for your brand, this particular attribute is perfectly followed by Indigo. Every issue of 6E hello in-flight magazine has one column dedicated to recognising their employees right from housekeeping to pilots. These activities send a positive message out to everyone in the company and it reflects in the overall service to the customer.The customer engagement/ service is brilliant too, recently one of my friends has forgotten is wallet on the flight and the airlines took the effort to locate him and return the wallet safely. This shows the integrity of the employees and top notch service of the airlines. I can’t agree more on your concluding statement that building brands are like nurturing children, if the brand building is not given enough care, it can break the company as well. A strong brand can help a company to bounce back if there is an occasional glitch.

Maam, that’s an insightful article. Every brand story revolves around the 6Es. We remember those brands that are close to our heart and have delivered what they promise. It’s true that brand promise signifies brand positioning. We can take example of Coca-Cola which promises “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift”. The statement conveys the mindset of the target consumer. Coca-Cola positions itself as a lifestyle brand. Similarly in case of Nike, the brand promises “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, that tells the consumer how Nike aims to evolve the sports world, without emphasizing on the product lines. We get emotionally connected with brands as we tend to connect our personal stories with them. I remember how sad I was when FSSAI banned the retail sale of Maggi. It is the ultimate hunger time saviour in college days. Who can forget the late-night Maggi fest with friends? Not only the taste, but also the memories built around it make it a must-have element of our lives. Such brands know how to make a long-lasting impression on the right side of consumer’s brain. Employees’ belief is a pre-requisite for a product to graduate into a successful brand. I have worked in B2B sales of Oil & Gas industry and from my personal experience I can say that without my own conviction and belief in the product I promoted, it would have been impossible to win customer’s trust. It’s important to choose the messaging medium wisely, to offer a meaningful experience and increase audiences’ brand affinity. Both, Vatika’s #BraveandBeautiful ad campaign on cancer survivors and Vicks’ #TouchofCare ad campaign featuring a transgender mother, are examples of powerful customer experience. None of the commercials talked about the products but conveyed what the brand stands for. It’s important to engage customers and build a sense of ownership to make a brand to “Our” brand. Digital promotion activity by GoPro is one such example. You have aptly compared a brand with a baby. A product needs utter care and passion to blossom into a competitive brand with long term value.

Understanding today’s rapid growth of market and increasing number of products by various brands and organizations, retaining the value of brand has become a necessity. The recall value of any product primarily depends on its effect on the consumers and the kind of brand image has it left to reflect on. As beautifully said, we need to move the product from left side to right side to have a brand reflection. Market study is a very intriguing point, where understanding how brand image can be retained and how brand value forms a selling structure for any product available. The 6E Structure is such a graceful way of demonstrating how the components of the environment are essentially required to settle on a product and retain its image. The beautify essence is, that it’s a self-selling entity, how a commodity or a product, traces back to the essential purpose of the product to recall its value and leave an impression on the consumers with the help of usage. The promise to entertain the individual or consumer for the best of its application and retaining the value is best known by efficacy, it’s surprising how a product can actually bestow in our hearts and mind with the simplistic usage and can create a lifelong brand equity. The growing B2C market, with the technological advancement of B2B market and the comprehensive growth of the consumer market with revolutions, emotions is the connecting bond between all the entries and needs to be comprehended well for the sustainability of the product. With the prevailing world of fast moving goods and advancement, a personal touch works wonders in brand development, an employee of the organization, with the human interactive feature can bring consumers closer to the product association. The best way to expand a product recognition is to have a background knowledge which comes from experience, of the product and market strategy. The product needs to be voiced out and reached to a larger population by implementation, which needs a lot of market research and rapidly growing market segment, with optimum utilization. As we already understand the continuously upgrading technology and increasing market rates, brands need to keep up with the competition and also have a sense of belonging. The engagement of a brand can help retain a value for a longer period of time, with the upgrading society, brands can be lost and products diminished, but engagement and personal touch with brand realization can help sustain the brand for a longer time. This is the incubator directory for a newborn, where brand needs to be nurtured well and positioned in the market well for recognition and retention.

Thank you, ma’am, for such an insightful article. I agree that in today’s commoditized world where new products are launched every day, brands are what differentiates a company and allows it to survive in such a hyper-competitive market. Customers develop an emotional bond with the brands and associate themselves with what that they are consuming. Today, nobody says that they want a photocopy but use the word ‘Xerox’. When we want to use an adhesive, we ask for ‘Fevicol’, which is simply a Pidilite brand. It has become absolutely imperative for companies to build brands because that is what helps in customer recall. Uber was launched in India in 2013 but within a span of 4 years, it has become a synonym for cab travel. The company promised a seamless personal travel experience and by walking the talk, has been able to position itself superiorly in the minds of consumers. Nestle’s ‘Maggi’ has such a deep connection with the Indian diaspora that even after it was relaunched following the Supreme court ban, Maggi lovers accepted the product with open arms. The ‘we miss you two’ campaign run by the company struck the right chords and instantly reminded all the snack lovers of all the fun times they had spent while consuming Maggi. Whenever Dairy Milk runs its campaign, ‘Kuch Meetha ho jaaye’, it always brings a smile on people’s faces. The idea of gifting a Dairy Milk, be it to persuade your upset partner or to your sister on the occasion of Rakshabandhan or to simply consume it as a dessert after the family dinner, is so overloaded with emotions that one feels compelled to buy the product. Companies, by giving promotional offers, have to ensure that their target consumers are forced into consuming their products. When ‘Swiggy’ was launched, the company knew that it had a better interface than the existing players in the market but to attract customers, it started giving huge discounts and engaged in large scale promotions. However, brand building is not simply based on consumers and as ma’am writes, it depends a lot on the employees as well. Today, people want to work for Google and Facebook and the positive word-of-mouth publicity has helped the brand to grow exponentially. If the employees themselves stop believing in the brand, then the company will never be able to build customer confidence. A satisfied employee reaps long term dividends and takes greater initiative in building the brand. The ‘6E framework’ is actually what is being followed by all companies today to achieve the ideal spot in the consumer mind space. Companies have to be patient because it takes time to achieve the status of a brand. Spending overtly on advertising and promotion might not paint the right image if the intended message is not so strong and it might also lead to significant losses. The company has to find the right balance between consumer experience, product message, emotions and promotional activities in order to construct a brand.

A very thoughtful article indeed ma’am. In a cut-throat competition world where most FMCG products are facing the challenges of cutting through clutter, the ones which have been successful and occupy a share in the minds of the consumer are definitely complying with the 6E structure which you have elaborated. This is very evident from various examples – when Dairy Milk created the demand of chocolates after identifying Raksha Bandhan as the apt festival in India based on togetherness or when Dominoes realized that Pizza is more of a delivery item than eating at a restaurant and structured their entire model in India accordingly. Such brands have inspired and intrigued me to learn more about marketing. However, sometimes the entrepreneur in me who wishes to create her own brand someday, asks, is it really necessary to know the Integrated Marketing Concept or the 4Ps model to create a brand? Is it going to work for me if tomorrow I decide to open a general store and compete with Chaudhary General Store which has been in business for the last 30 years in my neighborhood. What was that one thing that Chaudhary Uncle knew so well – and then it strikes me – he knew his customer better than anyone else, customer is the king. And this is common between the much talked about Chaudhary ka General Store in my neighborhood and the Multi-Million Company Amazon. Jeff Bezos of course got it right for many neighborhoods and not just one! The beauty of marketing any enterprise - for me lies in the fact that more often than not I will learn about my mistakes from how my customer reacts– my elaborate flexes might bring the customer to me but my poor stocking capability on the shelves will not bring her back. And this is something that I will learn on my own when the group of kids return disappointed after not finding the cola bar ice cream they came for. It is more so relevant in the times today since an unhappy customer can spread the negative sentiment to an innumerable number of present and potential customers using the power of social media. This makes the presence of companies on social media very crucial, the good ones in fact are taking it seriously - each time I get charged for a wrong amount on Uber, I go straight to Twitter to complain and the response is instant, Amazon has activated a chatting forum for complaints after identifying the inconvenience of customer service calls - resonates with your thought of Engagement with the customer. All I would like to add is that to all these 6Es, the underlying C – Consumer is the most important. Identifying the need for the consumer and solving a mundane problem in her life, is on the checklist for me in my marketing career, and I find myself extremely privileged to have the opportunity to learn from you. Looking forward to your sessions ma’am!

Hello Ma’am, Thank you for the detailed and insightful article on the ‘6E’ framework of building brands. As marketing students, we have come across myriad frameworks that can be applied to evaluate brand positioning and differentiation. However after reflecting on some of the brands that did not work fare well in the past, I realized that if the team had referred to the ‘6E’ Framework, they might have performed better. What is interesting to note is that we could apply the same framework to evaluate the efficacy of any marketing campaign as well. After all if ‘strong brands are assets to the business’ then are not strong marketing campaigns assets to a brand? I feel that not only can the ‘6E’ framework help in long term brand positioning but also help us evaluate if a particular marketing campaign will do well or not. When Flipkart advertised it first ‘Big Billion Day’ in 2014-they seemed to have everything going right for them. The essence of being an online shop which promised everything under the sun at discounted prices was strengthened by the emotion of it being the Indian e-commerce giant which had to succeed against foreign players like Amazon and fulfill the wishes of a billion people. It eventually backfired, as the customer experience was devastating on the day of the actual sale. From misleading offers, to uninteresting inventory, the website led people to everything they did not want. Add to that the server issue and a customer care center that refused to help-the experience undid everything the marketing campaign had aimed to build and then some more. A social media backlash followed and the company lost enough goodwill to force the founders to send a mail of personal apology to all its customers. Clearly the 6E framework might have guided them to ensure how to secure their brand image better. Similarly, when Pepsi came out with the controversial ad starring Kendall Jenner in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, they found themselves in trouble. Later, they admitted that they ‘clearly missed the mark’. As far as the ‘6E’ framework is concerned-they were right. Pepsi associates itself with the emotion of being a youth centric brand [peppy hence Pepsi?]. The ad campaign signaled how it could help end a youth centric protest. What they misjudged was the emotion related with the protest itself. It was more to do with the latent anger and frustration related with police brutality and racism. How do you solve that with soda water? They also chose the engage with the audience on the issue using the face of a white, privileged model who could not be associated with the hardship and daily struggles most of the community went through to make ends meet and be considered equal. An objective evaluation of the ‘6E’ framework could have helped them identify the intention–impact gap in their campaign. To conclude, brands are nurtured over time and marketing campaigns can help push or delay or even reverse the growth and the positive relationship they have with consumers. The ‘6E’ framework can guide the marketers well on how to tailor their campaigns to ensure positive impact.

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