Holistic Brand Management


As a marketer, it helps to observe more. Specially when people are responding to a query about their choice or preference.

Consider this. When someone asks you ‘what’ would your next car be?  How do you answer? Is your reponse to a simple and straight forward query, rational or emotional?  Analytical or skeptical? Maybe, none of them. Or maybe, all!

Whatever your answer to the ‘what’ may be, what I want to dwell upon is the ‘how‘ part!

As a matter of fact, I keep asking such similar question to a eclectic mix of audience ranging from friends to family, all age groups and varying social strata. Most people, come up with their snap split second responses. Not just quick, but firm and assertive ones as well. No one has ever asked me for a set of options to choose from. They just seem to know it, ‘instinctively’. It is a subject of continuing research and debate that how much of this split second assertiveness, converts into actual buying decision for the same car?

If you quiz them deeper about the rational specifics of their ’choice’ (like the power it returns, fuel economy or the installed safety features), a vast majority do not have any factual data points to base themselves on. Yet, they somehow believe, it has to be good. And, very strongly so.

If it is not the rational, factual data that makes them answer in someone’s favor, what does? 

The answer lies in the definition of what we delightfully call a ‘brand’. I researched my sources and stumbled on hundreds of definitions, but none more satisfying and complete than this one:

A Brand is the costliest real estate; a piece in the corner of a consumers’ mind’.                 

To elaborate further, it is a collective set of perceptions that a consumer carries about a person, product or service.  Although a brand is something that provides an identity to that product, it in itself remains intangible.

This piece in the corner of the consumer’s mind is what makes the assertive split second response. Most repondents seem to have a  holistic perception of the product or service in question, and that is what drives their opinion. When the brand perception is right, you need not necessarily worry about the details.

If you are a marketer, getting your name plate up on that piece of real estate is all that matters. I have come across many a dedicated brand managers slog their way, to get their before anybody else does. In my opinion while getting there is important, what is even more critical is leaving the right impression behind.

Management of brands is a highly complex business task. Organisations that are system thinkers at large and able to see a holistic image of reality, are concerned with not just the choices that their customers are likely to make, but also the choices made by other stakeholders like their employees and the shareholders. 

Choice is affected by a host of factors both internal and external to the business. Most evolved companies that I have come across, have good tools to manage the internal operational processes and the cost side of the brand management.

However, far fewer companies will have the right processes in place to manage the ‘intangibles’ like the ‘pride of association’.  Ability to manage processes like these is fundamental to a successful brand.  The competitive advantage that a firm might gathers by delivering the ‘intangibles’, can create substantial value that will be ‘hard to copy’ for the rest.

Managing the ‘intangibles’ could be a hugely complex task.  In the absence of systems thinking and a sharp understanding of the causality between drivers and outcome over time, brand management would continue to be dealt ‘intuitively’, by a lot of brand managers.

The dominant business tradition called the ‘spreadsheet thinking’ is designed to isolate key variables in order to reduce complexity using a bottom line focus and linear thinking. Most marketing managers converge their energies and spends on quick wins, while completely missing out on the ‘long term value creation’ objective.

A balance of short term deliverables along with long term targets for the brand is desirable, but hard to achieve. This is where the opportunity exists.

In my very personal opinion, the key objective of successful brand management is to maximize the population of loyals. Thus brand strategy involves the identification of appropriate management actions to create loyalty amongst its stakeholders.

A brand manager in today’s world needs to be cognizant of the fact that retention is as much a part of his portfolio as acquisition is.

The study of brands from the perspective of dynamic system theory is enlightening because it leaves the nature of the brand, especially their holistic and dynamic character, fully intact.


a. Image reproduced from www.criti.in


10 Responses to Holistic Brand Management

  1. Suvira Sinha says:

    Good Explanation !! Wilp help Marketing Guys a Lot ;)

  2. Swanti says:

    Bhaiya, can we hold your talk on one of the Sundays in November? You really have a lot of insight into this subject and this knowledge definitely needs to be shared :-) .
    Please give me a suitable date ASAP. I will need to float a mail atleast 15-20 days in advance so that people can plan their weekends accordingly.

  3. Vikas Shirodkar says:

    Sigmund Freud had said that the most imp decisions in a person’s life are taken unconciously: not thru rational mental models but “intutively” as you are calling it. The car buying decision is peculiar. On the one hand it is the seconf most imp decision a person takes in life ( after the decision to buy a house, you taught me that remember?) but typically it is a family decision and I have seen upto 3 generations of family memebers actively get involved in finalising which car should come in. While lease plans, mileage, looks, reports from markets etc etc are all imp dimensions, I wonder if Dr Freud is most relevant here: regardless of all such rational points, the final decision is taken because my “neighbour has one,” my friend’s exp with that model is terrible, impressions about the co reputation all that matters rather than any xl sheet comparisions.

    • Sir,
      Apologies for delay in responding to your comments. Diwali kept me away from blogging for some time. Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of dreams is one book that I have been aiming at for quiet some time now.

      To build on your point and the one raised by my friend Kunal, brand affinity may or may not necessarily translate into a purchase decision. Although, it would certainly increase the PROBABILITY in its favor. The purchase decision will be made taking into account much more rational aspects like mileage, space and even neighbour’s recommendation.

      That is exactly why in my post I have stressed on ‘creating a base of loyals’ as the key deliverable for a brand manager. One who will not only repurchase the same brand again but also positively influence those around him.


  4. Kunal says:


    The concept of brand loyalty has been very uniquely explained by you.

    Definitely brand recall and as rightly mentioned by Mr. Shirodkar, word of mouth are biggest contributors to the purchase decision funnel.

    Although non-measurable auto giants as I see are investing huge lumps to create unique brands through various new initiatives. But the intresting thing about auto giants is, they have to position every car/model as a brand in its own segment than just the umbrella brand such as Maruti/GM etc.

    Thanks for the great blog anyways.


  5. Ankur Gupta says:

    Bhaiya. Excellent posts on System Thinking.

  6. Anukool says:

    Rightly said it is rather indispensable to retain the existing and convert more and more to them as the loyal customers. This can be done using the ToC tools by Goldratt and Deming’s System of Profound knowledge.

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