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CHOI Soon-Hwa

Build Integrity to Become a Successful Brand

CHOI Soon-Hwa

July 23, 2010

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Philip Kotler, a world renown marketing guru and author of Marketing 3.0, says that a brand needs to have integrity to survive in the current market environment, which values corporate social responsibility. A brand will possess integrity when it respects and cares about customers, and gains their reliance, trust and respect. Integrity is something that all brands must secure to build a trustworthy relationship with consumers. Even makers of high-end luxury brands or mania-driven cult brands will not possess integrity unless they treat consumers with the proper respect and care.

How can a brand achieve integrity? First companies should view the relationship of brands and consumers to be intimately connected and then seek common qualities of human beings to explore ways to gain their trust. In order to gain trust and respect, three conditions should be met: dependability, benevolence and predictability. Dependability refers to expectations based more on qualities and characteristics such as honesty and reliability that identify the partner as a trustworthy person. Benevolence involves a genuine concern for the other's welfare and the motivation to maximize positive outcomes. Predictability refers to expectations for specific behaviors.

There are three preconditions to a brand establishing a trust-based relationship with customers. The first is competence, a basic capability such as product and market leadership, which cultivates consumer trust. Second is caring for interested parties including customers, market and the society. Third is consistency in marketing principles and brand identity.

A global brand that satisfies these preconditions is Procter & Gamble (P&G), one of the most loved companies in the world . With most of its products already in mature growth phases P&G keeps on innovating products by adopting customer insights and development network systems. Febreze, a household odor eliminator, represents a successful transformation of an ordinary product to a high value-added one through an unconventional container design. The company also promotes social responsibility activities in developing countries, a part of its care-for-customer strategy. It launched deodorant white bar soap "Safeguard" in Pakistan and actively promoted that a regular hand washing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea, which is the main cause of infant death. At the same time, it launched an animated mascot of Safeguard called Commander Superhero to promote a friendly image to consumers, including young people, through advertisements and website posting. The consistency of P&G brands lies in its observance of basic marketing principles since the company was founded 170 years ago. P&G maintains a methodology to discover what consumers want and then provide it. A marketing survey department established in 1925 at P&G gave birth to a marketing research team that carved a place in business management history and exemplified P&G's management strategy of prioritizing an understanding of its customers.

Integrity is not confined to high-end or globally-known brands. Low-priced brands can secure integrity by accumulating professionalism, caring and consistency. Southwest Airlines is a representative brand that secured a competitive edge in airline service by focusing on short distance and punctuality. The airline company has an organizational culture that cares for its employees, which led to customer satisfaction, which also led to the creation of Southwest Care program that pursues harmonious growth with the society, which in turn promotes the brand's society-friendly image. Also, while other recession-hit airline companies had to squeeze their budget and raise fares in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, Southwest Airlines kept its prices unchanged and resisted layoffs, showing an employee-first policy.

Korean companies should also focus on integrity to form a trust-based relationship with global customers. They should go beyond producing quality products to transform into a brand that can be trusted. A strategic approach is needed in this regard, including the measurement and management of integrity. To become a brand with integrity, the most important thing is to integrate management to encompass sincere caring for customers and product development.

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