Consistent Availability will help your Brand win in a Cluttered World

You are setting your brand up for failure if you do not consistently invest in Brand Building, especially if you are a new brand.

A few years ago, a new FMCG brand entered the Great Indian Retail Market. How did it make a name for itself? By taking the leader, head-on. But this is not a David v Goliath story. Goliath won this one.

Sebamed entered the Indian market in Jan’21 with a huge investment in Traditional Medium with their campaign, #ScienceKiSuno (Listen to Science). It garnered a lot of traction, among the audience, marketers, and well, Unilever’s team. So much so, that they lodged a complaint against the campaign and the Supreme Court placed an interim hold (eventually, HUL’s case was dismissed).

So, more than a year has passed on since the lovely campaign. Why does most of India fail to even recognise Sebamed, let alone buy their products?

Availability of a brand is broken down into two:

  • Physical availability
  • Mental availability

The two factors are inherently intertwined and work for each other. You cannot have one, while ignoring the other. A brand cannot survive with just 1 plank to stand on.

Physical availability

Physical availability comes under Place, One of the 4Ps. Is your brand available at superstores, retail shops, kiranas, Amazon, Big Basket, Swiggy Instamart, JioMart, Zepto etc?

Can customers locate your brand’s soap among the myriad soaps that are placed, be it online or offline inventory?

If they cannot locate you, well, you are setting your brand up for failure. No matter how much your ad spends are, how wonderful your campaign is, if people cannot locate you at their most convenient point of sale, your brand is automatically set for doom.

While Sebamed went gung-ho in advertisements for basically a month (more on that later), people just could not find the brand anywhere near them. The distribution was just not built big enough to cater to that potential audience.

Mental Availability

Mental Availability is how a brand takes its place inside the brain of a customer.

How do brands do that? By building mental structures of their brand through their distinctive and memorable brand assets. If people can remember what your brand looks like, your brand is in the consideration set of brands in the respective category.

Why is mental availability so critical?

People love shortcuts, they are mental satisficers. Not all purchases take place as the carefully planned sales funnel we see floating around LinkedIn. A lot of purchases are impulsive.

Most of your buyers are buying your brand for the first time, quite a few will be first in the category as well.

When Sebamed entered the retail business, they nailed their mental availability. They built a distinctive brand asset. People could instantly recognise which ad belongs to Sebamed.

So what happened?

They stopped investing as heavily as they did, relied on supplementary medium like Digital and Social. A terrible strategy, especially for a FMCG brand in India.

You cannot expect Mental Availability for your brand to be consistently high if you are present for just 2 month a year. A new brand needs to actively do brand building work to keep strengthening its distinctive brand assets so that they may become memorable.

Perhaps Sebamed assumed the brand building part was over, and they jumped to persuasion. Another wrong strategy. As Jenni Romaniuk put it, persuasion is about assuming you’re in the room and you’re arguing your point, whereas mental availability is about getting into the room. Sebamed failed to enter the room, but are spending the marketing budget on arguing as if they’re already there.

Sure, they took on Unilever, and it was quite a good attempt. But what has happened since then? I asked 10 people randomly within my social circle. 4 of them hadn’t even heard of the brand. The rest of them had forgotten about its existence until I asked. Meanwhile Unilever has gone from strength to strength in the country.

To sum it, Sebamed created a Top of Mind availability with a pretty effective Reason to Buy.

But they only did it for a month.

Let this be a lesson to anyone building a new brand, you need to have a consistent physical and mental availability to bring sales. You simply cannot survive on just one plank. Eventually, the brand will drown.

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Parijat Jha

Parijat Jha

Marketing Savant | Subscribe to my newsletter to learn how to creatively ideate, boringly effective work for your brand. Twitter: @parijatjha47