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The Exhaust Fume metaphor

Nilofer Merchant recently wrote a wonderful article for the Harvard Business Review. The article revolved around the personal brand being like the exhaust fume of a car.

While she was talking about the personal brand of working professionals, I think this is true of any product or service as well. When we talk about brand image, it is nothing but the remnants of the regular operations of the concerned product or service.

Car manufacturers put in a lot of effort into making the exhaust fumes less polluting and less harmful. They might have the best of features, but if they fail to keep exhaust levels below stipulated norms, the car won't even hit the market. At the same time, no customer actually enquires about exhaust levels when she goes to buy a car. She will take it for granted that it is under acceptable levels and focus on the other features.

This is pretty much the case when it comes to Marketing as well. The marketers put in a lot of effort in getting the product noticed by potential customers and communicating to them about the features. If they do not do this, the market will never take off. At the same time, no customer thinks about the marketing efforts of the product when she is making the purchase. She will only talk about the features of the product.

While marketing efforts are essential for the success of any product, they almost never feature in the parameters under consideration at the time of purchase.

A lot of advertisements featured in the Cannes Lions 2013 a couple of weeks ago. A few of them won awards for creativity, concept, etc. If a movie wins awards, at least that goes into promotional material for persuading people to watch the movie. But with advertisements, awards mean nothing. What matters is communicating the value proposition of the product to consumers. 

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