Role of Media in Creating Brand Equity

## Abstract

Today, we live in the era of the informed customer, who looks for information from multiple sources before deciding on which product to buy or which services to avail. While we have seen burgeoning demand for products like White Oats, Green Tea, Olive Oil and Multi-grain Atta shoot up because of the health benefits being repeatedly highlighted in the print and electronic media, we also have seen the setbacks suffered by Coca Cola and Pepsi when it was reported that there are traces of pesticides present in the soft drinks. Similarly, Cadbury had to struggle to regain brand equity when reports of worms being found in chocolates surfaced in the media.

This research paper will endeavor to understand the importance of the role played by media in creating the brand equity along with recommendations on how to effectively utilize the vehicle of media for enhancing the brand equity.

Key words: brand equity, informed customer, print media, electronic media


In the morning you wake up and open the newspaper. There is a big advertisement where Mr Amitabh Bachchan is trying to tell you “Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye” --- Diwali season is coming and you should start giving Cadbury chocolates as gifts to your friends, relative and acquaintances. You open the television to catch up with the business news --- and there’s Mr Amitabh Bachchan again --- telling you why Gujarat should be your next holiday destination. You get ready and step into the car to go to office. While driving, you switch on the FM Radio. Again Mr Bachchan’s baritone voice is booming from the radio station telling you why you should buy gold only from Kalyan Jewelers. At office, you connect your laptop to the internet to download the mails. Suddenly, Mr Bachhan will pop out of one of the screens to tell you that you should bank only with ICICI. He doesn’t spare your mobile phone either. One of the apps will be showcasing Mr Bachchan trying to sell you a Parker Pen. And while driving back home in the evening, you will inevitably see a billboard where Mr Amitabh Bachchan is smiling at you while saying that Binani Cement is the strongest or why you should paint your house with Berger Paints.

The above example shows how we are bombarded with advertisements every day using every possible medium. Every brand wants to prove that it is the best and the customers should pay a premium price to acquire the product or avail of the services provided by the brand. But what the advertisers are ultimately creating is a clutter that ends up confusing the customer rather than convincing her. Customers have also started asking uncomfortable questions like --- Does Shahrukh Khan himself drive any Santro Car ? Does Katrina Kaif really use Veet ? Is Revital the real reason why Salman Khan still looks young? And it was quite embarrassing in 2006, when Abhishek Bachchan, who was the brand ambassador of Motorola phones, was found making calls using Nokia’s Vertu.

Review of the Existing Work

The Business dictionary defines brand equity as “ A brand's power derived from the goodwill and name recognition that it has earned over time, which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands.”

Investopedia defines brand equity as “The value premium that a company realizes from a product with a recognizable name as compared to its generic equivalent. Companies can create brand equity for their products by making them memorable, easily recognizable and superior in quality and reliability. Mass marketing campaigns can also help to create brand equity. If consumers are willing to pay more for a generic product than for a branded one, however, the brand is said to have negative brand equity. This might happen if a company had a major product recall or caused a widely publicized environmental disaster.”

According to David Aaker, “A brand can have high equity, or value as a tradable asset, for many reasons. Brands have equity because they have high awareness, many loyal consumers, a high reputation for perceived quality, proprietary brand assets such as access to scarce distribution channels or to patents, or the kind of brand associations such as personality associations.”

A schematic version of David Aaker’s brand equity framework is given below:

A schematic version of David Aaker’s brand equity framework

The Importance of Media in creating Brand Equity


Sl. No. Name % share in Ad spend
1 Hinduatan Uniliver Ltd. 8%
2 Reckitt Benkiser India Ltd 3%
3 ITC Ltd 2%
4 Cadbury India Pvt Ltd 2%
5 Coca Cola India Ltd 2%
6 Colgate Palmolive India Pvt Ltd 1%
7 Proctor & Gamble 1%
8 Ponds India 1%
9 Glaxo Smithkline Beecham 1%
10 Bharti Airtel Ltd 1%


Ranking Name of Brand Name of Company
1 Colgate Colgate Palmolive India Pvt Ltd
2 Britannia Britannia Industries Limited
3 Nokia Nokia India
4 Clinic plus Hindustan Unilever Ltd
5 Dettol Reckitt Benkiser India Ltd
6 Tata salt Tata Chemicals Limited
7 Parle Parle Products
8 Mazza Coca Cola India
9 Maggi Nestle
10 Lifebuoy Hindustan Unilever Ltd

If we compare Table – 1 with Table -2, we can see that although Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) is ranked No 1 in terms of Ad Spend, Clinic Plus, a brand of HUL comes in the 4th place as far as the ranking in India’s most trusted brand survey is concerned. On the other hand, the parent companies of brands like Britannia, Nokia, Tata Salt, Parle and Maggi do not feature among the top ten rankings in terms of ad spend.

Colgate, Tata Salt, Dettol and Lifebuoy has created a special place in the mind of the Indian consumer, more because of the positive media coverage of the social initiatives that they continue to do. Colgate regularly organizes dental checking camps for schoolchildren and educates them about oral hygiene from a very early age. Tata Salt, similarly has initiatives to educate the consumer about the health benefits of iodine and low sodium salt intake in diet. Dettol and Lifebuoy have now become legendary for their fight against germs and the initiatives to educate people the benefits of keeping their hands clean. These all measures have been highlighted in positive media reports and translated into higher quantum of brand equity for each of these brands and given them an edge over their competitors.

In their quest to choose the correct product or service and pay a fair price for the same, customers are now relying less on advertisements, and instead searching for a more credible source of information. This is where the role of electronic media or print media comes into play to establish the brand equity. Customers would rather rely on the information provided by a staff reporter or a field correspondent, rather than the big bang advertisements featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra or Katrina Kaif.

This is very much evident in the way the consumers are shifting their preference to health foods and slowly and steadily moving away from the junk foods. There has been a great media coverage about the health benefits of Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, White Oats, Brown Rice, Almonds and Green Tea. This has now forced food companies to launch Multi-Grain Atta, Diet Cola, Atta Noodles, Oatmeal biscuits and Pro-biotic Curd. The memberships for Gyms, Yoga Centres and Spas are on the rise, because of the way the media has been highlighting the benefits of staying slim and keeping the stress levels low \

The Dark Side of the Media

Recently, Zee News created a sensation by announcing that they would reveal how the Jindal Iron and Steel Group was an accomplice in the Rs 1,85,591 Crore ($33.78 billion) Coal Scam. Jindal Group very quickly issued a rebuttal stating that the Zee Group was trying to blackmail the prestigious company and arm-twisting them to get an Rs 100 Crore advertisement contract. While both the business groups engaged into a mudslinging match, the police got into action and arrested two senior officials of Zee News, based on the complaint filed by Mr Naveen Jindal.

While the matter is still sub-judice and the judiciary yet to pronounce the judgment, the whole incident has thrown doubt on the impartiality of the media while reporting fact to the general public. This has also brought out an unholy nexus of the corporate groups trying to lure media with promises of ad campaigns if the media restricts themselves to publishing and broadcasting only positive news about their business activities.

Earlier, the Radia tapes also created substantial discomfort and threw light on the inglorious connection between the media, corporate houses and the politicians. Niira Radia, whose Vaishnavi Communications agency handled the PR activities of eminent business houses like the Reliance Group, the Tata Group and others, was alleged to have influenced prominent media people like Barkha Dutt of NDTV, Prabhu Chawla of Aaj Tak and Veer Sanghvi of Hindustan Times, and tried to use their influence over politicians to reinstate A Raja so that he could give undue favors to the telecom players seeking additional spectrum for their operations. The Radia tapes have not been fully disclosed in the public, but whatever information has come out points a finger at the alarming situation of the corporate houses using the media in an unethical manner to further their business interests.

Advertorials already has blurred the lines between what is authentic news and what is paid news. One really doesn’t know whether Sandhi Sudha oil really cures the joint pains and whether we can really get a flat abdomen and hair back on our head by using the products which are heavily endorsed by celebrities in television programs running for hours and prominent print campaigns running in mainline newspapers. While the newspapers and electronic media do issue a statutory announcement stating that these are advertorials for which the media does not give any guarantee of performance, the guidance is issued in such fine print that it is hardly noticeable.

Strategy of Levereging Media to Enhance Brand Equity:

With the importance of media increasing by the day, it is imperative that every brand manager has a media oriented strategy to enhance the brand equity or at the bare minimum, sustain the clean image of the brand in the eyes of the common man. Here, I would like to highlight some of the strategies that can be effectively used by brand managers to handle difficult situations as well as reinforce the brand integrity by engaging the media.

1. Be honest and transparent in your operations

Both the journalist and the common man wants to know only the plain and simple truth. In this age of corporate governance and corporate social responsibility, people admire companies who dare to tell the truth and shun the ones who are always trying to brush things under the carpet. In the case of Kingfisher, the company first denied that there was crisis. Then media reports started surfacing that the employees were not paid for several months, the lenders were not getting their repayments, the fuel supplying companies had pending dues and even the tax authorities were being denied the compulsory tax deposits. Things spiralled out of hand when the tax authorities started freezing the bank accounts of Kingfisher, one of the employee’s wife commited suicide and the DGCA refused to allow Kingfisher to fly citing safety concerns.

In sharp contrast, we have the case of Mr NR Narayanamurthy, the one of the founders of Infosys, who has always propagated the principle “Under promise and over deliver”. The media respected this person for his spartan lifestyle, commitment to work and strict adherence to ethics and moral values. Under him, Infosys created such a strong imagery that both shareholders and customers could put blind faith in the man and his organisation. Infosys also rarely disappointed their stakeholders, always beating the market forecasts, with few exceptions on the go.

The media likes to portray a fair image of the people who are transparent and honest in their dealings but let loose their investigative journalists whenever they smell something fishy is going on. Sometimes, in the quest for “breaking news” , some media channels might go overboard and create a sensation even when it is not required. This can hurt the brand equity in an abrupt manner. Hence, it is always advisable to engage only in honest dealings so that the uncomfortable situation of “managing media” might never arise.

2. Have an official spokesperson who has credibility

In times of crisis, the communication to the media should go from a person who has got a clean image in public life. When the pesticide crisis broke out in all major newspapers and electronic media, Coca Cola released a set of statements through their brand ambassador Amir Khan, who besides being a popular film star, was also actively involved in several social initiatives. Amir Khan stated that he had personally visited the bottling plants of Coca Cola and was convinced that it was a safe drink for everyone to consume. Pepsi issued statements and ads featuring their CEO Rajeev Bakshi, who said that he and his family members including his kids were also regular consumers of Pepsi and none of them felt it was a threat to their health. Both the campaigns worked wonders and Coca Cola and Pepsi started gaining their lost ground in India.

3. Take corrective actions in times of crisis and keep media informed

In the case of worms being found in Cadbury chocolates, the analysis by the company showed that it was the faulty packaging that was leading to the contamination. Cadbury promptly changed the packaging with a double foil cover and also kept the media informed about the same. The positive reports emanating in the media helped Cadbury to a large extent to recover their market share.

In his book, “Only the Paranoid Survive” , the Intel CEO Andrew S Grove, recounts an incident when there was a FPU (floating point error) in the Pentium I microporocessor. Intel did an analysis and found that the error would occur only once in every 27,000 years of spreadsheet use. So initially, they continued with the Pentium I shipments, while simultaneously looking for a solution to fix the bug. But big trouble started when CNN ran a news program headlined “Flaw undermines accuracy of Pentium Chips.” Angry customers started calling up Intel demanding replacements and IBM announced that they were stopping shipments of all Pentium based computers.

Intel went for a rapid damage control exercise. They announced that they would replace the defective parts and did hundreds of thousands of product recall. Finally they had to take a huge write off to the tune of $475 million. But with the flaw being corrected, Intel finally regained the customer’s confidence and was back on the growth path in years.
The corrective actions , taken at the right time and communicated to the media, can go a long way in getting the lost customers back to the fold.

4. Make your CEO the brand ambassador

In the book, “Beyond Buzz” by Lois Kelly, she states that Eric Schmidt, the CEO of the billion dollar company Novell Netware, had a communication problem and could not cleary explain to the media about the brand value to the sales representatives, customers and media. David Einstein of Forbes wrote that “Eric Schmidt is one of the greatest technologists of our time. But when it comes to marketing, he’s been as clear as a foggy night in London, which has put Novell in a pickle”. In the following years, Novell’s financial results plummetted and the company was finally acquired by Attachmate Corporation.

In sharp contrast, Richard Branson of Virgin atlantic is always in the news for his out-of-the-word antics. His strange demenaours have actually earned a lot of publicity for his company Virgin Atlantic and the other group subsidiaries. Similarly, Apple was more revered for it’s legendary CEO Steve Jobs, and Microsoft for Bill Gates, who also held the position of the Word’s richest person for several years. The media loves these kind of personalities and are likely to give them enormous publicity both for themselves and their company.

5. Keep your Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence updated

Today, there are several allegations pouring in that business houses deliberately plant vicious stories about their competitors in the media to hurt their business interests. During the rift between the Ambani brothers, there were rumours that the PR divisions of both the camps were trying to outdo each other with selective leaks of negative news in the media. Coca Cola and Pepsi have also blamed each other on several occassions for hurting each others image. The business wars between Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) and Nirma, Apple and Samsung, Boeing and Airbus are very well documented.

In the effort to sustain the brand equity by effectively communicating with media, the company also needs to keep a tab on the competitor’s moves. This can be achieved if the company has an effective Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence Strategy, both by using electronic means and also human intelligence.

6. PR generates more credibility than Advertisement

Today the new concept that is pervading the marketing strategy is buzz marketing. In buzz marketing, you start creating noise in the media, just like bees buzzing, and make the people sit up and take notice. While Apple was the original creator of the tablet computer, it was Akash tablet computers that touched the imagination of the common man in India. Almost everyday, the media was abuzz with news items on how Akash would herald the era of affordable computing and take the computer to the masses. The curiosity around Akash reached to such a frenzy that Datawind, the parent company of Akash, got 14 lakh orders in 14 days. However, Akash could not live upto the expectations of the customers and supplied a machine that was low on battery power, processor speed and disappointing performance. Had Akash lived upto the buzz that they had created, they might have posed as a serious rival to Apple and Samsung, the market leaders in tablet computers.


While advertisement may be a popular tool to create brand equity, customers are, of late, questioning the credibility of the tall promises made by the brands. With a clutter created in the market by me-too brands, the situation is quite suffocating and the brands are struggling to create a killer positioning statement or some astounding imagery to catch the attention of the customers as well as convince them that the brand will live upto it’s promise.

In this era of informed customers, where there are more than 80,000 newspapers (according to RNI) and more than 120 news channels (according to TAM) feeding all kinds of news to the common man, the customer is now undergoing a metamorphosis into a well informed buyer. The social media like Google, Facebook and Twitter are now supplementing the efforts of the print and electronic media to increase the reach and number of informed customers.

In this scenario, the role of media in building brand equity can hardly be overlooked. In fact, it is of much importance that the brand manager and the CEO develops a well orchestrated media plan to ensure that the brand equity gets a positive boost from media reports and crisis is handled in a professional manner so as to ensure minimum damage to the brand equity.


  6. (2009) Aaker, David A; Myers, John G; Batra Rajeev : Advertising Management, 5th Edition
  7. (1996) Grove, Andrew S: Only the Paranoid Survive
  8. (2007) Kelly, Lois: Beyond Buzz; The Next Generation Word of Mouth Marketing
  9. FICCI KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012