By Lee Ting-fung（李亭芳）, Hsiao Chih-lin（蕭芷琳）
People associate phone with IPhone and shoes with NIKE or Adidas. But due to the fast-paced nature of the Internet, now Weak Brand (弱勢品牌) — the common online auctions, like PAZZO, Queen shop — have broken the wall between Strong Brand (強勢品牌), and become closer with customers.
Weak Brand vs. Strong Brand
The best way to distinguish Weak Brand from Strong Brand is to tell by brand awareness (品牌知名度/品牌意識) and brand familiarity (品牌熟悉度).
What is a Strong Brand? Such as ZARA, Coca-Cola and Apple — mega-corporations (財團) that enjoy higher brand awareness and familiarity — have a huge amounts of money to set up chain stores worldwide. For example, ZARA has 6,746 chain stores in 88 countries.
And a Weak Brand refers to the common one we know from B2C (Business to Customer) or online auctions business mode. This mode is classified into B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer).
B2B is not for retail but for wholesale, and B2C means that it set up its own website to sell products, like ABOKI, the Korean online auction.
Li Pei-shan, ABOKI officer in Taiwan branch, said ‘’The operating cost of bricks-and-mortar (實體店面) in Taiwan is really high, so within the next two or three years, we won’t set it up.’’
Brands and customers
But why do we always connect brand with our daily needs? Because businessmen use advertising to build brand image (品牌形象) and increase brand loyalty (品牌忠誠度), trying to totally steal our mind.
Gina Chang, a brand mentor, said, ‘’Being a good brand, you need to show its brand awareness to build the image, and then give customers the product that matches the image.’’
According to a survey done by Newsweek (小世界) in 2017, we found that about 63.1% people are willing to spend more money to buy the clothes of the brand they like. It shows that brand image is really important to customers.
And the normal advertising as we know is TVC (電視廣告), but the cost is over NT$1 million. So it’s out of the question for Weak Brand sellers. It seems just for Strong Brand.
Because Weak Brand can’t afford the huge advertisement cost, they move advertising to social networking sites, like Instagram or Facebook, which are cheaper and even faster to approach young customers than TVC. Li said ‘’ the advertisement on Facebook let people in the 10-20 years-old group know ABOKI in the shortest time.’’
The rise of Internet brands
According to a consumer behavior (消費行為) survey in 2013 by Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (資策會產業情報研究所, MIC), the number of doing online-shopping surged in 2013. It means that the Internet totally changed our shopping behavior.
For example, ABOKI, founded in 2007, thanks to the Internet, saw its revenue shoot up and membership reaching over 100,000 in only one year. Li said, ‘’ At that time, the Internet in Korea was just developing, and online auction was a new industry, so it just went viral in Korea.’’
So was online auction in Taiwan, where in recent years a lot of weak brands have sprung up like mushrooms, and they have the same publicity mode－by setting up social networking sites.
Weak brands promote themselves by differentiated marketing
Because a lot of Weak Brands have established themselves, they also dilute market share. Apparel brands have been deeply influenced by this trend. Chen Shih-chin, the chair of Fashion Administration & Management in St. John’s University, said, ‘’ Some people like to dress up with luxury brands, but most people coordinate their clothes.’’
Now it’s common to see people mash up brands at different price levels. It shows that the luxury brands loyalty are going down, but their brand awareness is still higher than Weak Brands.
Gina said ‘’ A brand is just like a person, whose difference in their market position will let you notice at first glance. ’’
So if Weak Brand wants to fight a way out, it should let people clearly understand its Brand Identity (品牌識別) and use differentiated marketing (市場差異化) to distinguish between congenialities, that come not only with Strong Brand but also with Weak Brand.
As Li said, Brand Identity of ABOKI is to tell customers how to dress up at a lower price and offer them the clothes which are made in Korea. ‘’In Taiwan, we think that the market of men’s clothing hasn’t developed yet, so we want to try it.’’ Li also said ‘’why we choose Taiwan is because of ‘Lookism’ (看臉時代), the comics drawn by our general manager that is extremely famous in Taiwan.’’
Internet greatly changes the way to establish a brand. As we know, brand awareness and familiarity are not the only way to attract customers. Since social networking sites have been developed, digitalization of customer satisfaction (消費滿足感的01化) has already gained control of the customers. So maybe it will become the leading Key Performance Index (KPI, 衡量指標) of brands in the future, and Weak Brand may not be weak anymore.
The Newsweek (小世界) survey mentioned above reveals how brands affect customers. We collected 222 questionnaires, with 0 removed invalid samples, 222 valid samples, from November 11th to 15th, on the Google form. The majority of respondents (76.1%) are aged from 18-26.