Building brand affinity ‘thought leadership' way

In this highly competitive age, becoming the leader of a category is like winning consumers without advertising. But maintaining a stance that's thought leading is not very difficult. But how can thought leadership content open your ways of leading the industry? explores

Karuna Sharma
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By being active on social media and conveying the emerging trends in a category, a brand can position itself as responsive, empathetic and active, leading to an increase in brand affinity. Brands such as Google, HP, Apple and every other name considered an industry leader use thought leadership to make their affinity stronger. While it takes time to get an edge over industrial giants, solving categorical problems through content marketing might not help you acquire your market share quickly but it can be the way to acquiring mindshare.

Lloyd Mathias

According to Lloyd Mathias, former APAC Marketing Head, HP, thought leadership can help a brand establish quality on a particular subject and state a brand’s stance.

“Thought leadership is integral to content marketing. It helps a brand establish leadership on a particular subject and also talk about what the brand stands for. So, thought leadership is the best way to develop brand affinity and by communicating it, a brand states its position and offers consumers a clear rationale on why the consumer should go with the brand. It is essentially about what solution a brand brings to a problem. While I was at HP, we would get an expert to talk about the future of artificial intelligence. As a technology player, HP is focused on underlining its excellence in technology, keen to emphasise the fact that HP is at the cutting-edge of key developments in tech. Therefore, it helps to make a statement, either through your own research or through one of your product experts, which underlines your brand’s dominance in that particular category,” said Mathias.

An idea that provides a solution can be good enough to maintain a stance. It can be about changing the course of conversation or simply adding to the on-going conversation with no means of selling a product directly.

Karan Kumar

“Thought leadership is about finding a larger idea, beyond just selling a brand or a product that is idea-driven from an insight which you can seed in your society to change the discourse of current conversations. It is about bigger ideas that change the society, without a sales pitch point of view. Thought leadership requires content marketing for it to find its way into a larger conversation. However, thought leadership is different from content as it is about taking a much bigger stance, which other brands fail to take,” said Karan Kumar, Head of Brand and Marketing, FabIndia.

Shivaji Dasgupta

“Thought leadership works across functions; not just marketing or business. So, it’s really about having a pioneering ‘concept or idea’ that can be used by people for their own practical business purposes. Similarly, thought leadership makes content marketing more realistic, more saleable. Brands can achieve the position of thought leadership, through the kind of content they develop. Find the newer ways of doing marketing that can be demonstrated by brands or people who run brands,” said Shivaji Dasgupta, Founder, INEXGRO.

However, if thought leaders are people who represent a company individually, just like influencer marketing, what differentiates these two forms of content marketing from each other?

“Thought leadership is about influencing the other practitioners as opposed to influencing the customers. It helps brands have a person at the forefront of the brand. So, in thought leadership, it is important to have a mascot like Elon Musk for Tesla, he is a thought leader as he is a representation of the entire culture of thinking. It is done for an organisation by a person who can stand for it and represent it. If Piyush Pandey writes about ‘the future of creativity’ and a client would want to take advantage of this thing by reaching out to Ogilvy, the perspective is an individual’s but it benefits an entire organisation,” said Dasgupta.

It remains to be a form that influences a social group and intends to spread awareness about a particular category. Therefore, this medium of communication can be exploited the most for B2B purposes as it doesn’t reach the end consumer, although a good word can spread like a virus.

Rushabh Gandhi

Rushabh Gandhi, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, IndiaFirst, believes that thought leadership, meant mostly for B2B, is also an indirect conversation with the consumer. “Thought leadership doesn’t reach the end consumer but it enhances the brand.It is an indirect conversation with the consumer as the industrial people read the story on LinkedIn, talk about it, which generates word-of-mouth. So, it will never connect the leader to the end-consumer directly, but many people will talk about the writer and the organisation associated with him/her. It is primarily B2B. However, the brand will not be in the forefront it will be a neutral story.”

According to Mathias, thought leadership can be used in B2C as well. “I think Thought Leadership is valid for both B2B and B2C audiences. However, as B2B buyers typically have multiple decision makers and involve large purchases, thought leadership is more commonly used for B2B. For e.g., a print publication like The Hindustan Times hosts a leadership summit, which underlines that HT is a publication for decision-makers, it gets global leaders to talk at the summit to an audience of senior business leaders and policymakers. This is how brands take a leadership position, clearly communicating that they are thought leaders and they are ahead of the rest,” said Mathias.

LinkedIn, despite being a recruiting website, is now emerging as a go-to medium for top-notch leaders to share their insights, ultimately leading to an increase in brand affinity.

“LinkedIn is a good medium, given its business focus unlike other social media platforms, so it actually provides a great platform to build thought leadership. Thought leadership is about an expert’s point of view and it is about giving a solution, so in those terms, it is very different,” said Mathias.

According to Dasgupta, the stigma of being a recruiting website restricts the mind space of the user.“Linkedin, unfortunately, has the stigma of being a recruitment platform, so if I write something very nice on Linkedin, I know that the reader is looking for a job. However, you can write on any publication or platform that doesn’t have a lucrative transactional motive.”

If consumers search for a query, and your article pops up as a solution, it will not only increase affinity towards the employee who wrote but also towards the subtly integrated brand. While LinkedIn restricts the reach of your article to your social circles, it also generates word-of-mouth, but Quora can be a platform to reach a wider audience directly.

Honey Singh

“Brands can use Quora to build thought leadership in any category relevant to business, the audience on the platform is very potent and the probability of them taking any action is high. We have seen various examples where traffic from Quora is performing three times better than any other organic sources,” said Honey Singh, Co-Founder and CEO PR and Content Marketing, #ARM Worldwide.

Content marketing LinkedIn brand affinity thought leadership