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Guest Article: Nanda Kishore Sethuraman: Krishna's lessons on brand management

By Nanda Kishore Sethuraman , Bharti AXA, New Delhi | In Marketing | August 27, 2010
As Lord Krishna steered the Golden Chariot to help Arjuna in the business of war, so do brand managers need to steer their brands to the right position in the consumer's mind

Close your eyes and think of these words, 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita'. I am sure you would recall the vivid image of Lord Krishna in the Golden Chariot, which was donated by Agni and powered by the four horses, Saibya, Sugriva, Meghapuspa and Balahaka.

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Consider the constituent elements. The chariot carrying Arjuna, the four horses and the reins are all under the direct influence of the charioteer, Krishna. The charioteer's job is to steer the four horses, so that the chariot can reach its destination and Arjuna can carry on his business of war.

As a brand professional, this visual represents an awesome personification of a brand manager's characteristics. And Krishna is the greatest ever brand manager.

Businesses, since the early ages of trade and commerce have, run on brands. And they have always relied on the brand manager to steer the brand (the chariot) to the right destination, in order to ensure that the business can remain a going concern, as economists would call it.

Now, here's the job of a brand manager -- the brand (chariot) needs to be steered through the warpath (the consumer's mindscape) and brought to the correct destination (position in the consumer's mind).

The brand manager has to steer through the consumer's mind with the help of four key elements - the horses.

Senior Management

This is the strongest horse amongst the pack. By guiding the senior management to provide the right kind of resources, the brand manager would be able to reach the destination with consummate ease. Just as it is important for the charioteer to be a great friend of his horses, the brand manager shall do well by winning the confidence of the senior management.

Offering (Product and Pricing)

It is important for the offering, which carries the brand name, to live up to the brand promise. A small mishap here can prove to be a great disaster. Take Coke, for example. They had to pull back the New Coke, because the brand had a particular positioning in the consumer's mind and by trying to change it, they created dissonance. What Coke felt was that a slight change in the offering failed to live up to the brand promise in the consumer's mind, thus triggering an agitation.

The key responsibility of a brand manager includes steering the product to fit into the brand guideline. Else, you will have a runaway horse, on which there would be no control.

Communication

This horse provides direction to the pack. The right set of messages provided at the right time ensures that the consumer's mindscape is navigated perfectly. Incorrect or confusing messages may derail the chariot.

Brand Moments of Truth

This is the wildest and the most difficult to control, considering the size and reach of this animal. Every touch point with the customer builds or breaks a brand. This includes the product itself, employees, distributors, customer service, communication, or virtually anything that you can think of, where the customer connects with your brand.

Though complete control may not be possible, it is important for the brand manager to steer this as much as possible. Else, there will be hurdles along the way to your destination in the consumer's mind.

The position - brand manager (or any equivalent nomenclature) - is the rein.

The brand, as a consequence, carries the organization, which is steered by the brand manager, powered by the senior management and supported by the other elements.

So, the next time someone refers to you as a brand manager, it may be good to remember the Bhagavad Gita.

(The author is Head - Marketing, Bharti AXA Investment Managers.)