Building a brand isn't an easy job; it takes skill, attention to detail and a healthy dose of passion. As marketing professionals in India, we drop everything to revel in lavish brand-building examples from around the world, premiered in iconic sporting events, during award shows, adorning the sides of buildings metres above the maddening crowd or gracing our plethora of social channels.
Normal people, however, are far less attentive; many are avid users of ad-blocking software; most can't remember anything thrust in front of them - good or bad - and the rest have busy lives which don't afford them the attention span to consider our lovingly crafted tomes.
Building a brand in India is a challenge as unique as Ranveer Singh's facial hairstyles. In a country of 1.4 billion people with a rapidly growing consumer class, hugely fragmented media landscape and exploding access to information, we are consumers of products first and foremost. Our brand allegiance is often still in its formative years.
Living in a world in flux poses all manner of questions on the best way to actually build a brand - one common answer is to have a purpose at the core of our messaging as the secret sauce; another well-trodden path is to walk in the shoes of consumers and create communications that ooze empathy.
In this environment, to simply put a product out in the market can sometimes be enough to garner an audience. In a land where everything is a 'work in progress' and time is very much of the essence, do we even need to spend the time and effort it takes to build something through brand-led communications or thinking?
Perhaps we need to end our obsession with building brands and start where most good marketers do: with the product itself. Many of the best brands in the world are built almost entirely through their product. Their communications, as a result, are often simply elegant product demonstrations: think of the most recent Apple commercial; Google's Year In Search campaign plays the same game.
In a world of information overload and hyper-fragmentation, is it possible to build the type of brands we all love to love in India without brand-first communications? Of course, the answer is an emphatic 'Yes'. In fact, we can use the product as our knight in shining armour. For example, over the last few years, our team at Publicis has embarked on a fascinating brand journey with the team at MakeMyTrip. Arguably one of the best-loved travel brands in India, it has gone from strength to strength and taken millions of new Indian travellers across the country or around the world.
MakeMyTrip is a prime example of a brand built on two equally powerful pillars - a killer product-innovative, democratizing and exciting - and a suite of engaging product communications.
When MMT speaks, via their spokespeople Alia and Ranveer, the product is always front and centre. From guarantees on the quality of a hotel to an unbeatable deal on a flight or a better travel solution via an app instead of using an agent, MMT has built a power brand in the Indian travel sector by focusing on product-first communication.
Equally impressive is Raw Pressery, which has built an enviable legion of loyal fans through simple communications which never overcomplicate their carefully crafted bottles of fruity goodness. Raw relish in targeted communications served up at the most appropriate time, leaving a space for the product to shine in the most engaging manner possible...
So, what wisdom can we pass on to future generations of communications specialists?
Arguably, the more accelerated the consumer landscape, the more direct our communications need to be. In a world where people barely have the time to eat dinner at home with their families, our advertising needs to work harder than ever, but this doesn't mean our work needs to be monosyllabic. Far from it.
Great brands are built piece by piece, chapter by chapter, with the product often in the foreground, unembellished by unnecessary advertising puffery. No matter how much we want to create that iconic piece of brand advertising for our agency reel, the best prescription can sometimes be to let the product do the talking.
We have a prime opportunity to build brands in a sustainable, measurable and sensitive manner. Let's not waste it.
(The author is Chief Strategy Officer & Managing Partner, Publicis India)