... How far along that lifespan will your brand remain relevant?
Some weeks ago, at a dinner, some ex-colleagues started to talk about powerful symbols and brands that have stood the test of time. We are presenting here, a distillation of that discussion. It's such a broad subject with fascinating nuances and interpretations; we hope this can be a great conversation starter at your next dinner too.
What is the value of a brand to us? A brand is in our view a symbol - a message that guides us in our choices. A brand says to us "Hello there! We know the world is complex, lots of information, so many choices. But this is our stand on all of this. If what I'm saying interests you, then you and I are made for each other. Buy me!"
And in this way, it leads us towards itself. Of course, brand trial and experience will tell us whether we were misled, or whether the choice was justified. And through repeated trials, we will develop our association with the brand.
We expect, therefore, a brand to guide us in our choices, lead us in a direction.
And from this word "lead" we began to make connections between brands and leaders. Are they not similar? Do they not allow us to navigate through this ever-changing world and make better choices? Did our leaders not succeed because they built trust with us over time? Did they not own our loyalty for years afterwards? Weren't great leaders also great brands?
These leaders, like the brands I use, went through very difficult and continuous "tests". They were judged on intellect honesty, commitment, communication... and results. But behind all this, there were some characteristics that motivated us to seek their presence. That allowed our "antenna" to tune to their messages. It's these "behind the scenes" qualities that we believe made some leaders memorable. We want to share these characteristics with you and propose that the same qualities must drive brand management.
Our leaders were our "gurus". They knew more than us in their chosen field of marketing. Through their behaviour, they educated us and synthesised the world for us. They were also entertaining. They emoted in a "human" way and made their stories become ours.
Which was the last brand in your life that educated you about how the world is changing and how your choices need to change too? Which was the last brand in your life that allowed you to actively participate in shaping it through your own experience of the brand? Where did you find this communication and willingness to listen?
Certainly, this is how we remember our best leaders: Engaging, educating, and entertaining. Isn't this a powerful idea for brands to think of and imbibe? Not catchy phrases, jingles and pompous claims. Sure it interests us to know that some famous film star is associated with the brand. But then all it would take is a more famous film star to switch our choices.
"Cool" is not good enough. Then marketing reduces to the search of the "next cool". Fads amplify a message, but don't make the message memorable. At the core of brand management is the ability to spend a lifetime with consumers. To be with them as their world changes, and help them make sense of it.
Most consumers will live up to at least 70 years. Through a philosophy of engaging, educating and entertaining your consumers, how far along that lifespan will your brand remain relevant?
We're listing here a few brands that have demonstrated these principles. Each of these brands have lived a lifetime of relationships with their consumers. And that relationship is continuing to a new generation; the stories are changing.
Flipkart started to build the online shopping category in India before Amazon got here. Possibly one of the rarest examples of a new category being built by an Indian player, not the foreign behemoth. Way back in 2012, it listened to consumer concerns and built neat solutions to make online shopping attractive.
Flipkart educated the consumer on the safety and convenience of online shopping. Cash on delivery? They started it. They used these advertisements to communicate in an entertaining and relatable way. Flipkart, of course, went the deep discount way of the category, but built a formidable customer base.
Lalitaji, a practical urban woman, and Surf, created a clear position for 'premium' detergents at a time when Nirma and Wheel were eating into Surf's market share. 'Aadha kilo surf, poorey ek kilo sastey detergnet kay barabar hai,' she said. And instantly we realised that quality comes at a premium. Women were then Surf women or Nirma women.
But there was no ambiguity as to which camp they belonged to. And husbands understood this too. Making women get rid of the guilt they associated with a higher priced product was revolutionary. Surf has since moved to higher value added products over time. Surf now says 'Daag Achhe Hai' (Dirt is Good), allowing the modern mother to indulge her child's play and development.
Positioned as a fast-to-cook snack, Maggi made noodles desirable for both mother and child. It made quick and convenient food a cool thing to do - something a 'modern' mother should be able to live with. At a very affordable price, Maggi brought in a whole new cuisine into every household of India. Beyond that, it brought a whole new attitude to the modern woman and the food she prepared for her family. Maggi stayed out off the shelves for six months and returned triumphant, with new stories and tastes.
Bombay Shaving Company
A very modern story, for the modern male. Move over Gillette. Venkat is really starting to think you're no longer the best a man can get. The single blade shaving system is evidently more efficient than your six blades (or was it seven... or eight?). This single blade shaving system from BSC really brings back the 'ooohhhh' in men's 'grooooohhhming'. Sure, they're expensive, but that's not a fault. Stylish, sophisticated products, nice tutorials on how-to-use, powerful and relatable testimonials. And an amazing Father's Day promotion that we noticed.
Watch out for them. In a category crying out for new experiences, BSC is telling a very compelling story.
(Co-authored by Venkatesh Rangachari, co-founder, Hypersonic Advisory, a firm that helps start-ups reach scale, and Vani Gupta, a marketing professional).