Vinay Kanchan
Guest Article

A branding trip down mythology lane

Indian mythology and branding.

The great Indian festive season has kicked off. And whilst this period is typically leveraged by many companies for their annual promotional offers, perhaps there is a lot more which is woven into the fabric of the mythology behind these events.

Ancient Indian wisdom famously gave the world the concept of 'zero' without which, as Einstein himself acknowledged, 'no worthwhile scientific discovery would have been possible'. But are there other 'memetic relics' which, while seemingly pointing in one direction, also enticingly open up lines in brand thinking? Surely this is a cerebral journey worth undertaking if only to add more lustre to brand strategy during this season, taking it beyond the dolorously routine price-offs.

The birth of unwavering focus

A branding trip down mythology lane

Vinay Kanchan

The great teacher, Dronacharya was mightily pleased when the young Arjun espoused, 'only the eye of the parrot and nothing else', while answering a query on what he saw whilst taking aim during a test. This easily could have been advice given by the first branding consultant. Turning a blind eye to everything else but that which is central to one's argument, articulated in some places as the 'single-minded proposition', has always been one of the primary tenets of the branding journey.

From Close-Up promising lasting fresh breath in social encounters to Maggi epitomising a '2-minute' solution to hunger woes, brands that have stayed on the branch of the same narrative, despite great changes and tumult around them, have always had more success of hitting the bullseye, as the great archers of yore would readily testify.

The vanquishing of an adversary

Both Dussehra and Durga Puja revolve around overcoming an evil enemy. The joy of the occasion comes from the defeat of forces against good. And yet 'good' and 'evil' are highly subjective terms. What is, perhaps, the underlying theme of these festivals is the purifying and clarifying power of conflict. Life often finds new meaning when there is a nemesis to be countered. It gives all action a definition, direction and purpose. In the case of some brands like Mortein, Good Knight and All Out, the war is against clear and present dangers. But sometimes the villain has to be built up in the eyes of the audience, like the apathy of the general public which Tata Tea strives to shake consumers out of. Just like the resonance one feels when the giant Ravans fall across the ground, the quelling of these 'demons' also endeavours to excite similar emotions.

The coming together of diverse influences

Interestingly, Ganesh Chaturthi, in the manner that we celebrate it, is a relatively modern-day creation. Lokmanya Tilak circumvented the British ban of political gatherings and created a religious platform which enabled large numbers of people to come together, thus providing the platform for the message of freedom to spread. At its core, this festival is a pioneering, heady mix of religion and politics. This concept of 'juxtaposition' also helps many brands forge interesting narratives.

Many automotive companies from Hero Honda and Bajaj to Maruti and Hyundai regularly walk the tightrope between 'mileage and fuel economy' on one side to 'power and style' on the other. Food conglomerates like Britannia, Nestle, Parle, and Amul are perennially perched between 'nutrition' and 'taste'. Perhaps the Lord Ganesh has set the example that a balancing act is possible, even an attractive idea to pursue, only if all such ventures are 'mouse enabled' though.

The repetitive and cyclical nature of things

Many Indian festivals in this period end with the immersion of idols. There is a fascinating concept underlying this - that of ending things temporarily to continue them indefinitely. Remember all the deities are dunked in seas and rivers, with the accompanying chant that they will be back soon the next year. This helps cement an infinitely long engagement. Probably one category which has embraced this idea well is daily television soap operas. With the showing of a glimpse of what is likely to transpire the next day, the faithful are kept hooked, even if the serial has to temporarily take leave.

Maybe this serves as an interesting example for other domains to take inspiration from, spanning as diverse offerings as airline brands to café outlets. Some thinking has to be spent on how the consumer can be brought back sooner than later with renewed expectations. For the act of leaving the brand premises also provides a potent stage to rekindle the promise of returning very soon, just like India's beloved deities do.

Coming home to renew the faith

Diwali, the great Indian festival, is celebrated to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama and the Goddess Laxmi. As part of the celebrations, friends gather together to exchange gifts and pleasantries and this ritual of coming together is extremely important in renewing the faith. The entire belief system comes home, in a way, during the festival of lights.

Cult brands from Apple and Star Trek to Harley Davidson have intuitively understood the importance of these brand gatherings. Here fans meet, exchange experiences, have new ones, and go back with their brand connections even further strengthened. Indian brands have begun embarking on the creation of similar such brand festivals and the importance of these cannot be underscored enough. Interesting initiatives like 'India Bike Week' also represent forums where brand-bonding travels many a mile. If Diwali kindles a lamp of thinking when it comes to branding, it is around the need to create one's own brand festivals of light, love and laughter.

To conclude, these are but a few analogies, there could be several others. What is important to note is that in this time of sparkle and cheer, brand thinking also needs to be lit up with new ideas. For in the quest of that noble pursuit, resides the spiritual high-ground for all these market entities.

(The author is a creative thinking trainer and the author of 'Lessons from the Playground' and 'The Madness Starts at 9'. He is also the patron saint of a football club, Juhu Beach United, the tales behind which have loosely inspired the recent Bollywood movie 'Tu Hain Mera Sunday').

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