Suraj Ramnath

"Chlorophyll 3.0 will be a balanced combination of science and the art of branding": Kiran Khalap

As Chlorophyll enters its 20th year, MD and co-founder, Khalap, speaks to afaqs! about the way ahead for the agency.

Chlorophyll Brand Consultancy, co-founded by Kiran Khalap in 1999 is entering its 20th year. Khalap has been in the advertising and branding space since 1983 and prior to starting Chlorophyll, he was chief executive officer and chief creative officer at Bates Clarion Advertising.

With his brand consultancy entering its second decade, Khalap, who is also the managing director, tells afaqs! about the new aspect/ division of the agency i.e. Chlorophyll 3.0 and the difference between the two.

"Chlorophyll 3.0 will be a balanced combination of science and the art of branding": Kiran Khalap

Defining Chlorophyll, Khalap says, "Chlorophyll, in one sentence, is a balanced combination of science and the art of branding."

"Chlorophyll 3.0 will be a balanced combination of science and the art of branding": Kiran Khalap

Kiran Khalap

As for Chlorophyll 3.0, he adds, "Chlorophyll 3.0 will be a balanced combination of science and the art of branding in its totality. Because the part that wasn't there in Chlorophyll was execution, which is what 3.0 will now do."

Talking about the reason behind Chlorophyll 3.0, Khalap explains, "We started in the year 1999. 2003 was where we had an inflection point because we created a tool for corporate brands rather than products and service brands and the first client we got because of that was Infosys, which was big jump. This is the second big jump. So, what happened over the past two or three years, is that the way we would define Chlorophyll's mandate was any brand who has an unchanging part, now has changing parts."

Khalap gives a good example, "So, if you take James Bond; the role has been played by six different guys, but as an idea, Bond was an ex-commander in the Navy and has to be 37 years old and can't be young. That's the unchanging part. The changing part is that he used to smoke and now, he doesn't because as society changes, things change. We used to focus on the unchanging part."

Talking about the partnership with Meraki, he says, "We used to do brand definitions, a new brand name, and brand identity; then briefs went out to ad agencies or event and digital agencies and what feedback we kept getting from the client was that after the brief is given there is a gap. So, we are hooking everything to this phrase - Mind the gap. Clients were asking why we didn't just help with the entire execution as well."

For clients like Indigo Paints, who have been with Chlorophyll for a long time (since 2011), the agency has always been doing advertising, but they weren't doing digital. "We weren't doing earned media and things like that. So, we decided, once and for all, to keep brands at the centre and find a way of applying the same disciplines, as we are currently applying to all these areas. We were looking for partners. I happened to meet Meraki and their focus is also on consulting and combining the process of logic and magic, art and science. Together we created a model for sports - how to manage sports, teams, franchises, and sports people. So, that is one new dimension of Chlorophyll 3.0", Khalap adds.

With regard to other partnerships, Khalap states, "We met Ashok Lalla (brand consultant), who we had known for some time. With him we have created a model to use digital to expand business. Lalla says - It is not about doing digital but being digital; using it to its greatest capacity. Then there is a social media dimension to it; Ad Factors PR, who we are a part of, have good social listening tools and those tools listen to some of the Indian languages. We use that, then social analytics and then social media. There's also the Chlorophyll Innovation Labs, handled by Chitresh Sinha who is chief executive officer and has been with us for eight years."

Speaking about his expectations from clients, Khalap says, "We have this notion that India is a pseudo-matured market which means multiple levels of evolution of a category co-exists. And if you are a market leader or want to be one, you need to deal with multiple levels. If a Colgate looks at toothpaste and says there are 25 toothpaste brands, hence, they should take a share from that; the fact is, 45 per cent of India doesn't use toothpaste. Therefore, there is a 45 per cent market waiting. But you can't go to them with toothpaste because they are using either a neem stick or charcoal powder. So, you approach them with a tooth powder; then, the one using it, graduate him to a white toothpaste and from there take him to coloured toothpaste, then to mouth wash, so on and so forth. This is applicable to clients as well."

He adds, "At a very basic level, there is a client who hears the word 'brand' and equates it to a logo. There is somebody above who equates it to advertising. There is a third person, who is completely obsessed and equates it to getting the logo correct on collateral and making sure the colours etc. are just right. But they all need to understand that branding is about aligning every aspect of the business. So, my best or most efficient clients would be those who have understood this true meaning of what a brand is. My ideal client would be somebody who shares this view; but we are not worried about clients who have other viewpoints too."

When queried about Chlorophyll's largest clients, he says, "There is no 'largest' because we tend to have mainly six, eight or one-year assignments. There is no long-term retainer. We just started work with Trident, the world's biggest towel manufacturer and second biggest sheet manufacturer. Indigo Paints is very big. We do a lot of work with Mahindra. We are doing Mahindra Swaraj and Jawa launches. We have done Mahindra Lifespaces as well. We have also started work on Mahindra farm equipment. We are currently in talks with Mahindra for a new digital initiative where they are launching Social Media 3.0. So Mahindra is a big client. We have done big work with Tata, Tata Teleservices, Tata Indicom, Ginger, and Tata Commercial Vehicles. So, these are houses with whom we have long-term relationships and we get repeat work from them."