A focus on processes and paying attention to institution building are the key factors when it comes to building durable brands
Let’s be clear about one thing even as we swim and drown in the maddening modern day version of the Tower of Babel called mass media – brands as entities are relatively new concepts as compared to democracy and capitalism. In turn, democracy and capitalism as freshly minted babies as compared to the oldest generic brands in the world called religion and God. If you are boning up on marketing principles and the 4 Ps of advertising as an MBA student in 2012, don’t be shocked by the fact that some of the biggest brands that you take for granted as part of your daily life did not exist even 20 years ago. Try Google Search if you don’t believe me! Or chat with your pals using a new app through Airtel or Vodafone! If you are lucky, you might be using an iPad!!

That’s the first lesson we all must imbibe when we sit down to applaud and analyse the most valuable brands: the simple fact that like seasons and fashion, brands come and go. Many go forever. When I was a young journalist in the late 1980s and early 1990s, BPL was arguably the most formidable brand in India when it came to colour television sets. You, the MBA student circa 2012 probably haven’t heard of BPL. Back in the late 1990s, when Internet usage and email were gathering momentum, the hottest brands were Hotmail (remember Sabeer Bhatia?) and Yahoo. I had three Yahoo mail ids and two Hotmail ids. The last time I used my Hotmail id was in 2006 and the last time I used my Yahoo id was in 2008. Who knows? By the time you, the MBA student, become a senior manager, you might confess to something similar about Gmail! The fact is, in this age of rapidly evolving technology, it is but natural for new brands to emerge and many to fade away. But do remember, there will always be a world of brick and mortars – even if you have become a fan of Flipkart! And there will always be a lot of punch in that old proverb called Old is Gold! Some brands in our list of 100 actually go back more than 100 years. Like Tata, Taj Hotels, Pepsi, Coca Cola .... these brands were born when democracy itself was not such a powerful and flawed brand. And the unbelievable thing is that they have endured. Of course, Tata as a brand is both generic and a mother lode. The Tata brand by itself has spawned and sustained many formidable brands like Taj Hotels, Titan, and Voltas, to name a few. Don’t forget, the first Maharajah of post independence India which is now in tatters, Air India, too was a product of the Tata stable. In that respect, the pedigree and durability of the Tata brand is unmatched. No other brand in India – except perhaps SBI and LIC – evokes that kind of trust and comfort level. Well, you could add Godrej and Dabur to that list of old and durable warhorses and perhaps even add Mahindra & Mahindra to that select list. Even the powerhouse Reliance (RIL) would find it difficult to join that hallowed list.
Of course, when it comes to stubborn durability, I have two personal favourites in my personal list of valuable brands in India. The first is called the Congress. For almost four decades, pundits have been busy writing epitaphs of India’s ‘Born to Rule’ party. Memory being very short, most of us have forgotten that 2004 was the last Lok Sabha election that the Congress was supposed to fight as a national party. There you go. In contemporary times, the failure of the New Gen hope Rahul Gandhi to deliver electoral victories has once again raised questions about the future of this brand. But I have a sneaking feeling this brand will remain stubbornly durable. Like Thums Up! When Ramesh Chauhan sold out his home made soft drinks empire consisting of Thums Up, Limca and Gold Spot to Coke in the early 1990s, most of us thought it was curtains. Two other home grown cola brands – Double Seven and Campa Cola – were already history. And Coke did stop promoting Thums Up because it was busy selling the most valuable brand on earth Coca Cola. Truly mysterious, but the Indian consumer simply would not give its stubborn love for Thums Up. Coke was forced to resurrect the brand and it is still going great guns even 20 years after its forecasted demise!

There are hundreds and thousands of similar fascinating tales when it comes to the coming and going of brands. But one thing is clear – a focus on processes and paying attention to institution building are the key factors when it comes to building durable brands. Even highly “individualistic” and eccentric brands like Virgin that depend on the flamboyant personality of Richard Branson have to pay homage to processes and institution building. Not many have a doubt that Virgin has a strong chance of remaining a durable brand even after Branson is gone from the scene. And do remember, even mighty entrepreneurs make bloomers when it comes to distinguishing between passing fads and bestsellers. Rupert Murdoch thought he had latched on to an all time classic when he paid an obscene sum to buy the blockbuster bestseller MySpace. Alas, it peeved to be a passing fad.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2013

An Initiative of IIPMMalay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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A David Ogilvy Roadmap for India’s Most Powerful and Ailing Brand

Back in the 1980s, relative newcomer Nirma was dealing body blows to the venerable Hindustan Lever Ltd. It was snatching market share away from Surf like nobody had done before. Nirma was cheap, far cheaper than Surf and the Indian housewife was rapidly deciding that it was better than washing dirty linen in public! Brand Surf appeared to be in mortal danger. How did one of the oldest and most powerful consumer product companies in India react? It conjured up Lalitaji and her now legendary advertising campaign. Lo and behold: far from being exterminated by Nirma as many pundits were fearing, Surf enjoyed a remarkable revival in fortunes as an iconic brand. Brand Congress appears to be in bigger trouble now than brand Surf was back in the early 1980s. Arguably the oldest and most powerful brand in India, Congress is facing an existential threat. And the stakes for India are far higher than they were when Surf appeared vulnerable and besieged. Can the strategists shepherding the fortunes of this 126-year old brand script a remarkable revival?

They have to look a few decades back for some inspiration. In 1967, the Congress – thanks to massive consumer (read public) anger – lost massive market share in a number of states to upstart rivals. By 1969, internal feuds had triggered a split in the party. The leader of Congress and the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi appeared more vulnerable than what Nokia appears today. Like Surf in the 1980s and Nokia now, it did look as if the days of Congress were numbered. But not for nothing do contemporary historians rate Indira Gandhi as one of the most formidable brand strategists India has ever produced, apart from being someone who evoked awe and admiration even if she was disliked by some. And why not? The Congress back then was in bigger disarray than it is now. And yet, Indira Gandhi scripted one of the most remarkable turnarounds for her beloved brand.

Slogans often make a brand win a marketing war and Indira Gandhi and her team coined two of the most memorable ones for the Lok Sabha elections of 1971. The first was was simple, direct and powerful: Garibi Hatao. For a vast majority of voters, that indeed was the biggest challenge they faced and the biggest dream they had. To further convince consumers (voters who might be looking for other brands), Indira Gandhi delivered a masterpiece in comparative advertising. The second slogan said: “Wo Kehte hain ki Indira Hatao; Mein kehti hoon Garibi Hatao.” They say a great logo that can effectively communicate the core value of a brand can be a potent weapon. Indira Gandhi was right on even here. Her team decided that a cow and a calf would be their logo; one that communicated the message that she cared for the poor and the downtrodden. All this electrified the sales and marketing managers of Congress, and more importantly, absolutely convinced the voters that this had to be the brand they must choose. The rest is electoral history.
They say that usually history repeats itself. But when it comes to brand Congress, can the daughter-in-law and grandson of Indira Gandhi pull yet another set of rabbits off their hats? Even as the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh lurches inevitably towards a defining election, all eyes are on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Just as in the late 1960s, brand Congress is facing a huge crisis of credibility. Inflation, corruption and arrogance have led to an alarming erosion in the core values of brand Congress. And there is little doubt that the consumer looks really pissed off with the performance of the brand. The consumer-voter-anger is even more poignant because brand Congress was handed a decisive mandate in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections despite the skepticism of numerous pundits and analysts. Today, the consumer feels cheated and betrayed. The sudden emergence of a guerilla brand called Anna – which is not even a direct competitor – has made matters worse for brand Congress. Inevitably, questions are being asked, just as they were in the late 1960s and in 1977 when angry consumers had decisively rebuffed brand Congress and Indira Gandhi in the aftermath of the Emergency. Can this old – and now ailing – brand survive for very long? Can Rahul Gandhi do what his great grandfather, grandmother, father and mother have done so successfully – to convince voters that there is no better value for money proposition than brand Congress?