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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
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Branding Pop Queens to Pills Successfully
A Marketer needs to have a Long-Term Strategy aiming at creating, Nurturing and then Harvesting The Brand if he Actually Wants to Create an Icon out of that brand
Issue Date - 30/06/2011
Lady Gaga has become the flashiest and most ubiquitous pop queen of the 21st century. By her own admission she is a ‘show without an intermission’. The Fame, The Fame Monster, and Burn This Way, her albums have sold millions of copies in the US alone. Of course, she was not an overnight sensation; she had her quota of early rejections. But she never lost her ambition and drive; being always ‘in the boxing ring’ she is now at the pinnacle of success. She rehearses too in full make up – dark lipstick, elaborately lined and lashed eyes, blood red fingernails, and a jacket that barely covers her thighs. Even if initially people did not think anything of her talent, she is presently a goddess, a counsellor, and a cheerleader to hordes of her fans. The venerated magazine The Economist says that she is a leader in the same league as Mother Teresa and a role model for the corporate world.

Such is the stuff iconic brands are made of. Every marketer has a dream to develop and sustain powerful brands. Baba Ramdev to Rolex, Lux to Lady Gaga are other marketers’ envy. Brand equity – consisting of the differential attributes underpinning a brand which give added value to the firm’s balance sheet – has to be carefully built and nurtured for attaining this status.

Saif, Shahrukh, and Salman share one common trait in their recent flicks (Agent Vinod, Ra.One, and Bodyguard): They herald the comeback of stereotypical hero of yore. Post 1991 upper middle class and NRI audience, coupled with the advent of multiplex phenomenon, prompted the producers to release movies like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (HAHK) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), films which had romance and family drama as dominant themes. However, the burgeoning lower and middle class, patronising less expensive single screens, forms the lucrative “bottom of the pyramid” market. They demanded and have got back their larger than life iconic heroes. Even if later the trend may move in some other direction, right now Bodyguard, Ready or Singham are likely to top the box office collection charts. The marketer has to listen to the customers.

When a new brand is developed initially it can be described only through its physical characteristics. A marketer must get his product right. Multinationals, with their ignorance and arrogance towards Indian market, often get it wrong be it Reebok (no coloured uppers in their casual shoes, initially), Tang (no mango flavour!), or Kellogg (cold milk, routinely?). And pay a price for this complacency.

To convert a product (undifferentiated offering) into a brand (product with a distinct identity), its identity needs to be created and a positioning strategy has to be decided. First of all, the name of the brand has to carefully chosen.

Sam Gimignano, the Italian restaurant at the Imperial Hotel, is named after a pretty medieval hill town in Tuscany, Italy. Dakshin is appropriately named because it offers authentic coastal specialities (at Welcome Sheraton Hotel, Delhi) from the four southern states. However, the Zest had to change itself to SET’Z within a year. And need we tell you what happened to a lipstick brand which required PYTs (Pretty Young Thing) to ask for Kiss & Tell (the brand name!) from the shopkeeper?

Along with the name positioning plays a critical role in introducing the brand and carving out a distinct identity. DIVA by chef Ritu Dalmia refuses to serve ‘Indo-Italian’ aberration, while the menu is changed every three months. At Bukhara (ITC Maurya), serving the likes of Clintons, Obamas, and Karzais, however, the short and simple menu has consciously not been changed since its opening 33 years ago; the USP lies in being the same old place. Cocoberry has positioned its unique frozen flavoured yoghurt as a healthy lifestyle brand. This has helped it etch out a unique identity quite different from other FMCG players like Baskin Robbins, which has a pure indulgence orientation.

When a brand is launched three objectives need to be achieved: attainment of brand awareness (through recognition and/or recall), the development of favourable associations, and involving the customers to the level of purchase and trial. At times a brand is already known and tried by the target customers at another physical location. When it is introduced in a new more convenient location to such customers, acceptance should come relatively easily. Hakkasan, the originally London based top-end restaurant, has been witnessing packed tables since it opened in Mumbai this June. This, despite complete absence of advertising or preopening publicity. Indian visitors to London are already enamoured of its reputation and popularity. But the issue of right timing for the launch is crucial too. Currently Indian market seems to be ready for international dining experience. But Nobu, another chain for gourmet dining, made three attempts – all in vain – in past to register its presence in India, encouraged by the fact that it has branches in nearly all of the world’s great cities, barring India. The effort yielded no result because till now India had been immune to the cult of the up market restaurants. ‘Such fancy prices’ and ‘advance reservation’ were the reactions that came with exclamation marks from the targeted Indians.

At other times repackaging and repositioning might help. Traditional Indian treatments are being reformulated as luxury exotic experiences so that they find more takers than traditional Ayurveda can hope to. Smelly oils used in traditional massage at Ananda, a luxury destination spa in Himalayas, have been replaced by specially developed deodorised ones. Kaya Kalpa at ITC Mughal, Agra has successfully repositioned the Mughal hammam into a voyage in luxury. Bridal ubtans, post childbirth massages, and the likes are being repackaged to appeal to the deep pocketed patrons.

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