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Great brands Engage, Educate and Entertain

Some weeks ago, at a dinner, some ex-colleagues started to talk about symbols, brands and some powerful brands that have stood the test of time. We are presenting here, a distillation of that discussion. Its such a broad subject with fascinating nuances and interpretations; so we hope this can be a great conversation starter at your next dinner too.

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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 the choice was justified. And through repeated trials, we will develop continuously our association with the brand.

We expect therefore, a brand to guide us in our choices, lead us in a direction.

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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? Gradually and over time? Did they not own our loyalty for years afterwards? Were great leaders not also great brands?

These leaders, like the brands I use, went through very difficult and continuous “tests”. They were judged on intellec, 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. Its these “behind the scene” 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.

Firstly, our leaders were our “gurus”. They knew more than us in the chosen field of Marketing. And they wanted to share their knowledge. In teaching us to make educated choices for ourselves; through their behaviours they continued to educate us.

New concepts, new challenges, new tools, through their better understanding of the changing world, they synthesized the world for us and taught us to choose from the options available.


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Question: Which was the last brand in your life that educated you about how the world is changing and how your choices needed to change too?

Secondly, our leaders engaged us- by not talking down to us but talking to us. Conversations built on honestly, intellect and candidness. They asked us questions, respected our ideas, took on board our sentiments and were open enough to reshape their interpretations. We participated in our own learning.

Question: Which was the last brand in your life that allowed you to actively participate in shaping it though your own experience of the brand? Where did you find this communication and willingness to listen?

And finally, our most memorable leaders were entertaining. Through anecdotes, their ability to laugh at themselves and widen the context of any discussion was enriching. They emoted in a “human” way and made their stories become ours. We saw the relevance of their experiences.

Certainly, this is how we remember our best leaders: Engaging, educating, and entertaining. These are the people we learnt from, trusted and follow to this day.

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 to the brand. But then all it would take is a more famous film star to switch our choices.

“Cool” cannot be good enough. Then marketing reduces to the search of “next cool”. Fads amplify a message, but don’t make the message memorable.

We believe 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 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.

FLIPKART

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, and not the foreign behemoth. Way back in 2012, it listened to consumer concerns and built very neat solutions to make online shopping attractive. Flipkart truly educated the consumer on the safety and convenience of online shopping. Cash on delivery? They started it. And flipkart used these advertisements to communicate in a most entertaining and relatable way.

SURF:

Lalitaji, a very practical urban women, and surf created a very 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 key 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 aware that there need not be guilt associated with a higher priced product was simply revolutionary. Surf has always held its own in the market and found it easy to move to higher value added products over time.

MAGGI noodles


Positioned as a fast to cook snack, Maggi made noodles awesomely desirable for both mother and child. It made quick and convenient food, a cool thing to do. Acceptable for the modern woman. 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.

Each of these brands have lived a lifetime of relationships with their consumers. And that relationship is continuing to a new generation as well. The stories are changing. Surf now says ‘Mail accha hai” (Dirt is good), allowing the modern mother to indulge her child’s play and development.

Flipkart of course went the deep discount way of the category, but built a formidable customer base.

Maggie, stayed out of shelves for 6 months, and still returned triumphant and market leader. Relevant to a new generation through new tastes, new stories.


Great brands do survive the test of time. They engage to build connect, educate to build relevance and entertain establish a memorable position with their consumers.

And a very modern story, for the modern male:

BOMBAY SHAVING COMPANY

Move over Gilette. 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 6 blades (or was it 7…or 8?).

This single blade shaving system from the BSC really brings back the ‘ooohhhh’ in men’s ‘grooooohhhming’. Sure, they’re expensive, but that’s not a fault.

Stylish, sophisticated products.

Very nice tutorials on how to use, very 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, the BSC is telling a very compelling story.



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