Brand Character Brand Performance Brand Values

The three triggers for getting startup branding right  

Do you know what one of the most alluring characteristics of superstar Rajinikanth is? Ask any fan, and pat will come the reply – his humility.  He has a fan following among all age groups; he communicates with his last fan in the last row, and hardly finds the need to promote his movies. He also believes in allowing his work to speak for him. No wonder then, P. C. Balasubramanian and Ram N. Ramakrishnan, the authors of “Grand Brand Rajini – Brand Management the Rajinikanth Way,” used his personality and his achievements to list out branding lessons that corporates can learn from.

In today’s dynamic world, where media consumption is changing rapidly and technology is creating a disruption, Indian corporates are faced with a task of constantly staying ahead of the curve. Under such circumstances, sustaining a strong brand presence is extremely crucial. A key to achieving this lies in developing engaging content, or as the cliché goes, content is King! “We’re moving towards a point in brand communications where, in order to gain significant, organic impact, we have to imagine truly extraordinary executions,” says Tushar Vyas, managing partner of GroupM, an advertising and media company.

Among the other must-dos for corporates, Vyas adds,  optimising brand assets to multiple screens for discovery and sharing, using data for decision making – starting from product development to marketing communication, opting for light weight interactions and lastly, improving and adapting to the changing environment.

Today, given the pole position that branding has taken in Indian companies, The Smart CEO and afaqs!, a website for advertising, media and marketing professionals, organised The Brand Owner’s Summit, last month, in Chennai. The summit brought together the founders of renowned brands, who shared some invaluable lessons on how they built their brand. With the belief that these are experiences that any startup will find valuable, through this story, we bring to you the lessons learnt, mistakes made and strategies adopted by brand owners, in their journey to build a sustainable brand.

To give you a preview, in one instance, K. Pandiarajan of Ma Foi Management Consultants Ltd indicates that the lesson he learnt in 21 years of being an entrepreneur was to distinguish his brand from his company, almost like an intellectual property. He believes that a brand can lend credibility to any business vertical that the company chooses to go into.

In another instance, Chennai-based Shriram Group believes in allowing its work to speak for itself.  The group, which was founded with the basic premise of serving the underserved, never gave priority to building its brand. Despite that, it has a very strong brand recall among its customers and stakeholders, because it believes it built a business, which is useful to the community.

At Hasbro Clothing, the parent company behind brands like Basics, Genesis and ProBase, advertising plays a crucial role in the sales process. In addition to fashion design and retail experience as differentiators, the company leaves no stone unturned when it comes to producing break-the-clutter kind of advertising.

At a macro level, Google is surely an inspirational brand for many corporates; not only because of the brand recall it has established, but also because of the brand character, performance and resilience it has displayed. In fact, today, the word Google has become synonymous with search. But that’s expected when you have such a revolutionary product with no competition. The users love the brand, trust the company to stay at the cutting edge of technology and are willing to give the company a shot when it launches new products. When new products fail, Google admits to its mistake (like it did with Google Wave) and consumers come back during its next launch. That’s the kind of influence that brands need to aim for, among their customers. Agreeing with this, Vyas adds Apple and Starbucks to this list as far as global companies are concerned and Amul, in the Indian context.

But, why do people engage with a brand? It is due to their affiliation to it, need for information, need for entertainment or to simply get a job done using the brand’s product. There are several case studies of how companies are turning to their future consumers to help with product design, packaging and communication strategies. “For instance, in India, Frito Lays effectively crowd sourced its new flavors and Tanishq use this model to design jewelry for the Indian working woman,” says Vyas

Brand character, brand performance and brand humility are certainly some essential aspects that business owners have to focus on getting right. They should treat their brand with the respect it deserves, create their value systems as an organisation and let their brands reflect that.  Simply put, as Rajiv Dingra of WATConsult says, let your brand connect, converse, collaborate and co-create! And, in the process let the brand stay humble, deliver on business performance and stick to the brand’s true character.

In this edition’s cover, we bring to you branding stories and anecdotes from 14 entrepreneurs (and brand gurus), with the hope that you can takeaway a lesson or two to implement in your own businesses. Read on.