Murthy busts all branding myths and shares 12 mantras that he believes brands should follow to emerge as leaders in their respective markets
Ask Mahesh Murthy, founder, Pinstorm (a digital branding firm) and founding partner, Seedfund (a seed-stage fund), what his perception of conventional marketing is and he’ll unflinchingly say, “Along with the 4Ps of marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion), bear in mind the fifth P, Posthumous. That’s how age old these concepts are.” The dynamic and unconventional venture capitalist, entrepreneur, public speaker and brand management guy (as he likes to call himself) believes that exception will increasingly be the rule and the ability to think different will beat marketing as marketers have known it.
Murthy speaks of the 12 brand mantras that he swears by. And he uses these as an investor to help his investee companies beat the heat of competition.
There’s no No.2 in the market anymore. Be No.1 or don’t bother. Today, marketing has become far more strategic for investors who aid in building a company’s brand. For instance, when Murthy and his team built Brand MyDentist, a chain of dental clinics, they spent three months with the creative, design and architecture firms to design the layout and test it. They launched 60 outlets in 18 months, and today, MyDentist is the largest organised dental chain in the country.
Brand leadership is fragile. The focus should be on staying number one, not just getting there. For example, many thought Coca Cola is the world’s highest valued brand. But, in a span of 37 years, Apple took reign of that title, while Google achieved the same in 13 years, proving that sustaining the number one spot is way harder than getting there.
Imperfection is the new perfection. When a brand portrays itself as perfect, consumers are less forgiving when it slips and slides down a notch. What’s more important is to have a brand personality that allows the brand to say it too is fallible. A classic example of this would be Virgin Airlines, which has the ability to take every mock and challenge in its stride.
Build a single brand, ditch the sub-brands. In the over communicated world we live in today, a company does not have the ability, money or strength to build multiple brands. The best approach is to create one brand and introduce products or services under its umbrella. Take the example of Google or Yahoo. In the former, mails, maps, docs and social networking fall under one cluster, Google. In the latter, news, mails and messenger fall under one cluster, Yahoo.
Flexibility is not overrated. Brand elements should be responsive, dynamic and flexible. One of the best ways of branding that Google stumbled upon is the Google Doodle. It has come to a point where, if there are creative images celebrating an occasion or a legend, it’s synonymous with Google.
No advertising is as powerful as a customer’s word. Brands that spend less on media and more on the customer end up leaders. If there is something differentiated about a brand, if it is able to delight a customer in some way, word-of-mouth will sell the brand.
Bring home your creativity. Advertising agencies don’t have the edge anymore. Today, a brand has ample technological resources to build a remarkable product and communicate the same. A good example of this is the Red Bull sponsored feat by Australian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner. Every aspect of the promotion campaign was managed by Red Bull itself. In fact, the media houses paid Red Bull to cover the event.
Ignore the books. The new concepts of marketing are: absorb everything that is being said about your brand, solve an immediate customer complaint or issue, analyse what is being said about your brand and ideate and create something inspirational.
Every social network will die at some point of time. The only one worth building is your own. Advertising or creating sponsored updates won’t work either. What is more important, and as difficult, is to build an organic visibility for the brand. A brand has to create content that is engaging and worth sharing.
The next-big-thing is video. Today, you can create and post a video at 1/100th the cost of what it was before. It is imperative that brands create their own studio or work with one.
Scream for attention. Despite modern retail formats and visual merchandising, retailers hardly get a chance to interact with their customers. Thus, brands should ideate, and ideate out of the box, to generate higher footfall.
In typical Murthy style, in the end, he insists that even these guidelines will become obsolete soon. It’s best, as he puts it, to create your own brand wisdom.
Founder, Pinstorm (digital branding) and Founding Partner, Seedfund (venture capital)
Mahesh Murthy’s story is nothing short of fantastic. Being a college dropout, he began his career by selling vacuum cleaners from door to door and later worked with creative agencies such as Grey and Ogilvy & Mather. During his tenure in this field, he was recognised for his originality and won several awards. Later, he moved to CKS Partners, a Silicon Valley firm, where he helped launch the first commercial version of Yahoo in 1995 and the Earth’s biggest bookstore campaign for Amazon in 1997. He then headed iCat, an e-commerce firm in Seattle, which was eventually acquired by Intel.
In India, he headed Channel V until it was acquired by Newscorp in 2000 and founded Passionfund, to invest in startups. In 2003, realising the need for a pay-for-performance digital marketing firm, he founded Pinstorm in Mumbai. Today, the company is 120 people strong, with offices in India, Singapore, Malaysia, the U.S. and Europe. Holding a passion for early-stage investing, in 2006, he teamed up with Pravin Gandhi and Bharati Jacob and founded Seedfund.