Think Rajini, think flash. But a closer look at his professional and personal choices illustrate how substance has trumped style. Rajinikanth fans turned authors, P.C. Balasubramanian and Ram N. Ramakrishnan, show brands what they can learn from the actor’s life and legacy
I have the task of writing about a man who owns cool. Given the immense popularity he enjoys with the masses, he could have easily lent his name to a brand or two, but his personal principle made him steer clear of endorsements. For that and more, Rajinikanth is a brand like no other. Much has been said and written about his inimitable style and persona but a true Rajinikanth fan takes most pride in the journey of the superstar, rising from modesty to being the highest paid actor in Indian cinema today. Ask P.C. Balasubramanian and Ram N. Ramakrishnan, authors of ‘Grand Brand Rajini – Brand Management the Rajinikanth Way’, on why Rajinikanth is the ultimate brand and they’ll instantly say, humility. Letting success speak for itself while readily acknowledging occasional failures has been Rajinikanth’s approach to life in the public eye; this is perhaps the biggest take away for brands operating in any sphere. In their book, the authors have compared the actor’s legacy to that of leading international brands and illustrated brand management theories with lucidity.
EQ that’s off the charts!
Rajinikanth’s equity is based on something that most winning brands get right, establishing an emotional connect with his audience. A connect is essentially communicating a brand’s beliefs and values, which will in turn, translate into sales.
Creating a cult brand is next to impossible. Few companies such as Apple, Xerox, Coca-Cola or Rolls-Royce have achieved this and there’s no written trajectory to getting there, that other brands can emulate.
A large part of this connect has to do with brand personality and here, the authors explain how Rajinikanth fits the bill in accordance with each of Jennifer Aaker’s Brand Personality Model attributes; sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.
Even Rajini’s had an off-day
In analysing Rajinikanth’s journey to stardom, the authors break it down into three stages, the big-bang, the fizzle and the steady state. While he didn’t enjoy a big launchpad to his career, Rajinikanth’s differentiation as an actor made him a popular choice. Somewhere in the middle, he lost his fizz and went into a state of semi-retirement. What Rajinikanth did right was to make an inspiring comeback with a spate of commercially successful films, something that brands should learn from. They can change their fortunes by doing something that redefines their purpose. Also, recognising and accepting one’s fallibility allows an audience to forgive and forget and that’s something a brand should do well to remember.
The legendary actor’s heritage is born out of daring to be different and essaying roles that others wouldn’t dare to take on, making his presence felt with a constant stream of films and with each, giving the audience what they enjoy the most, wholesome entertainment. For a brand to do the same, it must dare to go where nobody else has, but not without a sense of objectivity. If this objective is born out of a genuine consumer need, then demand will create itself. By meeting that demand in the truest, most consistent manner, all other wannabe brands can be checked.
Creating a cult
Creating a cult brand is next to impossible. Few companies such as Apple, Xerox, Coca-Cola or Rolls-Royce have achieved this and there’s no written trajectory to getting there, that other brands can emulate. A commonality between these brands though, is loyalty. Similarly, Rajinikanth’s appeal, much like that of a cult brand, cuts across language, geography and religion and while style might have some part to play in creating this appeal, it is his courage to experiment with roles and essay them with conviction that has endeared him to an audience.
In essence, we go back to the beginning where I mentioned that the best brands don’t have to make much noise, people notice them anyway. Younger brands that aspire, should take a leaf out of Rajinikanth’s story, create a product or service that offers substance, make itself dear to its target audience and communicate in a manner that is true. Even in today’s gimmicky world, Rajinikanth doesn’t have to promote his films, they promote themselves.
PROFESSIONALS TURNED AUTHORS
P.C. Balasubramanian and Ram N. Ramakrishnan would enjoy being described as Rajini fanatics, but there’s more to their story than being die-hard fans of the actor. Balasubramanian is a founder at Matrix Business Services India and intends to build India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ramakrishnan, has served as a management consultant for over two decades and is currently a partner – client services at Quantum Leap Consulting. The duo would like to aid brands in doing business in an impactful manner and their first book together is just a step in this direction.