To go long; think customer, think change and think values

To go long; think customer, think change and think values

Iconic brands are who they are for three clear reasons; they value their customers, they are first to adapt and they live by their values

DIVYA M. CHANDRAMOULI

RAJIV C. LOCHAN, MD & CEO, THE HINDU

Rajiv C. Lochan isn’t short-sighted and his career graph clearly proves this. He spent his initial years at American Express (170-year-old brand), moved on to consulting at McKinsey & Co. (90-year-old brand) and most recently, joined Kasturi & Sons as MD-CEO of The Hindu (136-year-old brand). He has understood the art of managing long-term brands very well and stresses on three key observations from working with these iconic brands during his talk at the event.

Obsessing over the customer

Long-term brands, that have stood the test of time, put the interests of their customers far and above their own. This, in turn, has helped them protect their own brand. Lochan takes the example of The Hindu’s first editorial, which speaks of ‘the indulgent public supporting it despite its shortcomings’ and this customer-centricity is something that the newspaper has maintained over the years despite facing market place complications. The greatest implication of this approach for the publication is to put the trust of what it produces in the hands of the reader, says Lochan while adding that the publication refuses to give in to the ‘raddhi’ mentality where cover prices are pegged to waste-paper market prices. In most cities, The Hindu retails at anywhere between four times to 10 times the price of its competitors and this, Lochan reckons, places a premium value on its content which respects the readers’ intelligence. And this respect is mutual as readers recognise the quality on offer. Lochan went back further in time and shared an example from his days at American Express, where, call centre operators for the company were told to answer the telephones with a smile, as this reflected in their tone and demeanor. Just a small addition that goes a long way.

Relentlessly adapting to the times

Day-to-day, week-to-week, which gear of adaptation is your brand in? That’s the check Lochan urges brands to make as no one is above upgradation. The Hindu, for instance, countered financial turbulence in the 1920s by opening up its cover page to advertising and was one of the first publications to do so. It registered a few more firsts like making use of the facsimile, satellite transmission and going digital. What’s noteworthy is the willingness of the brand to acknowledge change and be a part of it. Of course, there are risks to adaptation that could potentially cannibalise a brand, but custodians of long-term brands have found ways to mitigate these risks.

Maintaining a maniacal focus on values

At American Express, Lochan says, the blue box values were a way of life. At McKinsey & Co., there are 15 brand values and those in the fold know that a transgression of these values is not tolerated. Especially in more difficult times, a brand is likely to expose itself to a host of temptations and dilemmas and decisions based on institutional values help steer clear of trouble. Gone are the times when business decisions were a question of right versus wrong; we live in a time where the choice is between right and right and brand values serve as a guide to do what’s right for you.

Being a tri-sector athlete

In conclusion, Lochan quoted Harvard economist, Joseph Nye, who urges brands to be tri-sector athletes; to understand the dynamics of private, public and social sectors. When you’re a good citizen, people are inadvertently drawn to your good deeds and this is what long-term brands have demonstrated.


Key Takeaway 

Gone are the times when business decisions were a question of right versus wrong; we live in a time where the choice is between right and right and brand values serve as a guide to do what’s right for you. 

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