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August 3, 2009


It takes years for a product to become brand. What is it that a product needs to be able to build brand equity? First thing is that you have to start with a commodity. Soap is a commodity. Salt is a commodity but still it has been branded, right? So you take a commodity and then through very clever positioning in the market depending on the pricing, packaging and quality - then you build an advertising campaign around it. Take the very famous example of Liril - it is an ordinary green soap. We embedded the idea of having the lemon feel, the fresh perfume, then we gave it the stripes. People felt aah! Nimbu taazgi! Today's century we are talking about Brandvertising. It means to take a brand and give it extra qualities - both rational and emotional. For eg. just two years ago a brand was launched which did not exist and today it's a 100 crore business. It is called 'Fair and Handsome'. It was padamsee idea and with the Emami company they built a brand. The competition was Fair & Lovely which you can't beat. For women it's a gospel, a god brand. People completely believe in it. Thirty crore or more just on one product. So they thought the product could fit the male market cause the males were using fair and lovely but not admitting it embarrassed the. So they positioned it for the males - everyone laughed and said, males won't use a fairness cream. And they proved them all wrong. In the first year it went from 0 - 40 - 50 crore. Now it's 100 crore. Advertising people are the smart guys who think of what the consumer wants. To build a brand you have to know the consumers' insight. They made the brand macho SRK was the brand ambassador and he said, I used this. Male skin is tougher - why use a woman's cream?

Take MRF - 30 years ago we said the 'tyre with muscle'.

Air India Maharaja is based on graciousness, Indian hospitality and luxury. A lot depends on how you take care of your brand. You have to create, give it a symbol, give it a human quality.

Lalitaji revamped Surf - Surf was going down. Today I see a lot of brands doing funny ads. Humorous ads are ok when they are selling a Mentos - dimag ki batti jalao - low priced products. But when you are selling a TV, car, a fridge... I don't remember one fridge ad which is not like all the others. Positioning it differently is important. You need a switch factor from competition. To build brand equity even in a market that is hit by recession, people's wallets have been squeezed - so you have to see how you can give value for money. Never reduce the price - that?s a big mistake. Cadbury's, Coke, Dalda in the olden days - got into a big problem because they used mattu on in dalda. It happens sometimes there is a small truth and it is exaggerated by the media. They like scandal. Truth is boring. You should see what is the problem?

For eg., Dettol had a problem when Savlon said the leading antiseptic has only one antiseptic. We have two. So Dettol said hit back.padamsee said no - your's is a god brand. The minute you retort you loose the advantage of being a god brand. They came up with a simple line saying trusted by docs for over 25 years. Savlon was new - they had no 25 years. So eventually their sales came down. Don't ever be defensive.

Like in the Satyam scandal the owner has admitted the fraud but is the company a fraud or just the owner who tried to milk some money? Take a look at it. Saying Raju has done this but the company has so and so assets - take the rational route, not emotional saying do you want to throw the whole company in the gutter?

What Cadbury's did was excellent. They didn't bring Amitabh Bachchan immediately. They improved their packaging. The 5 rupees Cadbury packaging is the best! Then they got Amitabh in the Cadbury's plant saying is completely safe and he feeds it to the child. They had to correct the product first - first rational and then emotional. Then customer is happy.

Colas need to look at what Cadbury's did. People say the water used is contaminated, it's no good saying we use the same water in America, in
UK. That doesn't make any sense. First correct the product, then bring in an ambassador. It is very difficult because worry is an emotion. It is investors. In such case to bring in Deepak Parekh is a great decision. He has an absolutely clean reputation. He's not flamboyant, he's not Vijay Mallya. He has a great past record in HDFC. They should have him speaking.Shareholders will certainly look at other options. If the person who takes charge after the scandal is willing to correct the errors cooking books and takes charge any company that gets into trouble - if Ratan Tata says I'll take over that company, people will invest, like in the Satyam case Deepak Parekh.