Anna Brand (6): Brand Is Bigger Than Product

I am reminded of a verse by Guru Nanak:

“0 Nanak! Be tiny like grass,
For other plants will wither away, but grass will remain ever green.

The meaning as I understand is that grass survives but big and tall trees get uprooted when the storm hits. The ego lays ground for destruction. The perception of being ‘big’, ‘tall’, ‘beyond’, ‘unassailable’, and ‘the best’ germinates the seeds of the fall. Ego and arrogance are two of the worst enemies of a human being. The ego, according to Geeta is the attachment to the body rather than the soul. The body is transient but the soul is immortal. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to surrender his false ego completely for achieving transcendental peace.

Like human beings big companies and big brands are also vulnerable to ego. The bigness- of aspects like size, market share, sales, and scale often breed seeds of decline. Bigness promotes inertia. Long time back in 1985 Alvin Toffler wrote a book titled ‘Adaptive Corporation’ which dwelled upon how organizations fail on account of not being ‘adaptive’ to change. Adaptation is ‘the’ way to succeed in a changing environment.

Consider long standing brands like: Xerox, IBM, Lifebuoy, Coke, and Ford. These brands are able to stay afloat because of ‘flexibility’ and ‘adaptability’. A brand is constant entity in a dynamic environment. True branding is about achieving timelessness by developing an escape route from the operation of product life cycle. Although Lifebuoy is still on the horizon even after decades but it must be understood that it owes its existence to ‘humility’ of being subservient to the cause, the brand. The soul is timeless but the physical elements have limited life. The physical aspects have surrendered completely to the ‘soul’ (the health and hygiene). IBM as a business has undergone great change (the body) but it has stuck on the brand soul (providing solutions). Horlicks as a product has come a long way since it was launched. The product Horlicks has undergone many changes (body) but its soul (nourishment) lived for decades.

Often success of a brand makes the entire enterprise product focused. A success formula of marketing or the product (the means) becomes so important that it displaces the brand (the end). The attachment to the product (the body) breeds arrogance and ego and there starts the decline. The soul (brand) is supreme, the product is only instrumental. Understanding the distinction is the key to creating long life brands. The products can come and go (akin to soul changing body) but the soul is supreme. Imagine how difficult it would be for Nokia to make a transition into services to provide a ‘solution’ which people seek.

One of the important traits of the leader is to keep focus on the goal. Goal is supreme; the leader who leads the team is the means to the end. Leader does not operate in a stagnant environment. So the means cannot be constant in a dynamic environment. Rigidity and lack of flexibility is dangerous. The leader (product) cannot dictate the brand (mission or goal). The leader, the product must adapt to evolving circumstances. Anna Brand stands at crucial juncture where rigidity (fast which worked brilliantly) could be self defeating. Now in the changed circumstances Brand Anna should move to a new level (product reformulation, ingredient changes, augmentations etc) sticking on to the brand DNA (non violence). The success of the brand in the first stage should not intoxicate (ego). The Band Anna is now on the next stage. Leader is a powerful resource; leader can ignite damp gun powder. The leader must understand the instrumentality of the leadership. The cause is supreme.

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3 thoughts on “Anna Brand (6): Brand Is Bigger Than Product

  1. Brilliant Read !! .. Sir, a question: Isn’t rigidity something that’s imp for the brand to maintain its image? Eg. Anna is on a fast, and if he becomes flexible and goes for compromises on the Brand Lokpal, what will be subsequent implications on the brand image? Wouldn’t it be ‘defeating’ the purpose the product stood for?

    • I am talking about rigidity of product, product should be flexible. On the leadership front the good leaders are devoted to the ’cause’ and they see themselves as ‘instrument’ which is amenable to adjustments for the achievement of the cause. Leadership is contextual and context keeps changing.

  2. Sir,

    Article was marvelous and beautifully laid down. I just liked how you summarize your context, starting with ego and arrogance leads to destruction and flexibility is must for brands to survive and comparing it with Brand Anna.

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