Brand, intentions and change

Brand is a connecting devise. It links up marketer’s intentions with that of consumers. First, marketer conceives, articulates and then expresses the brand into a concrete reality. The reality so created later is sensed, perceived and decoded by consumers. A brand succeeds or fails depending upon the extent to which it stands for what its potential customers want it to.
Brands seek constancy amidst change. Change and constancy are the two sides branding coin. Marketers wish to create perpetual brands but it is not easy to achieve. The environmental dynamism work to disturb brand’s equilibrium. Check beneath a long term floating brand, a lot of devil like paddling happens. Nothing remains constant behind the scene. Marketing elements are orchestrated to both adapt and innovate with moving times. Brands are like boats not on still water of a pond rather water of rivers of different currents. When the water flows beneath the boat, it must adjust and adapt to maintain its position.
Often brand names undergo a change often subtle and sometimes radical. Consider the following cases:
• International Business Machines became IBM
• Anderson Consulting became Accenture
• Lucky Goldstar become LG
• Delhi Cloth Mills became DCM
• Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC
• Telco became Tata Motors
• Levis Signature became Denizen (with Levis mentioned next in small letters)
• Hero Honda has become Hero
• Initially Bajaj forayed into motorcycle market with Kawasaki Bajaj which later moved on to use Bajaj name with all bike sub brands (like Bajaj Pulsar) now even Bajaj name is dropped and sub brands are the brands
• Maruti Zen after a long stint emerged as Zen Estilo and now it is Estilo more than Zen
• Anchor brand of electrical switches is now ‘Anchor by Panasonic’
• Apple Computers became Apple Inc

All these changes are symptomatic of the efforts by brand managers to keep their brands on course. Change is sometimes a compulsion thrust upon by external forces. And often it is a result of voluntary proactive strategizing aimed to seize an emerging business opportunity.

Consider the cases like Arthur Anderson and Kentucky Fried Chicken. These companies were forced to adopt new identity for their past had become a burden (Anderson’s accounting scandal) or irrelevant (Kentucky’s association with ‘fried’ -unhealthy and ‘chicken’ -controversial processing practices). Recently Hero Honda has been rechristened as Hero MotoCorp. This change was necessitated because of the joint venture between the two companies coming to an end in 2010. When Aditya Bira Group acquired cement business of L&T the company was given nod to use L&T name only for a year. L&T sold off its cement business because it wanted to focus on high value businesses and cement did not fit with its vision of the future. Birla had to create a new brand name which subtly leveraged the strengths of L&T brand without making any explicit reference to L&T. Accordingly ‘Ultra Tec’ brand was born which was positioned as ‘ The engineer’s choice’.

International Business Machines evolved into shorter abbreviated form ‘IBM’ with twin objectives: first to leverage the existing equity and secondly get the brand out of business machines closet. Here the brand redefined its scope beyond computing machines to embrace much wider mission of providing ‘solutions’. Tata’s Tata Locomotive Company changed into ‘Tata Motors’ because Telco enjoyed equity in commercial vehicles market which could be both a strength and weakness. On a higher plane all trucks also belong to vehicle category but trucks related associations could be dissonant for a car buying customer who sees car as an extension of his self. With a vision to become a total automotive player, the company combined ‘Tata’ (constant- equity leverage) with ‘Motors’ (umbrella term for all kinds of vehicles and suppression of truck related associations). Apple Computers also changed its identity to ‘Apple Inc’ to make the brand free from the narrow confines to computers as a product category. The company intended to participate in a wider space of electronics. Delhi Cloth Mills was India’s one of the top business houses during the pre liberalization era. The company changed its identity to ‘DCM’ to deemphasize ‘cloth’ associations and simultaneously leverage its equity develop business in new business areas.

Two extreme ends of branding are individual and umbrella branding. Companies (e.g. Unilever and P&G) in the western markets follow individual branding strategy for a variety of reasons. The product brands are often does not share any link with company behind it. The brand singularly drives consumer buying. This is when a product brand can stand on its own (value) in the market. Tata Motors also seem to be going GM (Ford adopted different model) way in terms of branding. Its first launch ‘Indica’ became a success primarily because of the equity it leveraged from ‘Tata’ brand (it was called Tata Indica). ‘Indica’ evolved into ‘Indica Vista’ (Vista suffix was used to suggest new refinements that brand incorporated) and now it is pushed as ‘Vista’ (sedan class). Now the brand is taking a new direction and relegating the old utility or functionality centric associations that ‘Indica’ had appropriated in the background. The car market has been evolving both at the supply and demand ends. There is distinct shift in favor of aesthetics and experience beyond functionality which is now taken for granted. ‘Indica’ has become endorser for ‘Vista’ which is being promoted as an aesthetically pleasing feature rich offering.
‘Sumo’ was initially endorsed by ‘Tata’ directly which later evolved into ‘Sumo Grande’ (suffix added to suggest more contemporized image). Now the brand in its new variant has dropped ‘Sumo’ to acquire new identity as ‘Grande MK II’. Dropping of ‘Sumo’ is done to drop utility vehicle associations and give the new variant and new contemporary sporty identity. ‘Sumo Grande’ now has become ‘Grande Dicor’, the addition of suffix ‘Dicor’ attempts to get a rub off from ‘Safari’ (sports utility vehicle). Here the brand also is making a move away from rational-utilitarian concept in favor of lifestyle and sporty orientation.

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One thought on “Brand, intentions and change

  1. Moral:
    1.Brand extensions for the ones which are lifestyle oriented is easier than the brands which are functionality based. The examples you have quoted along with the justification is tremendous. Apple Computers to Apple inc- purpose – to go beyond computers and become a part of one’s life in terms of image, personality, style etc. ( consider APPLE v/s NOKIA)
    2. Branding (umbrella or individual) – go with individual branding if product offers distinctive edge or else create its name by using an established name.
    Bajaj Pulsar and then Pulsar, probably because the kid was grown up to lead after an initial support by its parent .
    Brands yet to create awareness are provided with active endorsement- Levis by Denizen/ Anchor by Panasonic / sonata by titan…etc.
    3.Core (idea of the brand) is must to address continuity and change.

    Thanks a lot sir for posting such great articles. These things helps in enhancing knowledge and refining our ideas to a great extent. Take Care.

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