In our childhood we have all played the game of back rides. It was fun to win and get on the back of the loser and take a free ride to the destination of our choice. It is all ingrained in our minds that rides are good, enjoyable and easy way to reach a destination.
This free ride syndrome also silently creeps into our branding decisions. Many managers ride on their existing strong brands to travel to far off destinations. They forget that riding on the back has one limitation. You are free to go but only where the person who you are riding on is capable of going. He cannot take you where he cannot go. So your choice of destination is subject to his capabilities and strengths.
Business organizations in their quest to expand and grow often ride on their existing brands to reach new destinations in the market. These destinations come in the form of different markets and different segments in the current market. Consider brands like Colgate and Bata; they go in different segments of the ‘same’ market with additions of some explanatory words like ‘Colgate Salt’ or ‘Bata Windsor’ to signal their destinations in the same broad area. But if your new destination is not in the given area it would be a terrible mistake. Your donkey may be healthy and robust to do variety of things but his area of operation is always outside the race course.
Consider Raymond which has brands like Park Avenue and Parks in the middle value segment and goes to top segment with Manzoni brand. Reebok goes to participate in formal shoes market with Rockport brand. Levi’s attempt to reach out to casual formals market with their brand of strength failed and they had to launch Dockers.
Giving up is difficult. Our brain is wired not to give up but to gain. Therefore current brand is also not given up when there is a need to. Maruti is a strong player in value for money segment market but it tried to move up to higher price destinations with Kizashi and Grand Vitara but failed. This premium car destination on the surface belongs to car market but it is divided by some invisible barriers which reside in target customer’s mind. Any connections with current brand have a contaminating effect on the new offering. Toyota precisely considered it when they launched the up market premium Lexus. They refrained from plugging into the huge and tempting reservoir of equity that Toyota brand enjoyed in launching Lexus. The brand, sales, service, communication and processes were all distanced and separated from Toyota.
Maruti Suzuki, in their new move to move up the value segment is in the process of launching Nexa brand and rightfully so, to target customers who start with Suzuki but graduate to premium other brands like Honda City, Volkswagen Vento and Toyota Corolla when they ‘arrive’. The challenge for the company is to create a premium imagery that resonates with its target. Cars beyond a point are expressive signs, they convey who you are and are also toys of indulgence aimed to provide an experience. Maruti Suzuki is known to provide trusted value for money vehicles of transportation. But in the new segment it seeks to target, these are all qualifications that are taken for granted. The imagery must move beyond the vehicle to vehicle owner. The company must dig into the customer’s psychology and sociology.