A Curious Case of Tata Motors & Messi, Congress & Priyanka

Brands are not born great, they are made great. As the adage goes ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’ likewise there is a wise man/woman behind every successful brand. What differentiates this person is his ability to use eyes not to see the manifest but to go visualize the unseen. This is evident in stories of brands like McDonalds, FedEx, Southwest and IBM. Most brand stewards fall into trap of choosing easy wrong over difficult right. Consider the case of Tata Motor’s employment of Lionel Messi, probably world’s top most paid celebrity and the push by Congress to have Priyanka Gandhi on board. Both brands face a common challenge: how to turn around the sagging performance.

Let us start with understanding the meaning of poor performing brand. The inability of a brand to get a consumer to lift it up at the showroom may be symptomatic of peripheral or core malaise. To put it simply, brands do not get sold because they don’t make sense to their target consumers. It is therefore important to understand how core is defined in a market. For instance, for a symbolic brand like Armani or Bulgari, it is invisible yet vividly crafted image creates the pull. These brands act as conduit for consumers to buy into their imagery for achieving self and social transformation. But for a car brand, the core ‘non-negotiable’ considerations relate to performance, reliability, quality and service. Germans car makers achieved glory by pushing excellence in performance to extraordinary levels, beyond necessary. Japanese makers like Toyota and Honda created their niche through reliability and dependability. The question that arises is what first comes to your mind when you think of Tata cars? Are you reminded of rickety trucks? Noisy taxis? Stalled cars on roads? Poor service? Frequent breakdowns?

The ‘made of great’ campaign featuring Messi is done to make the brand attractive to young buyers and shed its legacy. Celebrity in marketing can play actor in supplementary role not actor in leading role. They can supplement but not supplant the core, especially in categories where functionality sits at the center. Celebrities persuade through their attractiveness (similarity and likeability), credibility (expertise, knowledge), and power (reward/punishment).  What route does Messi’s campaign adopt in persuasion? He is likeable but he is not expert in cars. Tata cars need credibility and trust in performance, that’s the basic minimum. While buying a car, it is always seen through performance angle and bells and whistles come later. Would a hard hitting campaign by car experts would do a better job in winning buyer confidence? Check out how Mercedes even now focuses on innovations/ performance (heart of car) in its campaigns. Toyota meticulously crafted image of its luxury car brand Lexus using almost similar route. Logic and reason come first than emotions in this category.

The Congress has performed miserably in recent elections and to reverse its misfortune, many Congressmen want Priyanka to assume center stage. The question is: has Congress been performing poorly for the want of Priyanka?  She can play a supplementary role and give boost on the basis of mere appearance and name like a celebrity endorser who works through the process of attractiveness and likeability. People may get drawn to Congress by the process of identification based her appearance but her ideas/ideology are unclear. Indian population has undergone a drastic demographic shift- the young constituency (65%)- is connected, informed and critical in their ways. That is the reason why ‘governance and development’ made sense.

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2 thoughts on “A Curious Case of Tata Motors & Messi, Congress & Priyanka

  1. “Brands are not born great but they are made great”. Nicely put Sir, this reminded me a quote from the Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Act II, Scene 5.

    Firstly, interesting analogy has been drawn with likes of the Tata Corporation and the Indian National Congress. But the question that one ponders through these examples is -how to maintain the greatness of a 150 years old corporate institution and the first national party of and by India which brought the very concept of Indian nationalism before the British sun. These institutions do not have history alone but a heritage of their own, and which in itself makes them a great brand. The dynamics of the game changes when the marketers have to leash into maintaining a lineage with the contemporary tang. There lies in the challenge, the sweat and choice to have a celebrity to match the said greatness.

    Secondly, the emotional quotient of a brand varies when we draw comparisons between a political party celebrity and a corporate celebrity. Because the celebrities (call them variables) in the case in hand are not interchangeable, i.e. Messi cannot endorse INC and Priyanka may not endorse Tata either, since the post purchase/vote expectation will be different in these cases. The point being- consumers should not be compared with citizens, on the same platform. The first is a creature of market while the latter is of the Constitution, and thereby different rules (of Branding) apply to each.

    By the way after the recent $15 billion settlement, which celebrity should Volkswagen opt for?

    Interesting read as always!!

    Kushagra

  2. “Brands are not born great but they are made great”. Nicely put Sir, this reminded me a quote from the Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Act II, Scene 5.

    Firstly, interesting analogy has been drawn with likes of the Tata Corporation and the Indian National Congress. But the question that one ponders through these examples is -how to maintain the greatness of a 150 years old corporate institution and the first national party of and by India which brought the very concept of Indian nationalism before the British sun. These institutions do not have history alone but a heritage of their own, and which in itself makes them a great brand. The dynamics of the game changes when the marketers have to leash into maintaining a lineage with the contemporary tang. There lies in the challenge, the sweat and choice to have a celebrity to match the said greatness.

    Secondly, the emotional quotient of a brand varies when we draw comparisons between a political party celebrity and a corporate celebrity. Because the celebrities (call them variables) in the case in hand are not interchangeable, i.e. Messi cannot endorse INC and Priyanka may not endorse Tata either, since the post purchase/vote expectation will be different in these cases. The point being- consumers should not be compared with citizens, on the same platform. The first is a creature of market while the latter is of the Constitution, and thereby different rules (of Branding) apply to each.

    By the way after the recent $15 billion settlement, which celebrity should Volkswagen opt for?
    Interesting read as always!!

    Kushagra

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