Brand architecture, Endorsement, Shadow and Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav and SRK

Lets run a brief check: how do you view Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav and SRK from brand architecture perspective?

Well, it is not difficult for anybody to know that Sanjay is son of great actor Sunil Dutt. It takes a little digging to find out that Kumar Gaurav is son of legendary actor Rajendra Kumar. But SRK does not enjoy benefit of belonging to an established Bollywood family. How branding strategy affect consumer/audience response? Success at the market end requires credibility, knowledge, consistency, heritage and above all trust. And if someone can stand behind and backup, the job is greatly facilitated. In Sanjay’s case, Dutt name endorses him directly. SRK did not have any endorser/supporter/advocate in  Bollywood. However, in case of Kumar Gaurav, the support become indirect/shadow (his name was new yet people eventually discovered his lineage which came in handy to drive audience behavior.

Consider the following cases and discover the branding strategy:

  • Anchor by Panasonic or Reveal by Calvin Klein or Courtyard by Marriott
  • Kinley / Cheverolet/K-Special/ Maggi/ Cinthol/ Sunfeast
  • Pulsar watch
  • Tudor

In all of the above cases there are two brands (endorser/supporter and endorsed/supported) but as we move down the endorser brand becomes increasingly invisible. The decision about the degree of visibility or connection that an endorsed brand would have is a critical decision. It involves a trade- off between differentiation/independence on the one hand and dependence/linkage on the other. The issue that must be sorted out is how well the new brand is equipped to stand on its own without the support of the master/established brand. And how different or unrelated is the category of the new brand.

  1. In the first case category (Anchor, Reveal, Courtyard) the organization or established by directly endorses the new brand. When a consumer is confronted with these brands alone the response is likely to be uncertainty and doubt. But the moment ‘by’ is coupled with an established name is added the attitude is transformed in a big way. The established brand facilitates the new brand in driving consumer behavior. Simultaneously it also avoids confusion for the consumers of main brand by telling them that if you are Marriott customers the new brand is not Marriott (in terms of service/price/luxury level) but something other than Marriott. The usage of new (rather than one name) is necessitated by the need to convey difference in product or market domain of the new offering (but proximate).

2. In the second group of cases (Kinley, K-Special, Chevrolet), the connection between the new brand and corporate/established brand is made less prominent. This is done when a marketer wants the new brand to convey its own identity for a customer (segmentation) and competitive reasons (positioning). This is often the case when a firm begins to operate in multiple product categories and segments. We have discovered on our own that Kinley is Coca Cola’s product, K-Special is Kellogg’s and Chevrolet is GM’s line & Sunfeast is ITC) by looking at their communication or product packages. By making its link or connection less obvious, the endorsement is make but in a token manner.

3. In the last two cases, Pulsar and Tudor the connection with the endorser brand is made even more indirect and less evident. Can you name the companies linked with these watches? Probably not, it is because company intentionally does not want you to know. But the customers who own these watches do they know of the brand behind these brands? Answer would be yes. Pulsar is a brand of Seiko (a web search of website would reveal that) and Tudor is a brand of Rolex. But in this case Tudor website does not create any link with Rolex but in a strange fashion the pop up Rolex appears on alongside the listed websites.

The connection here is even more indirect and in shadows. Lexus brand was created by using this strategy (Toyota endorsed Lexus in an invisible ghostly manner). When do you resort to this strategy? Here the brand is made is assigned its own individuality/identity and linking it with the established name is likely to be counterproductive. Imagine the prestige damage Rolex would suffer its brand participates in lower price point or similarly the rub off Toyota brand would have on Lexus’s luxury customers. Discovery of endorser in these cases creates eureka feelings. The idea is not to let the endorsed brand to contaminate the established brand.

So SRK in the absence of endorser had to prove his mettle but in other cases the mettle was assumed. People laid their faith on Abhishek again and again for the endorsement advantage he enjoyed for a long time.


Ilha de Calma, Sense making, Consumer perception and Breaking through the Clutter

‘Ilha de Calma’

‘ Have you found your Ilha de Calma yet?

Every about ten minutes of television programming, consumer’s attention is interrupted by a commercial break. The word ‘break’ takes us to two lines of interpretation. One is ‘brake’ that is connected to brake paddle which when pressed slows down or stops a speeding vehicle.  The second means disruption or discontinuity. Advertisers want to break into consumer’s mind and leave behind a message with varying intentions like building awareness, interest, desire, and action (AIDA).  But cutting through the perceptual veil or filter is not easy. Consumers erect defense systems to save themselves from these commercial breaks which are like aggressive assaults on their senses. Marketers expect consumers to process their messages which are far more than they can cope with. Therefor a large amount of exposed messages are filtered or blocked out.  This is called selective attention.

An average person may be exposed to over 2000 messages in a day. Processing all these would be akin to stuffing a refrigerator with things multiple times of its capacity. It would certainly break down. Consumers avoid this break down by selecting only a few of the stimuli demanding their attention.  This is called selective attention. This process helps consumers but it creates problems for communicators. They face a serious challenge: how to cope with this screening out process or selective attention. Money is wasted when ads are created and placed in media but they fail to survive through perceptual process.  Once ads achieve exposure, then the next challenge they face is to capture and retain attention.  Marketers complain that consumers do not pay attention indiscriminately. Only a miniscule portion of total ads succeed in capturing and retaining attention.

So what strategy would you adopt in crowded destination marketing space? Starting with Kerala’s brilliant campaign (God’s own country) to attract tourists, several other states have joined the bandwagon including Gujarat (Vibrant Gujarat), Uttaranchal (‘Dev Bhumi’), Chattisgarh – Full of Surprises, Arunachal Pradesh ( The Land of Dawnlit Mountains), Andhra Pradesh (Essence of Incredible India, Goa (A perfect holiday destination), Puducherry (Give time a break), Jharkhand ( A new experience) and Karnataka (One state many worlds). One thing that runs common to these campaigns is their focus on attracting tourists on the promise of sense stimulation.  They take journey is a sense which involves movement of body on a physical surface tempered delivery on senses like eyes (visuals like jungles, mountains), smells (habitation, flowers, pure air), sound (animals, folk music, prayers), touch (people, land, terrain, rocks, breeze) and taste (gastronomical delights). The destination market is not only crowed (so many states and UTs) but is also heavily advertised.  The commonness in their communication as tourist attractions subjects them to the phenomenon of ‘stimulus generalization’. And high cumulative spending on communication subjects their advertising to perceptual filtration process.  Hence cutting though or capturing attention is a real challenge for a player who is entering the market late.

So when watching television as soon as commercial break begins the target consumers commission their defense systems to protect them from barrage of intrusive messages.  So they look at screens without paying attention. One ad very calm and serene in its construction (as against loud music or characters engaged in noisy conversation) showed camera gently rolling over blue beaches, silent buildings, sun kissed caves, quietly flowing  breeze and whispering trees. The ad managed to break through perceptual filter and captured attention by not following typical ad mold. Further, the ad closed with words ‘Ilha de Clama’ appearing on the scene and a simultaneous voice over pronouncing the same which did not make sense.  The inability to make sense  due to lack of conformity (ambiguity) is likely to disturb mental balance and it increases consumer’s involvement which forces them to look for information to get back to the state of equilibrium. The ad relied upon visual and verbal ambiguity to capture attention. It set people looking for information to make sense opening up their receptivity and sensitivity.

This is followed by print ad in major newspapers. One such ad announced ‘Ilha De Clama is Diu’. Its body copy read as follows (attempts to cash in on heightened receptivity to related information created by television ad):

 If you are wondering how to pronounce it, it is Eel-ya-ji-kaal-ma. Don’t rush to get it right. Once in Diu, you will have all the time and quiet to do it. Peaceful beaches, silently swaying hoka trees, gentle sea breeze, quaint churches, and baroque monuments await you here. Come to Diu. Who know , you might find your Ilha de Clama.  Another asks directly to its readers: ‘Have you found your Ilha de Clama yet?

Capturing attention is one of the most important challenges for advertisers. Advertisers use many strategies to capture consumer attention. One such strategy relies upon the theory of ambiguity. Things that don’t fit mold are generally noticed. It helps you break through the clutter.

How to shrink BJP? Forgotten lessons in marketing: Balancing customer and competitor orientation       

Newspapers and television channels have used several expressions to describe the debacle of BJP in national capital. The newcomer, AAP won 67 seats (seats in 2013) and BJP, the ruling party at the Centre shrunk to 3 from a near majority number of 32 seats in 2013 elections. And the grand old party Congress, failed to even open an account.  It is a quite shocking result for a party which scored victories on all the seven seats in last Lok Sabha elections in 2014. The Indian political landscape has been subtly undergoing a profound change. Although for the political strategists and stalwarts who are generally soaked in bias and operate from rooms covered with thinking consistent posters, artifacts, slogans and people mostly fail to recognize change. I will use the expression used by Ted Levitt to say that they ‘look into mirror instead of looking out of window’.  The constructed environment acts to reinforce and strengthen beliefs however misplaced they are. Looking out of the window is the way to develop strategy closer to ground.

The marketing orientation is one of the superior philosophies of running a business enterprise. It commands that business must cultivate mindset, structure, processes and strategies which aim to satisfying customer needs and wants better than competition. It subordinates the enterprise to the will of the market. It establishes the instrumentality of business as means of making the lives of target consumers better. Accordingly what is right or correct for a business is articulated from consumer’s point of view not from that of managers. Jaworski and Kohli distill it as organization wide dissemination of market intelligence about customer needs and wants and responding to it. The idea is to generate superior value for consumers as compared to competitors.

The failure of BJP in Delhi elections is manifestation of its failure in promising a product/value that was in sync with target customers and better than its rivals (AAP). But then, the same BJP won all seats in national elections last year. What explains this? The BJP’s success in national election was primarily due to deftly executed brand repositioning based on demographic shift (younger population or now generation). The brand BJP was emptied of its meaning as saffron party and it was given a new meaning. It fought elections on the plank of ‘growth, governance and inclusion’ (‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’). Its governance agenda usurped anti-corruption and Modi’s performance in Gujarat lent it credibility in perception notwithstanding its fact based criticism.

But then what happened in Delhi? This can be explained with two aspects of market orientation: customer orientation and competitor orientation.

Customer orientation: implies keeping an unwavering focus on evolving customer needs and wants and developing responses to meet them effectively. Delhi, although it is same physical place with same inhabitants but competitive reality in these two elections has not been the same.  In terms of consumer choice, the consideration set in national election was made of primarily two brands- BJP (with governance, inclusion and strong spokesperson) and Congress (riddled in corruption, lack of leadership). The frustration with Congress and carefully executed election strategy (inclusion and governance) of BJP lead people to vote for the latter. What happens when you try out a brand with enthusiasm and brand fails live up to your expectations? You look for a change. Remember the young voters which swung in favor of BJP in national elections shifted to AAP (Congress lost its status as alternative) because the discourse in media (easy to spread) shifted back to saffron (love jihad, conversions and reconversion, attack on church and jibe by some MPs).  It may have been satisfactory for inelastic hard core BJP supporters but it was certainly disappointment for new rational and discriminating younger class.

Further, BJP strategists failed in recognizing the shift of people or shall we say customer migration that happens when an existing brand is perceived to be near end (Congress).  There was huge opportunity for BJP to win Muslim voters. The beginning of a shift to BJP of this population was nipped in the bud by BJP itself when some of its leaders assumed center stage on media on triggered debates away from inclusion and development.  So when a car brand like Ford recalls its cars due to some flaw it is natural for its customer to look for alternative in Toyota or Hyundai. It is a huge mistake if one does not read this as an opportunity.

Competitor orientation: it implies a mindset when a firm keeps its competitors (analysis of their strategies, strengths and weaknesses) in the center of its strategy development process and takes upon itself to beat them at all costs. It is aggressive and reactionary mode of operation. Often this comes at the cost of ignoring customers. Beating the competition is not the mission of any business. It assumes significance when competitors come in the way of reaching out to customers. Being obsessed with competitors is sure recipe for a disaster.

BJP’s strategy in Delhi was entirely driven by competitor orientation.  Its campaign focused on AAP leader in aggressive and personal manner. Consider the words like ‘upadravi’, ‘thief’, ‘monkey’, ‘toxic’, ‘liar’ and ‘anarchist’ in its campaign in outmaneuvering Kejriwal. Further, its radio campaign which tried to paint Kejriwal in poor light on the message like ‘bhagoda’ was irrelevant for the voter.

Customers and competitors are two important constituencies of the market. Both need to be given due attention and balanced. BJP‘s failure in Delhi is attributable to getting obsessed in beating the rival at all cost.

Modi, Kejriwal, Delhi Elections and Brand Positioning

Most common understanding about positioning is distilled in the phrase, ‘it is about creating an image’. But critical to positioning is also an equally powerful consideration that involves deciding who do we want our brand to compete against.  Positioning is about defining your competition. Inherent in this process is the concept of categories or categorization.

Consider a situation. Suppose a severe earthquake has rattled a house.  As result the contents of its refrigerator have fallen on the floor, littered all over and mixed up.  The challenge you face is to place them back. Are you going to place them one by one next to each other depending upon which you are able to grab first? So first comes a tomato followed by egg, fish, honey, eye drops, cauliflower, water bottle, chicken, sauce, milk and so on. Or your placement would follow a classification or categorization scheme? Things are likely to be placed in categories and you will put them in different places or compartments like bottles, vegetables, meats, and drugs. The concept of category is based on perceived similarity. Similar items are placed within a category. Hence they belong to a space.

Like items stored in a refrigerator, the mind also stores a pattern in storing available brands. A brand is likely to be placed in a category if it is perceived similar (POP) to important or prototypical category dimensions (like different vegetables are similar in their character). Depending upon where a brand gets placed determines its competition. So cauliflower competes with cabbage, beans, potato, turnip and lady finger.

In the political space, the mind has its own categorization scheme of politicians. These categories include honest and dishonest, BJP and Congress, Lok Sabha and Rajya  Sabha, UP and  Bihar, men and women. Another important way  of  classification is Member of Parliament, state legislature, municipal level. Each category has its inhabitants and thus competition. Modi has been a state CM but his ability to cross over to national level into the category of PM lay in a careful strategy of relating and comparing himself with  PM (Manmohan Singh instead of with other CMs. Recall his direct attack on Congress’s possible PM candidates like Rahul, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. He even directly addressed the nation on August 15. What did this result in? It amounted to a category jump from CM to PM.

Kejriwal’s rise to a higher position/category as a competing brand with Modi is partly caused by BJP’s strategy to running a campaign with Modi and his development agenda as a ‘core proposition’ and down playing its leaders at the state level. Further, a negative campaign on which BJP spent a lot of money and time in pulling down Kejriwal on issues such as bhagoda, bungalow and collaborator with Congress contributed indirectly to his publicity. When PM  Modi makes a direct attack on Kejriwal  they automatically get paired in a competitive situation. It is something like a big brand like Apple attacking a small newcomer phone brand like Intex. This is likely to benefit the attacked brand. Remember how Micromax and ‘ i can’ campaign  resulted in linking it with iPhone. In Delhi, BJP is responsible for pitching Modi against Kejriwal. Last time it was between Harsh Vardhan and Kejriwal. The catapulting of Kejriwal to a direct head on engagement with  PM Modi  is an exact replay  of what Modi did prior to the national elections.

Notwithstanding how many claims are made by the BJP that it is not a fight between Modi and Kejriwal, the bracketing of the two in the same category sends signals to the contrary. Positioning is a game of perceptions not reality and perceptions tend to be stubbornly averse to change.

Brand Positioning in Noodles Market

In a very pioneering move Nestle created instant noodles category in mid 1980s when they launched Maggi brand. Being the first mover the brand become category representative. To many people instant noodle is Maggi. It has become generic to the product category. Positioning is an important aspect of marketing strategy. Market segmentation is first step in strategy development. It is impossible for one marketing package to make sense to everybody. By dividing customer on the basis of their similarities, it becomes easier for a firm to decide where to direct its marketing efforts. This allows better allocation of finite marketing resources by maximizing efficiency and effectiveness.

Nestle also had a lot of options. The noodles market can be divided into different groups depending upon the choice of segmentation variable. For instance, there is domestic and professional segment for noodles. The market could be divided on the basis of age of consumer, r consumption quantity, geographic location and culinary treatment. Market segmentation is a matter of perception. There are people who look at the market the way everyone sees, whereas a limited few are able to uncover new customer groups who have not been uncovered by generally followed basis of segmentation. Nestle chose to target the children segment. Children frequently demand something to eat. Back then the market of snacks was not evolved. Therefore whenever mothers were pestered they were forced to provide home cooked snacks or light food like parantha, pulav, pakora, sandwich and vada

The next question was to decide upon its value proposition and positioning. How should the brand Maggi be placed in consumer’s mind? Essential to positioning was that Maggi must be perceived distinctively and of relevance to target market. Maggi was positioned as ‘fast to cook and good to eat’ 2 minutes noodles. It offered distinctive advantage to mothers in terms of ‘fast to cook’ proposition. The Maggi noodles unique formulation reduced the long grind involved in making traditional quick food. All that Maggi needed was two minutes boiling time and adding of a tasty masala called ‘taste maker’. For kids, the brand offered ‘good to eat’ proposition.

Maggi opened an entire new market for instant noodles. The next brand to arrive in the market was Top Ramen from Nissin. The challenge for the brand was how to position itself so that it could create a distinctive position. It tried to take at dig at Maggi by directly calling itself ‘ Smoodles’ or smooth noodles. It urged customers ‘Don’t be a noodle. Be a Smoodle’. The brand adopted product attribute based positioning and highlighted its smoothness.

Sensing the opportunity, HUL jumped the fray and entered the market with their Knorr brand. Knorr, originally a soups brand in HLL’s portfolio was extended to noodle category. Knorr Soupy Noodles also targeted the in home children market. It boasted of a unique product in instant category and aimed at combining the fund of noodles with the health and goodness of soups. The brand positioned itself as noodles with soup for children to satisfy the in between meals hunger pangs. The brand’s communication focuses on a situation where a child demands something to eat before dinner at about 7 o’ clock.

GSK the makers of Horlicks entered the instant noodles market with their Foodles brand. GSK continuing with health and nutrition platform created Foodles. The brand’s launch was based on research inputs that instant noodles were not considered healthy and serving them induced guilt in mothers. The key ingredient in instant noodles, maida or refined flour, was not as healthy as whole wheat. While the positions of convenience and taste were already occupied, Foodles sought to play the game on nutrition positioning. Foodles tried to break into the monopoly of Maggi with Foodles positioned as nutritious instant noodles. The company used its Horlicks brand as mother brand to support its noodles brand..

Homegrown cigarette giant studied the instant noodles market and discovered some ways to cut into Maggi’s dominance. Its studies found chinks in Maggi’s armour. Maggi came in rectangular shape. It needed to be broken into two pieces for placing it in the pot for boiling. Pots used in kitchens always come in round shape like frying pan and cookers. This broke noodles and rendered them small in length. Second, kids often do not eat the noodles immediately. Noodles are also taken to schools in tiffin. Maggi noodles if not eaten immediately tend to turn lumpy and soggy with time. They stick together which was not really a fun to eat. Maggi’s masala contributes major share to its sale.  ITC leveraged its skills and created two tasty variants to give customers a choice.  ITC extended its Sunfeast brand into instant noodles category by launching Yippee. Yippee was positioned as noodles for the curious kids as long noodles which can be played around with while eating. The brand communication very cleverly but subtly aimed to promote its unique points of differentiation as longer non sticky tasty noodles which are ‘play’ to eat.

A market is an evolving organic system. There are many other brands which wrestled for share in the instant noodle market. One of the innovative concepts was launched by Nissin Cup Noodles. The brand point of difference was its out of home access to noodles when kids are on a picnic or an adventure trek and need an escape from the cooking process however small.The other brands which operate at small scale are Ching’s Secret, Smith & Jones and Wai Wai noodles. Future Group competes with its Tasty Treat brand which is sold in its retail chains like Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar.  These brands are pushed through the retail and compete on price positioning.

The story of noodles shows positioning is not about product because instant noodle is an instant noodle. How it is converted into a consumer relevant and competitively different concept is the question.

Jan Lokpal, Resignation, Middleclass, Enchantment or Disenchantment

Arvind Kejriwal ‘s resignation over his not being able to table the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill in the state legislature has sparked speculation about erosion of his support base. Both the BJP and the Congress legislatures were very visible on media in their vociferous attempts to block AAP’s efforts to get the Bill approved. All the three parties played out their strategies guided by their intentions to create right effect on electorate.  The Congress and the BJP defended their actions on the grounds of constitutional violation of the Bill’s direct introduction but expressed support to the idea of establishing  anti-corruption ombudsman. AAP accused both the national parties of collusion to thwart their attempts to get the Bill approved.


After 49 days of AAP’s rule in the capital and Kejriwal’s resignation, two extreme kinds of opinions seem to be circulating. Some believe that AAP’s support base would increase and they are likely to perform better in Delhi and it will establish firmly in forthcoming Lok Sabha elections by leveraging the anti-corruption sentiment.  However there are also people who believe that the Kejriwal’s 49 days of power has damaged his support base, especially the middle class voters (thinking voters) for his dharna, populist moves and now resignation.

How would these unfolding of event affect voter behavior? These events are unlikely to have any significant effect on hard core supporters of both the national parties (brand loyal). It is because their perception of reality is filtered through commitment to the ideas and ideals of the parties of their choice.  Hence the core constituencies of the Congress and the BJP will see CM’s resignation going in their favor, a bias created by perceptual mechanism (perceptual defense, distortion and filtration). They would end up picking that portion of reality which supports and reinforces their initial attitude/ liking for their political brand.  That is the reason why, the argument is raised so vociferously against AAP for violating constitutional procedure. The point of constitutional invalidity is likely to resonate well with loyalist of both the Congress and the BJP for its congruence with their initial attitude (you see what you want to see).

AAP has carved out its voters from support base of both the national parties.  How is the CM’s resignation likely to influence them? Heider’s  Balance theory can provide some insights here.  He distinguished between two types of relations between separate entities (e.g. attribute-high calories, brand-Pepsi and consumer): unit and sentiment relations.  Separate entities become a cognitive unit when they are perceived as belonging together like Abhishek and Amitabh or Suffola and heart and now AAP and anticorruption. Sentiment connection or relation indicates feeling or valuation that someone gives to an entity (positive or negative feelings towards Amitabh and Abhishek).  

A balance state for a person is when relations among the entities fit harmoniously fit together.  For instance, if I like (+) Amitabh and I don’t like (-) Abhishek and both are perceived as a unit (+), this is an imbalanced state.  Imbalanced states are stressful and cause friction. Therefore it will push me for moving towards balanced state by some mental (further thinking) and physical effort.  Thus Kejriwal’s resignation over Jan Lokpal Bill is unlikely to create erosion for people who see anti-corruption and Kejriwal or AAP as one unit (+) for they will have positive sentiment towards the both Kejriwal (+) and Jan Lokpal (+).  But if these event have altered the unity between Kejriwal and anti-corruption (-), he may be seen as wanting to become PM or escapist or populist or regressive (new unity between Kejriwal and escapist/populist etc, it would subtly produce tensions and people would move towards achieving a balanced state by revising their attitude towards AAP. This is likely to result in erosion of AAP’s voter base.

The strategy therefor for Kejriwal is to not this unity not get diluted. This is the reason why he has resigned as Delhi’s CM. Secondly do not let the issue of corruption move out of the center of the national debate in coming elections.

What should BJP camp do in this situation? Mounting attacks on Kejriwal is likely to make his brand stronger for he has preempted and appropriated the issue of anti-corruption singularly. The issue of corruption can only be decentered by not attacking AAP (it will create negative sentiment against the attacker).Rather place a bigger issue next to anti-corruption in voters’ perception which will create dwarfing effect.  BJP is right in focusing on growth and governance but it must avoid attacks on AAP for it path to majority in Parliament goes though AAP’s voter base.

Bal Thackeray, Power Brand and the Power of ‘Against’

Branding space is not limited to the world of commerce and business. Branding possibilities exist in virtually every sphere of activity involving exchange of value between two or more parties. In socio-political space, brands are created at a point where ideas intersect. Political brands like the BJP or Congress stand for a combination social, religious and business ideologies which they seek exchange with voting public. In the similar vein Barack Obama brand was meticulously created in the US at the centre of which sat the proposition of hope ignition (“Yes We Can”) and change (“Vote for Change”; “A New Beginning”).  Congress managed to dislodged NDA by appropriating an idea of common (‘aam admi’) which range bell with ordinary people, a silent majority left out and marginalized.

Branding begins with the search of a meaningful idea. There is no dearth of ideas; but the ones floating around tend to be less valuable. Surface ideas offer shallow platforms and create superficial relationships and hence fail to create deeper commitment. Real brands are created by a search and appropriation of ideas which lay buried in the depths of human consciousness. Their location below the threshold of awareness makes them  harder to reach. Only a few with a vision can access them. But these offer pristine branding opportunities. Hitler was bestowed with extraordinary powers visualize what Germans dreamt in their sleep and whispered in the quiet of themselves. He understood these well and subsumed in his ‘Nazi’ brand.  The longing for a change and feeling anomie that Americans suffered became the foundation stone of Obama brand.

Brands derive power from resonating and unique idea.  Brands resonate when the idea on which they are built connects deeply and intimately. The idea or insight must be built by a careful study of life condition of people (the idea of ‘beauty’ (Lux) or ‘iconoclasm’ (Apple). It is the power of idea that a brand manages to extract customer commitment, attachment, love and engagement and ultimately create a community. The critical condition defining a strong brand is that its idea should un- shared.

Whether one likes or not, the out pouring of lakhs of people on the streets of Mumbai to mourn the death of Bal Thackeray certainly provides testimony to the fact that he was a powerful brand.

  • Brands seek loyalty; on this measure he commanded unflinching loyalty of his followers.
  • Brands forge emotional connection to create following; his followers held deep emotional bonds.
  • True brands command unwavering allegiance.
  • Their customers can ‘go out of their way’ (bear discomfort or assThis was equally true for Thackeray.  Shiv Sainiks willingly take both physical and legal risk to carry the will of their brand. But the essential question remains, what idea did this brand appropriate?ume risk) for them.

Many brands forge connection based on the power of negative emotion. So brand strategy is built on the not what it is or who it is for rather what it is not and who it is not for. Bourdieu explains that preference formation may not a positive emotional response rather a negative one.  It implies choice is not based on what people most like but reject what is most disliked. It is choice based on rejection (‘refusal of the taste of others’/ ‘visceral intolerance of the tastes of others’). Class distinctions are often based the rejection of the style of others (lifestyle, tastes and preference).  The choice for a brand like Apple may be based on the rejection Nokia being the common choice of others. Bal Thackeray’s ideas were often based on opposition like support the emergency (when most people disliked it); admiration of Adolf Hitler (people hate him for what he did to Jews); against socialist trade unions (when socialism was cherished dream); and a movement called ‘Marathi Manoos’, anti- Bihari (against the idea of one nation one citizen).  

We may disagree with his ideas and ideology. But given the fierce loyalty that his brand commands it certainly stands for an idea highly differentiated and highly resonating for a select group of people.