In an era burgeoning industrialisation brands have finally come face to face with a nemesis that they never thought could have existed, a nemesis they can never hope beat. Why? How awful it must be for them (the brands) that they are surrounded by competitors
who are exactly like them. Now it’s no longer the question who’s better, whose technology is more superior or who has a better supply chain, because all brands are almost the same. So how can they possibly claim superiority over their competitors? This is what Super Man must have felt like when he collided with Bizarro Man who exactly the same as him in every conceivable way, the only difference being, (to use a marketing term) their packaging. This is exactly what the all brands are forced to face these days. A Coke is as good as a Pepsi, a Bajaj as good as a TVS, a Nokia is as good as a Sony Errikson. So how can any particular brand entice customers buy their products, when they are so many brands they can choose from?
So what’s the answer? Building up brands in such a way that it connects with the consumers is able to create that special brand – customer bond that goes beyond immediate monetary gains. That is where I believe the difference lies between communication objective and marketing objective. Marketing objective as the term suggests deals exclusively with marketing while communication objectives end result is not an immediate increase of sales but creating an identity, an face for the brand, that the customers will hopefully love and respect. I will try an elaborate this view with the help of couple of examples.
Bajaj Auto’s two wheelers had enjoyed market leadership till the late 80’s without any major threat of competition. It roped in millions of satisfied customers. It was the largest selling scooter in India. But things changed during the late 80’s, where Bajaj, especially Bajaj scooters faced competition from LML Vespa and Kinetic Honda. Both these competitors were claiming technological superiority of their products. Though Bajaj claimed ‘value for money for years, the new competition created a perception that Bajaj scooters were made of old technology that was now on its way out. However, in order to upgrade its technology, it needed time and resources. In the mean time, Bajaj Auto wanted to further consolidate its leadership status. Till Bajaj saw competition, their advertisements spoke about product features, sales figures and product ranges available, etc. The new competition forced Bajaj and its advertising agency – Lintas – to rework on their communication strategies. The assignment in front of the advertising agency was to take the brand ‘Bajaj scooters’ to a superior position without altering the already established brand equity of the product.
The company and the agency shortlisted factors which has strong India-association, such as, Independence Day, sports (cricket), cinema and heritage. The company released a press campaign in 1990 with the theme ‘the great Indian spirit’. This was also prudently extended to the electronic media. The commercial depicted habits and behavioural aspects of a cross-section of the population comprising the length and breadth of India, such as Panjabis, Parsis, etc. Thus, the commercial was targeted at the emotions of the viewers with relation to the brand. For that commercials were first written in English and later translated in Hindi. The birth of ‘Hamara Bajaj’ took place with the Hindi translation. The company, promptly replaced ‘the great Indian spirit’, identifying the potential of ‘Hamara’. The term ‘Hamara’ encompasses the entire target audience – consumer or not; it led to a strong association with India. Indians are proud to say ‘Hamara India’. Thus, ‘Hamara Bajaj’.
The theme ‘Hamara Bajaj’ not only helped the company to build its brands. But it also functioned indirectly as a motivator to all those associated with the company : the dealers, employees, suppliers… Bajaj, in the process of brand building, has also built national pride and enjoyed positive mileage as a result.
This is one way for a brand to build an identity for itself. Bajaj had it not invested in revamping its communication policies it would have died out, because it really didn’t have the recourses to compete with companies like LML and Kinetic Honda whose technology undeniably much superior to that of Bajaj. So the only reason consumers persisted with Bajaj in spite of the fact that tilting the Chetak to the side for starting was a common joke, was because of brilliant communication strategies of Bajaj.
The second example I would like to forward would be that of the Virgin group of enterprises. Virgin has created a unique identity for itself as an ultimate underdog.
The company typically enters markets and industries populated by established players such as British Airways, Coka Cola, Levi Strauss, British rail, and Smirnoff and portrays them as being somewhat complacent, bureaucratic, and unresponsive to customers need. In contrast Virgin is perceived as an underdog who cares innovates and delivers an attractive alternative to what customers have been buying. When British Airways attempted to prevent Virgin from gaining routes, Virgin painted British Airways as a bully standing in the way of an earnest youngster whose alternative promised better value and service. Virgin personified by Richard Branson – the founder of Virgin is the modern day Robin Hood, the friend of the little guy.
More over Virgin’s is personality driven brand. Virgin’s communication objective is to ensure that people are attracted to the brand not just due to its functional benefits but more due the endearing personality of its owner the flamboyant billionaire Richard Branson. Virgin has a very strong brand equity and the company has worked to make the consumers feel that there is a bit ‘Virgin’ in each one of them.
So if the Virgin brand is personified as a person these would be his qualities:
• FLAUNTS THE RULES
• IS AN UNDERDOG, WILLING TO ATTACK THE ESTABLISHMENT
• IS VERY COMPETENT &ALWAYS DOES A HIGH QUALITY JOB