Monday, July 22, 2013


Position yourself at a unique but relevant point in the customer’s mind map; else your brand will merely resemble a blip, hanging like an albatross around the marketer’s neck

Zara arrived in India in 2009. By 2012-13 it was making Rs.45 crore per store, the highest among all the retailers. It of course follows the same formula in India as in the rest of the world: offer affordable, copycat versions of the latest fashion and make them available to the shoppers in double quick time. A true USP does help, though sometimes quirkiness itself may work too. At Ka Tron restaurant in Thailand customers are treated to the bizarre sight of loading cooked chickens into a catapult and firing them across a stage where they are caught on a spike by a waiter riding a unicycle. Cabbage & Condoms, another one at Bangkok, serves noodles alongside sexual health and family planning advice. Once the customer has paid he gets the change back with a complimentary condom.

The idea is simple. The marketer seeks to provide a unique experience either by offering something the target customer has not partaken earlier, or by enacting an unusual performance, or by even a quirky – bordering on bizzare – but eye catching mock up. Else you adapt. The mother of all romance books (Mills and Boon) has decided to go desi, even vernacular, with titles like ‘Punar Milan’ and ‘Raaste Pyar Ke’. The new titles are customised for Indian readers to cater to their psyche. And in India since romance cannot be separated from Bollywood, Lootera film characters are being featured on the cover of a special edition besides being part of two stories. Virtually all international luxury suiting brands offer made-to-measure option since readymades don’t necessarily fit the pot-bellied Indians.

In case you still haven’t caught the drift what we are trying to spot light it is: how a brand can deliver value through market differentiation.

A brand acts like a clutch for the customer in the sea of myriad offerings. As competitive claims assail his senses the buyer uses a complicated decision making process to assess the alternatives available before finally voting for one. More clearly the brands are associated with a particular set of attributes – in terms of deliverable credible benefits – the quicker becomes his search process. Instead of having to compare every variable about one product with other competitive offers, he uses his personal Gestalt of each rivaling brand to compare them. The challenge for the marketer, therefore, is to use the tools of branding at his disposal to ensure that the most superior bundle of benefits – from customer’s perspective – is embedded in his brand (see figure 1). For that the seller must position the brand in the customer’s mind in a distinctive slot – far removed from rival brands to stand apart yet be close enough to meaningful benefits to provide unmatched value. And as we mentioned earlier this benefit package need not necessarily be served on a functional platform; rather it can come alive through an unusual performance or quirky experience. And of course, since customer is not merely benefit seeker but a value hunter, the benefit package must be delivered at an appropriate price point. Through this process the marketer must create expectations of particular level of value from his brand- and exceed these expectations. The road to customer value lies, therefore, in positioning the brand uniquely on the customer’s mindmap.

How do you then add value through positioning? Well, this can be accomplished by following the process outlined in the figure 2.

Thus one way is to extend existing value dimensions. Among other things this can be done through more authentic delivery of attributes and benefits. Priyanka Chopra is getting into the skin of the Olympian boxer Mary Kom’s character by living with her and learning boxing. Deepika Padukone delivers her lines in heavy duty South Indian accent in Chennai Express. Then there was immortal characterisation of Amitabh Bachchan as a progeria ridden child in Paa. The characters acquire appropriate physique, wardrobe, hairstyle, and the accent. Earlier masala movies always customised their characters according to the star essaying the role. But now Farhan Akhtar, for his screen avatar of Milkha Singh, trained extensively on race tracks, underwent high altitude training, developed the same body structure, stance, and running style as that of the athlete. He worked out to acquire a ripped body with less than 5% body fat. Kai Po Che, Chashme Baddoor, Jolly LLB, Ashiqui 2, all small budget films did well at the box office due to quality content. Lootera characters being 1950s vintage wear clothes that were fashioned after rummaging through old Calcuttan zamindar families’ albums, portraits, or ever the actual costumes of those times. To give the clothes naturally aged and home washed look they were repeatedly washed at a dhobi ghaat (and not in a laundry) but not ironed so as to give them a naturally crumpled look.

Alternatively, you can create new value dimensions. Instead of simple love stories now cinema goers prefer romance laced with other undercurrents. Lootera is positioned as a crime thriller, while Shudh Desi Romance tries to understand how modern lifestyle is seeping into the simplistic small town set up and violating time-tested values like love, trust, and commitment. Old hits are being remixed with new sounds and English lyrics so as to suit the younger audience since a major utility of a Bollywood song nowadays is to serve well as a track for dance floor. Since the movies are getting real, more and more gray characters, appearing as anti heroes, are able to connect better with the audience who is looking for something unique, something different. Manoj Bajpai in Gangs of Wasseypur, the average looking Dhanush in Raanjhanaa, Akshaya Kumar as an unassuming trickster, wearing spectacles, moustache, and oiled hair in Special 26 all break away from stereotypes, yet have been embraced by the audience. You have to connect well with the customers. In Punjab now Heer wears Swaroski studded bangles while Ranjha sports a Rolex. Mika drives an Orange hued Hummer and Honey Singh expounds virtues of a Gucci handbag, simultaneously zipping in a Bugati announcing his preference for a desi over a gori girl. Sharry Maan waeves in Armani in his songs. All these songs extol the aspirational Punjabi lifestyle which itself seeks to imitate Western way of living. What if a Pajero is driven in the fields ideally suited for tractor! Desi beats do the trick for firangi brands.

And yet you have to bow to the customer’s sensitivities and sensibilities. In Chennai Express Deepika is playing a traditional Tamil girl. But she is being criticised for using a Malyali and not Tamil accent. Being born in Copenhagen and bred in Bengaluru setting apart the two twangs in spoken Hindi must be tough of course for Deepika. Anyway in Rohit Shetty’s films detailing is hardly cared for; so an accent coach might not be available perhaps on the sets. But the audience is unforgiving; brand authenticity cannot be allowed to be compromised.

So remember unique must be relevant too. Poor Emraan Hashmi is not allowed to shift to artsy and edgy cinema (Ek Thi Daayan, Shanghai, Ghanchakkar – all flops) since his fans like and expect him to be the lovable bad boy who sings Aatif Aslam songs preferably in Vishesh Films productions. Dharmendra (Yamla Pagla Deewana 2) forgot that film stars need to reinvent themselves with advancing age – like Brand Bachchan has done by doing solid character roles among a young star cast (Mohabatein, Kabhi Khushi, Kaante, Baghban).

Success mantra therefore remains: position yourself at a unique but relevant point in the customer’s mind map; else your brand will merely resemble a blip, hanging like an albatross around the marketer’s neck (Agent Vinod, Matroo, et al). Brands are for making moolah, not just for winning accolades, after all!


No comments:

Post a Comment