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Monday, Sep 23, 2002

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The brand way to success

Vandana Viswanath

Successful Branding
By Pran K. Choudhury
Publishers: University Press, New Delhi
Price: Not mentioned

Take one narrow strip of green land. Sandwich it, between a lush mountain range and a sky blue ocean. Now, marinate the whole experience with the salty appeal of verdant backwaters. Saute in a glorious tropical sun. Now, garnish with fresh whole coconut groves. Add a pinch of exotica with two helpings of history and legend, for flavour. At the right moment, add three drops of brand essence. Call it God's Own Country. Now, serve the entire experience, piping hot, to the waiting world. Let simmer....

If Kerala is ranked today among the planet's choicest holiday destinations, it certainly isn't a happy accident. For close to two decades now, a global branding campaign has assiduously cultivated the image and identity of India's southernmost West Coast State.

Then again, from Kerala to Keo-Karpin to Kwality's, the name of the game is Branding. And, when it comes to India's all-too-recent brand history, there are very few chronicles to go around.

The author has masterfully mapped the route that a successful brand takes to establish itself. It takes the intelligent, uncompromising advertising prophet to conceptualise, initiate and create the successful brand campaigns.

As early as 1960, Ted Levitt of the Harvard Business School prophesied that Brands and Branding will be the essence of competitive advantage in the 21st century. Well, it is the 21st century. And Pran K. Choudhary, a subcontinental brand guru, has his take on the brand experience in India. `Successful Branding' opens to a Foreword by Shunu Sen. Boost, Bacardi, Arvind's Denim, Maggi, Dettol and Genteel are some of the examples chosen by the author to illustrate his theories.

Branding, Chapter One explains, is the intense craft of identifying one brand among a crowd of many, quite like one identifies a known face in a crowded street. Customers prefer certain brands, ignore others and, in some cases, build a lifetime loyalty to the chosen few. This, one has to admit, has been formed as the result of the image-building exercise, employed by the brands in question. Branding then, becomes one of the finest balancing acts on the corporate planet. Ten case studies speak of the sweat and brainwork that went behind etching those names in the mind of the customer.

The facts are presented in an extremely intelligent and reader-friendly manner and, are propped by the statistics. Targeted at ad agencies, brand managers, marketing companies and students of marketing, the book centres itself exclusively around Indian case studies. It lifts the veil on the brands one knows and reveals the strategy devised to create its image and identity.

Reading this book lead me to the Brand Adoption Model discussed by Philip Kitchen and Don Schultz, in their recent work Raising the Corporate Umbrella: Corporate Communications for the 21st century. Here, the six customer-centric steps towards brand loyalty include: Awareness (I have heard of the brand); Consideration (I will think about using the brand); Trial (I will use the brand); Retrial (I will use the brand again); Adoption (I love this brand. This is the only brand I will use) and Recommendation/Referral (I love the brand so much. I tell many others about it). The range of products chosen, however, is limited to FMCGs, and predominantly, healthcare products.

The book does deserve appreciation for illustrations. Labels of Bournvita bottles, Horlicks biscuits and print advertisements of Keo Karpin Oils and De Beers make for welcome breaks in the overall flow of the text.

However, the lack of a bibliography and reference index do detract from its overall content. The power of the brand is not be underestimated. In India, the drink habit still raises eyebrows. Yet, Bacardi is a reputed brand today. The favourite snacks of Indians used to be samosas and kachoris. Things have not been quite the same since Maggi noodles spun their two-minute magic. India, already home to flavoured milk drinks such as badam, kaju and ragi, have given way to Horlicks, Bournvita and Boost, that promise health, immunity and energy.

The truimphal march of brands into the Indian marketplace continues. And `Successful Branding' promises to be a handy guide to the bewildered professional trying to make sense out of the din and clamour of the great Indian brand bazaar.

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The brand way to success

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