Don't write Kingfisher off

HARISH BIJOOR | Updated on June 06, 2012

I'm curious. What's next for Brand Kingfisher? Is it all over?

- Samantha P. Cox, New Delhi

Samantha, good to be curious on the whole.

Kingfisher is a dominant brand in the Indian context. The brand, for a start, is a beer. And from there on has developed the brand equity of Brand Kingfisher Airlines. To that extent, the recent set of issues in aviation tends to hurt the equity of Kingfisher Airlines more than the beer. The airline is a service brand that touches the lives of hundreds of people. The beer is a product brand. To that extent there is less of an issue there. There is no transfer of negativity from aviation to beer, for sure.

The negative publicity that hits Kingfisher Airlines is really about the pains of the traveller more than anything else. A traveller faced with flight cancellations at the last minute is affected the most. This is where the biggest pain point of the brand equity of Kingfisher Airlines lies.

Public memory is, however, short. Do believe me, but this proverbial short public memory is a brand's best friend.

To that extent, all the current woes of Kingfisher Airlines will be forgotten faster than we believe they will. Remember all the issues that Jet Airways went through, with its employees protesting and venting their ire in public on national network television? Everything is forgotten today. Everyone lives happily ever after. Till the next fracas.

In reality nothing succeeds like success. I do believe this is a temporary blip in the brand equity fortunes of Kingfisher Airlines. With some degree of fund infusion, it will be business as usual. Just wait and watch for FDI in the aviation sector, and you will see the king of good times soar again. And how!

Right now, Kingfisher needs to get off the pedestal of being a brand and talk and emote with its users and those sitting on the fence of its usage. It is important to be transparent and admit folly where folly lies.

The Kingfisher brand is one that has been designed carefully with a lot of patience and passion. It would be unfair to write it off so soon and so quick.

Nokia is still topping brand charts in India despite its low growth and loss of market shares. How?

- Seenu Venkatesan, Mumbai

Seenu, the reason why Nokia does get repeatedly listed in the top ten is simply because of what I call the “ubiquity effect”. Please do note that the largest numbers of mobile handsets in use as of now in India is quite likely to be the Nokia handset in the middle and upper-end segment. Add to it the fact that the mobile phone is a 24 X 7 device that people do not switch off even when they sleep.

This ubiquity gives a halo effect to the brand that is used by most. Many swear by their mobile phones. Many can't do without them. This proximity adds to the halo effect of the hand-phone brand. And Nokia is a benefactor, as of now. Give it five years more for the Samsung effect to set in. Samsung is the next big guy lurking round the corner.

How do coffee café chains globally ensure consistency in terms of delivery? And what is the learning for me?

- Rohinton P. Malla, Mumbai

Rohinton, the issue is all about scale. Once scale develops, you can look at central sourcing. And central sourcing is all about consistency in offerings. Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts globally believe in the mechanics, efficiency and delivery of central sourcing. Their systems are totally integrated with technology and what it can deliver in terms of back-end efficiency.

What is it that you can learn from the business model of Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts then?

From Starbucks, Indian companies can learn about the power of a brand and the power of consistency in delivery, the power of pulsating with the consumer mind, mood and movement. From Dunkin' Donuts, the best thing to learn is the fact that the consumer has little time to sit and dawdle in the future. On-the-go coffee is a format whose time will come in the future. Prepare for it aggressively and morph your sit-down models to talk the language of stand-up and on-the-go coffees as well.

It is important to remember that every cafe market has a glass ceiling. This glass ceiling is all about saturation in terms of numbers, boredom with ubiquity, lack of differentiation, the consumer in a state of recession, and a continuous lack of value-for-money propositions. Most Western markets have reached this level over the last three decades. India to that extent is still a nascent cafe market and this is a market that will grow. Café Coffee Day, the market leader, has shown us that success can be made to happen.

How is tea such a big drink in India, far bigger than coffee?

- Sapna Khanna, New Delhi

Sapna, tea is India's favourite beverage. The per capita consumption of tea is a multiple of 11 to that of coffee. India's mass beverage of choice is tea.

All this has happened progressively over the decades with the painstaking effort of the early companies in this space that did yeoman work. Brooke Bond and Lipton were the two companies that worked hard in this field.

The heritage of tea plantations run to painstaking British norms in the North Eastern regions of the country helped establish an origin status for tea as well. Pioneering marketers went village to village in the country to popularise the drink. The edifice of tea consumption was built brick by brick with painstaking marketing effort. I would call this early tea evangelism. That created this big status for tea in India.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Published on June 06, 2012

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