Wanted: sensitivity, privacy

Harish Bijoor | Updated on February 22, 2012

Yuvraj Singh. - Photo : K . Bhagya Prakash .   -  The Hindu

It isn't right to exploit a brand ambassador's illness to commercial benefit, says our columnist.

With Yuvraj Singh ill, do you believe the entire to-do in terms of the public discussion, dissemination and debate on his health condition is justifiable? Also, Birla Sun Life Insurance is using him to advantage today. Is this right?

- Anwar Ahmed, Hyderabad

Anwar, first things first. I do believe the personal lives of celebrities and brand ambassadors are very important to protect. Even though these celebrities live public lives, they have the right to privacy when it comes to things that are as close to heart and body, as health. I, therefore, do believe that the public needs to afford Yuvraj this much-needed privacy. We saw this happen recently in the case of Sonia Gandhi, and we see it repeated now in the case of Yuvraj Singh. We need to rise above this for sure.

Birla Sun Life is using Yuvraj in a creative manner that is a perfect fit for the current situation. However, I do believe this needs to be dropped now with the gravity of the medical situation. Brands must not link the personal ills of an individual to their benefit. Even though this is happenstance, sensitivity is more important than making a perfect hit with the creative. The company has other creatives to use. Possibly this is the right time to plug in the creative execution with Sehwag. But this execution with Yuvraj must be dropped, for sure. I am sure the company will earn precious and positive brownie points on the score of sensitivity if it does this.

With Sahara opting out of its association with BCCI, who takes the hit?

- Samson P., Delhi

Samson, Sahara's and BCCI's has been a long-standing association of deep commitment. It has helped Sahara gain ubiquity through a mass game for its many offerings. And the BCCI has gained in terms of precious revenue.

With this current truncation of agreement, Sahara will be missed on the Indian cricket team's tee shirt, but take it from me, there will be another name out there, faster than we think. How about the Tata blue on the Indian blue? Seems a good fit for now.

Indian cricket is a long-term investment. Cricket is a forever game in India. Yes, we are currently going through what I would call the bathos-period, but we will come out of it. Brands that invest today will gain in the medium and long-term. So will it be a Tata? A Vodafone? Or a Reliance? Or anyone else from our pantheon of corporate organisations in India today?

With the AMRI fire and the Emami directors hauled off to jail, does Brand Emami suffer?

- Mallica Bagchi, Kolkata

Mallica, yes it does. The head honcho of a company in many ways is its brand ambassador. When the brand ambassador himself/herself falls from grace, the image of the brands promoted by the company takes a drubbing. This, however, happens largely in the minds of consumers who sit at the top of the brand-consumption pyramid as self-actualising consumers. These are consumers who are educated, empowered and are concerned about issues that relate to the 360-degree appreciation of the brand at hand. The rest at the bottom of the pyramid are not concerned at all.

Take Emami. Consumers at the bottom of the pyramid will not be concerned at all. To them, a product is a product. What the company's directors do is of no concern to them. Consumers who sit at the top of the pyramid of consumption will, however, think twice about the consumer brand and will attach that much more significance in their assessment of the brand to corporate performance or the lack of it.

The corporate enterprise will need to invest time, energy and money in rectifying existing issues. Negative issues such as these are like cankers that affect the brand. Once the canker has affected it, it remains like a dominant shadow that will overshadow everything else. For a while.

What is the key challenge to surmount for branded ayurvedic products in India?

- Rama P. Sabapathi, Chennai

Rama, the biggest challenge for Ayurvedic products is mass acceptance in a country that has turned its back on Ayurveda and indeed many of our ancient natural remedies. What has really happened is that the consumer has bitten into the allure of the allopathic so much, that Ayurveda seems retro and “not scientific enough”. Add to it the fact that India as a country is more attuned to curative medicare searches rather than preventive, Ayurveda has taken a back seat. Companies such as Himalaya Herbals have, however, done yeoman service in this space.

I am really glad that responsible companies operating in the Ayurveda space operate with long gestation periods. This means there is a great degree of responsibility that goes into the product at large. The tragedy is really in the fact that despite all this, Ayurvedic products remain in niches of competence. It takes a long, long while for these products to make an impact. Liv 52 is a classic example. A killer-product that took its time getting where it is.

Strangely enough, Ayurvedic products are welcomed more eagerly in Western markets than in India. Much like the way yoga has been embraced by the Westerner, while the Indian still sits on the wall of its widespread acceptance. China is different in this manner. In China, local Chinese medicines are common for everything from a toothache to cholesterol control. An early morning piece of travel in the streets of China will show you Tai Chi practitioners in every street corner. Can't say the same about yoga and India. Not yet.

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

Published on February 15, 2012

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