Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Of Legacy Brands and Trends in Retail

Of Legacy and Brands

By Harish Bijoor

Q: How do you distinguish a legacy brand? And how is a legacy brand built?

-Rohit Mangueshi, Mumbai

A: Rohit, Legacy brands need to essentially be mass brands. Brands that are accessible to the largest numbers of people. To that extent, in the pyramid
of brands, legacy brands are brands that fall in the middle and lower end of the pyramid rather than the top end. Therefore a Hugo Boss will not be a legacy brand. Instead, it is the MTR pickle and the Liv 52 from Himalaya and the Woodward’s Gripe water that will qualify better for the status.

The Legacy brand is one that stands the test of time, generations of use, generations of utility, and a rather intrinsic relationship with consumers, never mind their age. A Cadbury Dairy Milk would figure in this list as well...on this count.

To stand the test of time, a brand needs to maintain an impeccable line of quality. The brand needs to have had no major incidents of any kind that could plant a scar on its image, must be reasonably ubiquitous in its utility, must be solution oriented and not image-oriented alone (a biscuit versus Swarovski crystals), must be a basic item and not a fad that comes and goes (like a Covo chocolate spread or the Tazo), must be wholesome in its goodness appeal, and preferably taste-driven. This taste could be real taste as that of the tongue, or otherwise.

The marketer plays a distinct role in building a legacy brand. But bulk of it is done by the consumer. The marketer plays his role ensuring consistency of product appeal, and a consistent "wellness of the consumer" in mind forever. All strategies need to be geared in building such brands on a complete "Eastern
format" as I call it.

The "Eastern format" is the brand building format that asks "What can I give
the consumer" forever. The Western format is contra in the sense that it asks "What can I get back from the consumer...and how fast"!

The advertising and brand manager alike have a joint responsibility to ensure that consistency and reliability are used as cornerstones of both product and advertising delivery.

Q: If you were to isolate trends to watch out for in the retail market in the years ahead, what would they be?

-Pankaja Desikan, Chennai

A: Pankaja, this reply comes easily, as I have been evangelizing the same around quite a bit.

Here goes my list of ten trends to look out for in the retail market evolution head.

1.Small becomes more relevant
2.The small-retailer will organize himself into retail associations
3.Purchase cartels will emerge in India
4.Price under-cutting will remain the norm
5.Retailers will incur losses to earn customer walk-ins and franchise
6.Loyalty programs of retail outlets will get commoditized and fail to
7.Location-loyalty will reign in grocery, fruit and vegetable retail
8.Retailers will morph into the eye-balls business of Point of purchase
9.Point of purchase will become the point of advertising, the point of
marketing, the point of short the point of everything
10.Manufacturers’ brands will lose their sheen over a period of time. Retail
brands will rule.

Q: What’s left of brand Kelvinator? Do you see anything there? I used to work for this brand in the old days.

-K R Seshaiah, Hyderabad

A: Shesiah-‘gaaru’, I agree. Kelvinator was a big brand once upon a time. I do believe that the brand is still alive and kicking in many a consumer mind. And surely enough, the brand is alive and kicking in many a kitchen with the ever-famous Kelvinator compressor just not willing to give up.

The Kelvinator penguin is an ubiquitous brand image. I do believe, backed by
adequate media spend pressure, the brand can be re-invoked in the mind of
the discerning Indian consumer rather quick. The Kelvinator compressor has brand equity
that is rock-solid.

Re-inventing the brand magic is a possibility.

Q: Can heritage brands re-position themselves and stretch their offerings to other categories that are new?

-John K, kochi

A: John, I am a purist in the realm of brand thinking. I do believe brands must not extend themselves too thin. A brand is like an elastic. You stretch it too thin, it breaks. It loses its depth. All it gains is width. And width does not necessarily build heritage. It is depth that builds heritage.

Therefore, I do believe heritage brands must not extend themselves with new
sub-brand avatars. They must stay consistent to what they are. These brands
need to withstand the pressures of their immediate bottom-line profit seeking CEO's and Finance Directors alike.

As a purist, I do believe these brands need to treat themselves as unique as
some of our heritage monuments themselves. If the Taj Mahal were to be
replicated in every Indian city, the Taj would lose some of its sheen for sure. Imagine a Charminar in Delhi.....or a Gol Gumbaz in Bangalore. Stretching heritage brands is equally ridiculous an attempt. Short term and
myopic. There is no scope for short-termism in the management of heritage

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

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