By Harish Bijoor
I have put together a brand recently. This is a brand of apartments. The first set
of 206 apartments is up and occupied. How do I build my brand further?
K Geddam, Hyderabad
A: Gopi, the traditional in-the-box marketing
and advertising guys will tell you to build a brand and advertise and
advertise. I will not.
Instead, there is plenty you can do. For a start get inclusive. Get inclusive
not only about the community you serve as buyers and owners and tenants, but
get inclusive about helping out and catering to the community around. Get green
as well. Ensure that every opportunity to plant green and save green is
capitalized upon. Embrace, adopt and propagate water harvesting with passion.
Again not within your complex alone, but all around the local community you
build in. Be the most benign name in a radius of at least 3 kilometers from
your building for a start. Stretch out and reach out. I do believe the basic
mantra of being inclusive, being concerned and being green, is a good
universal stance to embrace.
This will do you good. It will get you the blessings you deserve. In the
beginning these are small and quiet little blessings. I know you are a builder
or an apartment in business and not a builder in the realm of charity. But be
patient. These small little blessings have a way of correcting your brand
Karma. They have a sweet little habit of converting into what we call
"positive collective goodwill". And this positive collective goodwill
has a habit of converting into a positive brand appeal. Your future consumers
will come from this very community. Today they may look poor and impoverished.
Tomorrow is however theirs! Try it.
Q: In this day and age when your competition comes from everywhere, irrespective
of geography, how do you compete?
-Mallika Pishe, Pune
A: Mallika, that is the new reality. Customers come from
Customers, in the age-old days (and by that I mean fifteen
years ago) had a geography. Today, all that is history. Geography is totally
irrelevant as far as your customer is concerned. Your customer is your
neighbor, the little-girl who lives down the lane, that stodgy old lady you
don't know at all but who lives in your city, that goofy guy who lives ten
thousand kilometers away, and whose only identity is his Twitter id and his
credit card verification slip that says he is an ok customer to deal with.
Just as the very definition of your market has expanded
exponentially, shattering issues relating to geography, access and distance,
the very nature of competition has itself morphed. Today, your competition
comes not from the neighborhood kirana shop, but might as well come from an e-Kirana
on e-bay. Technology in many ways has evened it all out. We are now
nearly touching the theoretical state of Pure Competition all of us learnt in
our early Economics classes.
The key prescription for getting customers is the ability
to brand and stand out. The first need is brand image. Brand image in many ways
is the window through which your customer will peek into your offering. Opening
this window wide enough and keeping it open for enough number of customers to
peek in, is the primary task at hand. The prescription to sustain these
customers within the brand is that much more complex. It is all about the
excellent experience your brand will need to provide against any other. It is
about the quality you offer, and the customer delight you wear on the sleeve of
your brand. Your brand must not only promise this, your brand must deliver this
as well. Not once, but every time. The best and highest norms of customer
service excellence is the next cutting edge property your brand must develop,
deliver and sustain.
Q: Can exclusivity help a brand? The strategy of making something limited
and very inaccessible even?
-P Hari Madhavan, New Delhi.
A: Hari, exclusivity has a purpose. Exclusivity shuts out many from the buying
class. Exclusivity creates snob appeal and literally bears a virtual signboard
outside to many that says, "Do not enter". This is a tactic really,
and not part of brand strategy. It works sometimes. But fails mostly. Gone are
the days of snob appeal. Brands need to be as real as their consumers are.
Brands cannot afford to alienate themselves into a narrow dark corner of their
Brands need to be more
broad-spectrum and open today. Today is a different day and age. Even snob
appeal needs to be broad-based.
Q: What will FDI in retail do to small Mom
and Pop stores in India?
-Kevin Mendiratta, Mumbai.
A: Kevin, this is a big question and requires a big, deep and long answer. But
I will not do that. Let me cut the chase head right to the end meat of it all.
put: there is bound to be a progressive aggregation of trade in retail. This
means mom and pop stores that operate within a radius of 3 Kms of the big
outlet will become non-competitive. But the biggest joy is that India is just too
big. We are a nation of 14.6 million retailers. Mom and Pop stores will
still remain relevant and will still remain the ones who reach into the gut of
the Indian market.
will therefore survive. Some will thrive more than others, and some will be
just snuffed out, but then that is Retail Darwinism at play. Ouch.