Sunday, January 07, 2007


Negative Brands

A Louis Philippe on my sleeve…..

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Why are brands so powerful? What’s special about them?

-Renee Batra, New Delhi

Renee, brands are special. Brands are powerful.

The brand is omnipresent in our lives. The modern day consumer cannot do without it. Every waking moment is occupied by the use of some brand or the other. From the first thing you do in the morning to the last thing in the night, brands are a part of our lives. You could even dream brands, which makes it a 24 X 7 eventuality.

The brand is Omnipotent. Most brands make us feel powerful. Brands build confidence. A simple and sedate crown at the end of a sleeve is enough to distinguish you and your choice at a Board meeting. You are a Louis Philippe man, woman or child..

The brand is Omniscient as well. It is a part of modern day man’s psyche. Much of the time you think in terms of brands. The brand is an obvious part of our lives today. The future is even more so.

The last time we used these three words, it was all about God! Omnipresent. Omnipotent. Omniscient.

The brand has become a special and inalienable entity in the lives of most consumers. And that’s the reason why brands are powerful today. Brand-names mean a lot. They mean so much to the consumer that the original meaning of the word in question itself is long forgotten.

Do this exercise. Stop reading this for a while and give me a quick response. What is kingfisher?

Your quick response is always a beer! And then maybe an airline! Hit yourself on the head.

The real answer: kingfisher is a bird! But you have long since forgotten this. You have been made to forget this even. And that is the power of a brand!

Q: I work for an Ad-agency of repute. There is just too much of change here. Why?

-Ratna Menon, Mumbai

A: Ratna, the advertising agency business is one that is related to the business of the client at hand. The client-end business is a dynamic one today. The client-end business is related to the consumer in the marketplace. This consumer business is as dynamic and maverick as it comes. In result, the advertising agency business is on a dynamic morph mode.

The Ad-agency of today is facing issues that are different. The issues are many. For a start, client expectations from a full-service ad-agency is changing rapidly. The client is becoming more demanding. He wants the agency to service the account without loading onto it the cost of running an ad-agency with too many over-heads. The agency is being questioned by the client on the size of the team and its productivity standards. The client is seeking accountability in terms of delivery and measurement metrics are coming into vogue. This is demanding stuff.

The client is demanding a correlation between advertising spend and sales output. This is stuff that challenges the poorly but oft quoted 'Ogilvism': I know 50% works, but am not too sure which 50%.

Ad-agonies are also facing the threat of shrinking margins on their business. The 15% commission is under threat all the time. It is fashionable to question the 15% commission all the time. The question being asked all the time: Why should the 15% commission be related to media spends alone and why not to everything else that the agency does and is meant to do? The annual-fee basis of doing work is knocking on the door of the Ad-agency at large. All this is building up the bile and tension.

Clients are increasingly in-sourcing the strategic planning business as well, moving it out of the ad-agency. Agencies are therefore progressively being painted into the corner of a specialization as of today, Creative and media.

With the emergence of independent media outfits, the media portion is under threat as well. The specialized agencies in the market are weaning away precious business. The Ad-agency business is becoming more and more competitive. The client is enjoying all this action.

And all this action is creating the churn within the ad-agency at large. I believe this churn is for the positive. Enjoy it and learn from it.

Q; 2.Can negative things or images be a brand? For example the "great Indian politician”?

-Debasis Samanta, location un-disclosed.

Debasis, you are absolutely right. The brand need not be a positive entity at all. That is the misnomer that has percolated many a mind to date. The brand can be a negative entity for sure.

Veerappan the dacoit is a brand. Osama Bin Laden is a brand as well. Both these brands are largely categorized as negative brands. The point to however remember is that no brand is negative to all people, just as no brand is positive to all people. There are folks who think Veerappan the dacoit to be a positive person, just as Osama is worshipped in many parts of the world as a hero.

The brand, as per my definition, is a thought. This thought can be a positive thought or a negative one. What is important is the thought and not the value-judgement of it being a positive or negative one. A negative thought can be so powerful that it can evoke a positive emotion. Negative thoughts can create an equal amount of passion if not more, than positive thoughts even.

Q: Is Television viewership getting splintered and affected amongst those who work for the night-shift BPO sector? What’s new here?

-Rohith Agarwal, New Delhi

Rohith, this is a tail of a new trend we are catching.

The BPO-worker audience is a small percentage of the total Television viewership today. Take a number of 4, 58,000 BPO employees today. Just under one percent. But the pie is growing. The important point however is that the Tech, ITES and Biotech crowd is the one with the most of disposable income in its hands. This mass is getting distanced from
television programmes as their timings are completely different from the
other sets of consumers with normal jobs that go 9 to 5!

This is so in the case of not only television viewing habit, but in terms of
shopping habits as well. A BPO employee is now looking for opportunities at
extended shopping hours for malls. Midnight shopping will help solve the
problems around here. Restaurants, eateries and pubs have similar issues. in
a city like Bangalore, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Chennai and Pune alike, with the closing hours stipulated by law to be
11.30pm. This new consumer finds a latent
shopping want unfulfilled.

The trend towards nigh-shifts will certainly be something to track. More
folks will work the Owl-shift. We therefore need Owl-television just as we
need owl-malls that stay open through the night as we need other adjunct
supports to night working.

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


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