Friday, July 20, 2007


Love & Hate?

The Love-Hate Pendulum

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Do consumers switch off brands just as they switch onto brands? Is a brand forever?

-Ravi Balasubramanian, Chennai

A: Ravi, there is the answer that is aspirational and then there is the answer that is practical.

The aspirational answer pouted to you by Brand Gurus of every ilk is that the brand is forever. I do not believe in this really. I believe the brand is like a human being.

First of all the brand is alive. It is born, it needs to be fed every living moment, and it thrives with care and nurturing. The brand becomes self-sustaining after a while. The brand thrives with attention and withers away with neglect. And just as a human being dies, brands die as well. Only their life-span can be longer than the life-span of a normal human being. If a human being lives all of 76 years, a brand may live all of 400! Death is however inevitable.

Does it mean that a Coca Cola will die some day and a Marlboro will need to be buried sometime in the future? The answer is a big yes. We may not see it in our life-time, but happen it will!

The birth of a brand and its flourishing occurs when consumers switch-on to brands. When brands excite consumers, the brand thrives. The death of a brand happens when consumers switch-off and move out of not only consumption, but even out of thinking of the brand at all.

I have put forth the theory of the “Love-Hate pendulum” on this subject of brand switch-ons and offs. Very briefly, I postulate brand-love and brand-hate as two ends of the extreme-swing of a pendulum in motion. Right in the beginning, the pendulum motion starts from the franchise and buy-in of a brand. At this point the pendulum is at one extreme of swing. This is brand-love 100. And then, the inevitable happens with the passing of time, the exposure to the brand, exposure to other brand options, fatigue, and the emergence of new wants, needs and aspirations of the consumer at hand.

The pendulum therefore swings back slowly at a pace that is distinct to different categories. From Love score of 100, the pendulum moves to a score of 90 and lesser and lesser till it reaches a neutral state of zero.

The pendulum then starts its reverse swing upwards in the other direction. The other extreme end of the pendulum swing is Hate 100. From a zero neutrality state, the pendulum now swings to a Hate score of 10, and then more and more till it reaches the extreme of 100 Hate.

Fortunately, this state is not sustainable as well. The pendulum begins its reverse move once again, and the process is a continuous one. The only reality of brands is the oscillation from a state of complete brand-love to complete brand-hate.

This process may take months, years or decades. Consumers may not pass fully through every stage before dying out of the market even. My Love-Hate pendulum theory explains brand switch-ons and offs and completely decimates the concept of the perennially-liked brand altogether.

As consumer society evolves, the pendulum swings faster and faster. Brand marketers need to keep this in mind.

Q: Tattoo art is in vogue among the young. Is this not basic and crass?

-Sudha Mangalam, Chennai

A; Sudha, I will not pass a value-judgement on this. I will however reply within the context of the theme of the query and the column at hand.

In many ways the tattoo is the ultimate form of branding. In fact the first form of branding there is to remember.

The very first reference to the term ‘branding’ in modern day memory is that about the ‘branding’ of a cow with a rustic and rudimentary tattoo done out of fire and wood. An insignia on a cow to distinguish its ownership.

The tattoo is rudimentary and crass in that manner of speaking. As a generation of young Indians adopts the tattoo as a fashion statement that requires quite a bit of courage and wee bit of pain to embrace, we are re-inventing the branding game on the body you own.

A Café chain in the United States has gone one step beyond in the game of personal branding. This Café chain recruits youngsters to join the chain and wants them to stay loyal to the chain in these absolutely job-promiscuous days. It has a condition for those who want to join it. An entrant must agree to get a permanent tattoo on his serving fore-arm that has the Café-chain’s name imprinted. What a way to ensure loyalty!

Q: What would you suggest to market a premium fitness product in India?

-Saranjith Ramachandran


A: Saranjith, first of all I would suggest a stiff consulting fee!

On a more serious note, fitness is emerging as a great big opportunity for the marketer at large.

The reasoning is simple. India is changing. Consumers in our country are fast climbing the rungs of the pyramid of consumption. While in the early days the consumer is besotted with the basics of food, clothing and shelter, later days have consumers demanding the security products and social esteem products that make for a good and safe life-style. When all this is done with, the consumer moves on to focus on a healthy life-style.

This is the consumer who has been there and done that. He has earned a life-style for himself and his family. Time to focus on personal health. This is a consumer who has climbed the rungs of prosperity. What he buys into as a fitness product will be oriented to his physical and psychological well-being. He is willing to pay a premium for it.

Products such as Foot-massage machines, full body massage chairs, obesity reducing vibrating belts and the kind hold a big market out here.

The key need to cater to in this market is the need for scientific information that is corroborated as fact. The consumer in this consuming rung will fork out the ‘moolah’ if only what he is buying is a thoroughly researched item.

Selling of the premium fitness product in India needs to follow a complete Integrity-selling model where all the facts are revealed to the most open levels of dissemination. There have been just too many instances of scam-selling in this category.

Never ever sell anything that does not add value to the buyer at large. If you stick to this dictum and use it to your advantage, the credibility you bring to the party is a USP in itself in this category.

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



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