Saturday, July 26, 2008


IIM's and Poor students

The Sky and the Marketplace

By Harish Bijoor

Q: There are brands that have a good recall but low purchase by consumers. For instance, Amul Chocolate is well know and well recalled brand of chocolates but that recall is not being converted into purchase even though AMUL has launched several chocolate variants like ChocoZoo & SugerFree chocolate. Similar situation is seen with Britannia's MilkMan Dairy Whitener, Anchor Tooth Paste etc.

How do you explain this strange phenomenon?

Muralidhar, Chennai

A: Murali, at the outset, there are two aspects in the realm of selling and marketing. One is the realm of brand image. The other is the realm of sales. The two are twains that meet sometime. And sometime they do not. Or apparently not.

Brand image and recall is one subject. Sales volume and the strategies that fall into place to get that going, is another. In many ways, branding and brand image is not about sales really.

And whenever I say this, the quick question that comes back is a simple one. If branding has little to do with the subject of selling, what’s the use of branding at all?

The answer is a simple one as well. Branding is all about the short-term, medium-term and long-term image of the brand in question. Sales is really the short-term approach to garner market volume. And short-term could mean the sale volume of the monthly cycle even. And sometimes it could mean sales strategy, which could cover a relatively longer period of time.

Brand image therefore does not ensure and assure sale volume. Your brand image could be very positive, and your sales volume could be very, very negative.

Conversion of brand-image into sale volume and value is a very slow process. It is so slow a process that at times it is not visible at all. At times it takes decades for it to happen.

Brand image in many ways is like the sky above us. Everyone knows it is there. Everyone is happy about the way it looks. Everybody looks at it in awe at times. Everyone is comfortable with its presence. Everyone will talk of it in awe. Write poetry on it even.

But no one wants a piece of it. No one wants to own a piece of it. It is just there.

Brand image is therefore not about sales. It is the facilitating environment that creates the positive image that in turn drives interest in the product and its offering. This interest could get converted into an avid desire to own the product or service.

It is there that sales with its allure comes in. Sales tactics offered by clever sellers will help swing the sale in.

Therefore, don’t worry if an Amul chocolate is yet to take off or Britannia image is yet to create that robust sale in the marketplace. Remember, if the sky didn’t exist, the marketplace wouldn’t be there at all.

Q: With the recent fee hikes at IIMs there seems to be a shake-up with students having to cough up more moneys. Is there equity here? The fee seems to come first. What about the poor students around?

-Sheela Ramani, Hyderabad

A: Sheela, I do believe the fee comes last.

The fee structure at an IIM is the last of the issues at hand. The first issue is merit. The first issue is the ability of a student to study for the CAT and get through the CAT. Some students spend a whole year on this and some spend a crash-course of three months and others spend no time at all and get through it.

The preparation process for the CAT costs money. This is the first hurdle that weeds out the economically empowered from those not empowered. I do believe this is wrong. Not the fee structure at all. The first unfair hurdle to achievement is here. Intelligent students who wish to go through a thorough coaching process at times are unable to afford the same, and hence fall out of the race. This is unfair. And not the eventual fee structure of an IIM.

Once a student has made it through the CAT, comes the issue of the fee. At this stage the ROI works very favorably towards the student. Banks are willing to extend those loans and there are enough number of angel investors willing to seed-fund a student who has merit on his admission list.

The brand value of an IIM is undeniable. Particularly the IIM's of the A, B and C kind! This brand value has been built assiduously by these Institutes of Management education excellence. Every batch has helped this image. Every professor has helped in this process, as has every high value recruitment with a big price tag!

This brand value helps extract the fee for the brand from the prospective student. The IIM brand is a rainbow with a pot of gold at one end of the rainbow. This is the allure of the brand.

The positive aspect of this brand however is the fact that this brand value has been cobbled with hard work of several decades. Bricks of hard fact have built this brand. The brand has been built bottom up through hard work. The brand is not one which has been built with full page advertisements claiming merit. Instead, it is a quiet brand that has been built bottom up. This is why the brand value is that much more alluring. This unlocks purses and value.

Youngsters are therefore more than willing to cough up big moneys to be part of this allure brand called IIM.

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

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