Saturday, June 05, 2010


On Water-wars, Cola-wars and Brand Logos

The War of the Waters

By Harish Bijoor

Q: This summer I am missing the Cola wars on television. Why are these guys not fighting this year?
-JP Sinha, Delhi

A: Sinha-saab, I am missing it as well. The Cola wars are normally the fun part of summer. It is also that part of summer when the two Cola majors slug it out and spend a lot of money on television and more, much to the delight of everyone who benefits form such advertising, advertising agencies not excluded.
I think the Cola wars are always in the minds of consumers. Marketing companies that pack the colored, bottled, sugared fizzy waters have just exploited that need and want sentiment in the minds of consumers every summer.

Typically Colas are high-spend oriented brands. Since the very basic cost of the product is far far away from the end consumer price of what is on offer, and since Cola at large is a commodity of sorts as well with little differentiating between one and another, branding initiatives are focused upon with gusto. Add to it the seasonality factor of the Indian summer being a very hot one; one invariably tends to expect battles and wars to happen in the summer months between the two big majors.

The Cola wars are actually wars made to look like wars by the major cola marketers. The idea is to excite interest in the category collectively. The idea is equally to raise an otherwise dull and drab category into a very high-appeal category that has the entire nation of consumers chattering about the television battles. Cola companies also depend on community media such as television, print and radio and the Internet and now social networking sites to chatter more and take the Cola war twitter ahead.

These battles have been waged season after season. To an extent the creativity in these battles are worn-thin. Every nook and cranny battle-USP has been exhausted. If one does the same thing all over again, things are going to get boring. Therefore I do believe a lull is necessary. In any case other categories such as the detergents category have taken over now with their own avatars of 'in-the-eye' and 'in-the-face' fights.

I do believe Colas will remain a big category forever. The action cannot shift to any other terrain for now. Tamilnadu is an orange drink market of sorts. Except for this one state, India is a lowest common denominator cola market. The action will remain here for a while. The only larger drink is water. We could possibly have a water-wars next. The war of the waters.

Q: A quick one. What is the logic of brand names? What’s good and what’s bad?
-Sapna Malik, Kolkata
A: Sapna, a quick one from my end as well.
A brand is an amalgam of many things. It is a name, a symbol, a color, a jingle, a persona, a personality, a position and much else. Amongst all these, cosmetically, a name is an important adjunct.

Marketers are typically careful with the name selection process. It is quite like naming a baby. A baby that will represent the lineage it comes from, and a baby that will flaunt the name well into adulthood and days of prosperity.

It is therefore a careful process. The first step is arriving at a name that is right in terms of fit to the product or service, and one that is easily memorable. Shorter names are that much more memorable than longer ones. There is indeed a science in the naming process that markers follow, most of the time.

At times of course, it is the whim and fancy of the Marketing Director or the owner of the company or their respective wives. But then, accidents such as these happen, and are more exceptions than the rule.

Q: In jewellery marketing, are there good days and what are these in terms of sales?
-Pankaj Parikh, Mumbai

A: Pankaj, there sure are good days for jewellery sales in India. Just as there are bad days. In my assessment of having worked in the category, the following days are big turnover days for jewellery marketers:
1. Dhanteras: The one big gold-buy occasion. And jewellery is synonymous with gold in India, with other metals just about being niches that don't justify exploration.

2. Weddings: We have so many of them. This is the season to both buy new jewellery as well as get new jewellery made from old gold.

3. Diwali and Dussehra: Somehow the festival of lights and Dussehra drives people to park their moneys in jewellery

4. The 5th of every month except 'Ashada' in the South: salaried homes tend to splurge on this date. Mysterious but true.

5. Day one of the New Year: This could be of different calendar notations, but is considered a significant day to buy gold!

Q: A lot of companies with traditional logos are going in for new logos. Is this a good move at all?

-Soha Sanyal, Bangalore

A: Soha, I know where you are coming from on this. I personally believe that old logos must remain. They could be modernized a wee bit, but must allow to remain for what they are and what they stand for.
I do believe there could be a need for an up-date and an up-grade, but not necessarily a dramatic change.

Logos are precious properties of brands. The existing logo is a precious property of old brands at large. They have been there for decades and have been a part of heritage identity that many old brands tend to enjoy. To an extent a logo is like a scar. A positive scar that is left behind in the minds of peoples. The scar becomes an indelible part of memory and becomes a meta-tag that gets recalled instantaneously by people. Positive scars such as these logos may look outdated, but one needs to understand and be sensitive enough to appreciate the fact that changing the existing is the easiest thing to do. Preserving the existing is the most difficult thing to attempt. Therefore, I do believe there is a cosmetic up-grade possibility, but nothing much else must be done on old brands.

Take for instance the logo of LIC. I would not touch it at all. It packs heritage. It packs trust. Modernizing the logo and font of LIC would be the worst thing to do. It would be joining the race that other Insurance companies are embarking upon with modern fonts and modern logos (even cute little comic dogs to boot). Being different and old and being rooted to heritage helps some brand categories. Insurance in particular is one such.

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

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Dear Sir,

Its time to use the 3Rs of Environmental Protection to Branding : Reuse, Reduce and Recycle.

This might actually help connect brands with customers.

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