Brand it, or Forget it!

He gets down from his Pulsar, swaggers into college in a pair of crushed Levis jeans and Benetton Tee shirt, atop a pair of just do it Nike shoes and swashes his iPhone furiously thumbing a status update.

Welcome to the Gen-X’s college today, a far cry from the college of yester years where Fashion Street cheese cotton shirt atop any old pair of trousers was good enough and only those who came from the crème-de-la-crème of society would putter in on a Luna, for the rest of us cycles were quite ok.

Brands are as ubiquitous as the number of two wheelers one sees parked in our colleges today. They seem to define our very existence, giving us our identity and personality. Life without brands is impossible to imagine, it would be akin to loosing one’s very identity.

Yet, branding still seems to be an enigma for most marketers and also their waterloo.

“That many brands fail to reach their potential or maintain their equity is neither surprising nor puzzling …The real curiosity may be that strong brands exist at all…” – David Aaker

Coming from one of the most respected authorities on Brand Management the above statement has to be taken seriously.

With the cost of launching new brands reaching stratospheric heights and only a fraction of the hundreds launched every year surviving, the issue does require all some serious rethink.

Once upon a time technological innovation or superiority was a sure ticket to success. Today, fresh entrants and virtual novices have access to the same technology that was a preserve of only established giants earlier. Technology therefore fails to offer a long-term competitive advantage. The ever-shrinking product life cycles further aggravate this problem.

The answer to this puzzle, which is becoming more and more complex by the day, seems to lie only in strengthening the relationship between the brand and its’ customer. Which takes us into the realms of Branding.

Many a marketing pundits have indicated that a strong brand is probably the only real long-term competitive advantage that a company has. It is the only guarantee that a business will continue to enjoy a customer franchise over a sustained period of time. The most hardened of the skeptics have also grudgingly acknowledged this when faced with hard research and financial data supporting this fact.

Landor Associates conducted a study on 23 leading brands, i.e. brands that were number one in their respective categories in 1920s. It was sobering to note that 19 of these brands were still leaders, number ones in their categories in 1997. It had to be more than an accident for so many brands to have consistently led their packs for 75 long years, in the face of all that the competition may have done to dislodge them.

The entire philosophy and the set of activities that these companies may have undertaken to stay ahead of the pack and more importantly, be consistently relevant to the customer can together be broadly termed as Branding.

(First in a series on the subject, to be continued…)



  1. “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”

    Branding is one topic that interests everybody. Specially case studies of some of the top brands of the world. Branding is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they might not even need. 🙂

    Nice article. Keep writing.

    1. Birdie, looks like you are hinting at what we call the aspirational brands, but don’t forget there are brands like Cambridge, Big Bazaar & even Nirodh doing what brands are supposed to be without being aspirational. That is a differentiating proposition, consistently delivered.

      Thanks as always for your inspiration & encouragement 🙂

    1. @Prats I understand, in fact I think the complexity in its entirety would be far beyond the scope of this blog & its blogger 🙂 But would surely try & do justice. I guess discussions would help immensely too.

  2. I am working in a 100 year old company which as you have mentioned has managed to consistently be a global leader in its field of excellence, and I know how much ‘hype’ we get by being associated with such a brand !!

    btw, first few lines of the post, I almost thought – “Jesus, when did you see me” – fitted my description aptly !! Though not in college 😀 (anymore)

    1. Sidharth Yes any company that can survive & thrive over a 100 years needs all accolades, imagine the forces within & without working against it.

      …and if it describes you that well, then I’ll compliment my observation, can I? 🙂

  3. One other thing that can lead to a great “success” of a brand is the customer relation/customer service it offers. Specially, in India customer service for any brand across industries be it Telecom, D2H, Electronics ( Airtel, Tata Sky, Hyundai, Samsung) is mediocre at its best. A brand can be built only with a repeated purchase cycle, which requires not only creatinga great ad on the part of the Brand, but also a sustained effort to understand the customer’s needs at different stages. Sadly very few companies do this.

    1. Shreyansh You are absolutely right, customer service lags behind tremendously in our country, but I guess our markets are still way down the evolutionary scale and as we mover forward things will have to improve, or brands will perish. And branding definitely isn’t about advertising alone, its the total customer experience. Thanks for your input 🙂

  4. 2 thumbs up. Was kinda like sitting thru mktg class all over agn (n thats really cool coz d faculty was VP mktg Coke, Europe) but I guess way too generic.
    U’ll be amazed to see the kind of brand recall consumers have these days but ironically, around 70% are wrongly matched. So much for bleeding your pockets out.

    1. Hey Aruna thanks so much, hope the class didn’t get too boring 🙂 Yes those are the issues Brand Managers need to be held accountable for, but the research must only be done with the target audience, no one else 🙂

  5. He who stays longer, talk longer and in a sophisticated way survives. The longer the relationship the stronger it get, the harder the hit the better is the chance of a brand to survive. You aren’t in limelight you are forgotten so soon!! Same with the humans too 🙂 Right sir?

    1. Nisha Time does play an important role, but more important is the qualitative aspect of the relationship, the levels of delight at every touchpoint as well as innovation. These are the issues I am going to be touching upon in the forthcoming posts, thanks as always 🙂

  6. Your blog draws attention to a valid point. ‘Brand it or Forget it’ Interesting read. After Branding a product, the most difficult task is to sustain and further the reputation of that Brand.
    Would be looking forward to reading your continued posts on this topic, with all the more newer statistics.

    Keep writing.

  7. this post was quite a read….the mention of luna refreshed my memories of past…you have aptly penned down your thoughts and i am utterly curious and am looking forward to the rest of the series. what i ‘d really expect from your future series is the know how about establishing a brand practically from scratch…what this requires and how to go about it? it was indeed a very interesting post 🙂

  8. It is so important to have a strong brand and brands are not just built by marketing. It is much more than that to have the faith and confidence of the masses  for brands which were leaders in the 1920s to still be leaders even in 1997. So, what exactly does it take for a brand to remain where it is, at the top? Good read. Will wait for the continuation in the series

  9. Very interesting..and very simply put.
    Sometimes, the way people advertise their brands, I find silly. Their product and the way they project it in any ad has absolutely no connection!! Smart, and simple advertising, to which the customer relates, helps better I guess.

    It was a treat to read the article, waiting for the rest of the series!

  10. A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building the brand. After all, brand is the source of a promise to the consumer. It’s a foundational piece in marketing communication and it is something the companies do not want to be without. It has become a part of everyday life, as a developing & young nation, we’re progressing day by day & also international exposure has widely grown from the past decade. So for all the companies, “branding” becomes a very integral part of their marketing strategies, its important to understand the needs of customers, bring in innovations & build a strong brand name for themselves so that they can enjoy loyal customers.
    I loved your write up sir & its highly informative. Hope you’ll continue to enlighten us further. 🙂

  11. brands are people, people are brands.
    you remember people for what they made you feel, not for what they themselves were. same is the case with brands.
    the reason why so many old-timers stick in the braniverse, is that they have built relationships. the reason why so many newcomers get unstuck is because they came across as too shallow.
    and many many more thoughts. but can’t write them all for paucity of time 😀
    nice post sir, as always, makes one think and share his/her views 🙂

  12. Though I am not an expert on the topic, I have been reading extensively on branding and I’ve been fortunate to interact and discuss the nuances of how products are perceived in people’s minds with some brand experts that I personallyy met and they have spearheaded campaigns like Fiama Di Willis, Vivel, Philips, among others etc.

    There’s a lot of complexity involved, also the role of children in choosing and demanding products has grown tremendously and perhaps the trend can be explored in one of your upcoming posts. Would love to read more.

  13. True. Branding does involve a lot of investment apart from providing a product a swanky name and a logo. Enlivening a product and giving it a unique personality requires a talent on its own. And only those organizations that manage to succeed in that can stand the test of time.

  14. A very thoughtfully written piece. Would love to read more as this is indeed complicated and what works for one may not for another. Waiting for the next in the series

  15. Thanks Sanjay very refreshing thoughts there rather than the run of the mill brand gyan. Successful companies have been able to get consumers to own the brand, think that is the key. These companies realize that the brand does not reside at the brand manager’s desk but is collectively owned by every employee. Getting customers to own the brand is the next logical step after this. It comes with consistent brand promise and delivery at every customer interaction point. Bringing in an emotional connect to the brand ( by consumers)is like the icing on the cake.

    Looking forward to the other posts. Thank you once again.

  16. Customer Perspective: Giving ISI/ISO certification personally to a product voluntarily by a customer is what I call real branding. As a child I believed Roger Binny as a great cricketer because my father was his ardent fan; My son believes Gambhir is the best Indian cricketer at present because I feel so. Now the branding to me is similar to this, till such time I live all phones in my family will be NOKIA, my kids will also grow up with Nokia and its only when they as an adult find something amiss with Nokia will they look for some other mobile.

    Marketing Brand: There are theories and many get evolved daily with the increase of computation statistical power of computer, but the most important of all remains the quality of after sales/customer care.

    Blog: You started very well but the essence got lost by the end. I feel the beginning must have had some connection with the last paragraph.

  17. I like your approach to understand why brands actually last and lead, rather than dissecting why they fail. Such brands clearly have a defined vision backed with the grit and passion to adapt to changing times. I look forward to learn and share from your experiences to know what actually applies to build a lasting brand.

  18. Hello Sir, liked the title ‘Brand it or Forget it’ as it pretty much sums up the ethos of Branding as a necessity in todays competitive market. The concept of Branding in India is in its nascent stages and people equate it to just advertising. I am sure your future posts would be delving deeper into that and it will be a delight to read.

  19. Finally did read the blog , excellent views with the right set of data. Hope to keep reading more of this in the days to come , cheers

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