How important is the role of language in brand building? Very, according to Piyush Pandey, some according to Prasoon Joshi. Here's a snapshot of a discussion held at the CNBC Awaaz consumer awards 2008. By Dhruv Tanwar
How important is the role of language in brand building?
This question was discussed at some length at the CNBC Awaaz consumer awards 2008 held in Mumbai last night, by ad man Prasoon Joshi and CNBC's anchor editor Anuradha Sengupta, a familiar face on the popular CNBC program, Storyboard.
Kicking off the discussion, in response to Anuradha Sengupta's question, Prasoon Joshi said that before he can start creating or writing an ad, he first prefers to morph the demographic statistics, such as 25, male, metro, etc., into a physical person whom he knows personally. Thereafter, he writes for that person, and once he's able to elicit an emotional response from him/her, he considers the ad to have somewhat achieved its purpose.
Involving actor and brand ambassador of the year Akshay Kumar into the discussion, Joshi and Sengupta asked the Bollywood star to list out the leading qualities that he would like his brand image to personify, to which Kumar responded with a single word answer – 'trust'.
Joshi said that trust was on thing that had come forward in the Nielsen Company's survey as well. Fellow ad man Piyush Pandey said that trust is something that is the result of a lot of work over a long period of time, and does not happen overnight. By being ''trustworthy'', a brand effectively embodies the customer's sentiment that it will not let him down when he is vulnerable, which is the basic promise of a brand.
Joshi said that people view a new product or service through two, very different eyes, the cultural eye, and the organism eye.
The cultural eye, according to Joshi, comes first, and forms the cultural filter made up of background, values, upbringing, etc. Giving an example, he said that in his ''thanda matlab coca cola'' campaign, he relied on the dialogue to establish a connection with consumers to communicate the idea across at a level that is shown by the way Indians speak in different parts of the country, coming from different cultural backgrounds.
The organism eye, Joshi says, is more individualistic. He says that the customer views products and services through this eye when the cultural eye fails, allowing the individual to evaluate the product one-on-one without regard to cultural aspects. He says that using this eye, people tend to evaluate the product or service though a very primal level of understanding.
An example, he said, was the Happydent campaign where shining teeth of people on light poles used to illuminate a village after dark, though being a slightly alien concept, appeals to the organic eye.
Joshi says that campaigns appealing to the cultural eye are usually limited to a certain geography defined by cultural understanding and interpretations, and generally do not work outside those boundaries. On the other hand, campaigns which appeal to the organic eye can be replicated across geographies, cultures, even countries, since they appeal to an individual.
Language plays an important role in building brands
Piyush Pandey thinks so. He says that language comes first, and that there is no direct route for foreign brands to acceptability in the Indian market. He says there are case studies replete of well documented failures of attempts made by foreign companies to enter the market.
However, in order to be accepted in the market, it is necessary to speak the language of your customers – an example of which is McDonalds in India.
Pandey said McDonalds is traditionally a fast food chain, and it entered India with the same business model. However, it attained acceptance and success only when it re-branded itself as a 'family restaurant', and not a place to grab a quick bite.
Prasoon Joshi, however, differed slightly from Pandey's view, saying that the appeal at a basic level also works, without the use of language, or even saying a single word. He qualified his statement by saying that this view is not contrary to Pandey's, but works on a case to case basis.
Promotions vs brand building: what happens when the cash dries up?
Joshi says that it is possible to do both, brand building with promotions, at a time when cash is hard to spare for marketing and advertising. He said typically when there are economic issues that sap cash from the company's coffers, brand building takes a hit, and companies tend to adopt the short-term view of generating sales from promotions, typically exchange offers and price cuts.
It has been argued that this is counter productive to the overall brand building initiatives, and erodes brand value. Joshi says that if your brand value is strong, it is possible to build it further though the effective use of promotions.
Earlier on in the event, ICICI executive director Vaidyanathan said that there was little doubt about the fact that in 15 years, by 2025, 290 million new consumers will move up from poor into the middle class of India. He says this will change the shape and the destiny of corporations across the country, across industries.
What's more, says Vaidyanathan, is that these 209 million will have another 100 million-strong 'youth brigade' accompanying it. This oncoming generation of consumers currently does not have any brand etched in their mind, which for corporations means that the race is still open. Vaidyanathan says that companies like ICICI now have the next 15 years to etch themselves on the minds of these consumers.
Guest of honour, consumer affairs Minister Sharad Pawar said that India has a consumer protection act and consumer courts to ensure that the consumer has recourse to his grievances. He said that 86 per cent of cases filed in these forums are resolved within six months, which has boosted consumer confidence, and they now view these forums as a strong way to get justice.
Additionally, Pawar said, that the 'jago grahak jago' campaign launched in public interest has gone down well with the masses, and has succeeded in educating consumers across the country about their rights, which the ministry has been able to gauge though feedback received.
Pawar said that as brands, quality, consistency and the promise to the customer are three sacred things that ensure the customer faith and loyalty. He hoped that new ideas, products, concepts and services will take India forward in times to come.