Pragmarketism and the art of brand building (Book excerpt)

What does it really take to succeed in the great Indian ‘mela’ and win consumers?

In Pragmarketism, Trupti and Arvind Bhandari address this opportunity for all business builders, gleaned from their collective experience of forty-five years building more than thirty brands across several blue-chip companies. Blending western theories with eastern ethos, and drawing from successful brands in FMCG, durables, media, and other industries, the book offers unprecedented insights on succeeding in the world’s most exciting market.

An excerpt (printed with permission from HarperCollins):

‘How do you see yourself in the eyes of your peers, Trupti?’ This was quite a shock for an assistant brand manager presenting a new product launch in the boardroom. What was its bearing on the business? Fifteen people were waiting for an answer as my line manager quizzed me.

‘Hardworking, committed, creative?’ I answered honestly — with some exaggeration, since my appraisal was next week.

‘That’s all?’

‘Also strategic, people-friendly, balanced and result-oriented.’ Was I overdoing it?

‘And…?’ The coaxing was unrelenting.

‘I am also flexible and detailed-oriented and…’

‘That is exactly how your launch positioning is! A bit of everything, but nothing of any one thing. Can we be focused so consumers know what we stand for?’ These lines still ring in my ears when I am working on a brand plan. Nothing could be closer to human truth and, therefore, brand truth. Everyone wants to have all the virtues, and marketers transpose this universal human desire to the brands they work for, imbuing them with all the possible benefits. But no matter how hard we try to be all good, others don’t perceive us to be good at everything. Likewise, in the hyper-crowded marketplace, even our consumers don’t think our brands have all the benefits. Competitive brands will also be worth something.

That leaves us with only two choices in life, the same as in brand management. One, choose what we want to be good at, making sure that it is important to us as well as others evaluating us. Second, we become the best at it, so much so that when our chosen area of excellence is recalled, our name is ahead of everyone else’s.

Brand positioning is just this: choosing the right attribute for differentiation versus others and then excelling at it repeatedly.

Positioning

Positioning is the holy grail of marketing — it doesn’t get any bigger than this. Positioning decides the fate of all economic transactions now and in the future. In effect, it closes the supply-demand equation, marrying need with satisfaction.

Positioning, put simply, is the expression of the eminent superiority of a company’s product or services versus others in the marketplace, in the mind of the consumer. Whether or not a consumer is consuming the product at present, or even talking about it, is not important. What matters is that in the mind of the consumer, where ultimately all the battles of market share are fought, the brand’s image enduringly outranks others’. Positioning, therefore, etches a brand or company’s strength in the consumer’s mind, granting it insularity from attacks by the competition and other market vagaries. What personality does to distinguish humans in the crowd, positioning does to brands in the marketplace.

Positioning in Indian Companies: Ingredient, Diffused, Benefit, User Experience

The Indian experience of positioning throws up a patchy picture. Cocooned in the Licence Raj and driven more by opportunism than core competence, Indian companies have played this aspect of strategy differently in various sectors.

In the FMCG industry, there are stars as well as wannabes. Britannia has taken the market of biscuits and segmented with demographic and occasion to create clearly differentiated products within their own portfolio (the overlaps have been minimized) and with some success, versus their competitors also.

* Tiger biscuits (product and category) are positioned for (following the template we set above for writing a positioning statement) those moms (who) want their kids ‘roaring’ with energy (benefit), drawing from the vitamins, iron and calcium to the extent of 25 per cent of their daily recommended need (RTB). The benefit, brand and RTB are compactly held together by a unifying ‘position’ that also sets it apart from the generic glucose biscuit brand which sells on the street.

* Good Day biscuits bring a smile to your face (that makes a ‘good day’ — therefore positioned to all seeking to uplift their mood) with butter and cashews: positioned on happiness — that is non-specific and difficult to counter for rivals; as for users, the visible infusions of dry fruit at an affordable price brings the smile anyway.

* Marie Gold (not just Marie; a clever way to differentiate on a basic category name with a suffix) for women who seek to accomplish more every day, being low in fat and cholesterol. A variant, VitaMarie, comes with the extra nutrition of vitamins.

* NutriChoice: Power-packed snacks (creating a new category of healthy snacking) for people who chase a healthy way of life, with the benefit of oats and easy digestibility. A clever brand name but with a somewhat hackneyed psycho-profile of consumers.

* The indulgence segment has been tapped with cream treats, Jim Jam (at entry level) and Bourbon (for a wickedly smooth side, ‘the chocolate lover’s favourite guilt trip’) and Pure Magic (‘chocolate artistry’ for the connoisseurs) positioned for wanton indulgence, overriding the linear demographic lines. Sunfeast, Parle and others have their versions too, with sometimes similar sounding sub-brand names. The premium category is crowded with ‘me too’s, crying for differentiation.

* An interesting valorization of base categories of salties has been 50/50, which is a newer version of its predecessor, Krackjack (an absolutely wowing innovation) — positioning of the schizophrenic personality, both a whacky and a serious side, reflecting its contrasting flavours. In Maska Chaska, the level of innovation has been enhanced with Indian ingredients like jeera (cumin seed) and garlic.

* Little Hearts, lightly flirting between a snack and a biscuit, are ‘light crunch melt-in-the-mouth biscuits for chatting with friends’. A clean and distinctive positioning, incontrovertibly complementing the product experience.

Above all this sits the brand Britannia, which some time ago was positioned as a healthy choice for invigorating the body and mind (from the Hindi ‘Swasth khaayo, tan man jagao’, rendered in English with a non-sequitur, ‘Eat healthy, think better’). The parent brand works to generate trust over other categories, like snacks and beverages, at the top. Trust in the brand distils down to the sub-categories subsumed under it, increasing loyalty for the brand as a whole and ensuring constant adoption of its sub-categories, even if they are not advertised constantly. Overall, Britannia seems to have been positioned effectively in a hyper-crowded space to reach out uniquely to its diversified consumers.

(Excerpted from Pragmarketism: Pragmatic Marketing Insights for Winning Indian Consumers by Trupti Bhandari and Arvind Bhandari, published by HarperCollins)

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