The Branding Kaleidoscope

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What’s in a name ? Nothing ….. Or is it everything ? Shakespeare captures a perspective, so beautifully reflected in the following exchange between Romeo and Juliet :

Juliet.

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo, Deny thy father and refuse thy name; ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part; Belonging to a man. O, be some other name !

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain that dear perfection which he owes; Without that title:–Romeo, doff thy name; And for that name, which is no part of thee, Take all myself.

Romeo.

I take thee at thy word: Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d; Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Juliet tries to tell Romeo that a name is a meaningless formality (for the sake of identity ?) and that she loves the person who is called “Montague”, not the Montague name and the Montague family. Romeo, out of his love for Juliet, rejects his family name and vows to be instead “new baptized” as Juliet’s lover.

Juliet meant that she loved Romeo the person, his attitude, his spirit, his nature, his soul and not the name per se ….. little did she realize that the same very name, alongwith her own, would become a strong brand name, which, over the next few centuries, would epitomize love and romance !! So even if Romeo Montague’s  name was changed to ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’, it didn’t really matter to Juliet. No one will ever know, however, whether instead of Romeo, if any one of ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ were used, would they have still evoked the same feelings and emotions that ‘Romeo’ evokes or capture the same nuances ….. but that is what brand Juliet, in love with brand Romeo thought !!

What a great ‘value add’ an experience, feelings and emotions can do to a name !! Even X, Y, Z and alpha, beta, gamma can start to stand for anything, depending on the ‘surround’ sound created by a brand experience, performance and interaction (referred to variously as brand positioning, personality, personification, style, tonality, image etc., etc.). But whatever it be, should be genuine; as they say, the consumer could be your wife or mother as well.

The word used for ‘identification’ of  any product or service, whether having a dictionary meaning or not, starts acquiring a new meaning, properties and characteristics of its own, sometimes very different from the original meaning (if any), depending on the interactions and experiences ….. and when that happens, that word ‘grows up’ to be ‘A Brand Name’ !!

A classic case in brand experience is the iconic ‘Ambassador’ car seen on Indian roads for many decades now. Dictionary meanings of names, obviously cannot, on their own, rub off qualities on the product or services that use the name (as also, words with no meaning at all, acquire distinct properties based on the experience that the products/services using them create). Ambassador has not been able to ‘encash’ on the ‘class’ that the dictionary meaning of its name brings ….. no Ambassador would have ever taken the Ambassador car as a Brand Ambassador or vice versa, been one for the car !! But ever seen a white Ambassasor car with a red light on top (and maybe a few stars and a flag also), moving on the roads in India ….. this new ‘look and feel’ now acquires very different brand characteristics of ‘political power’.

The concept of branding, initially originated to ‘brand’ cattle for the purpose of identification, has now evolved into an art form working together with the discipline of scientific approach and evokes so many feelings, emotions and thoughts. Brands are valuable assets that need nurturing, protection and maintenance, to be handled very carefully like crystals or to be polished like brass. A little slip and we have examples of how brand equity risks getting shaken up, requiring monumental subsequent efforts to salvage/build it again. How much the ‘feel’ of a brand can be stretched to brand extensions, is also another area of debate and study …..  A Fanta always meant an orange drink to me; I could never ‘digest’ an apple Fanta. Examples and learnings abound for both positive and negative handlings of brand equity …. the Nimuselide controversy, Tiger Woods scandal, Satyam case, Tylenol crisis,  etc., each of which is a case study, but obviously cannot be detailed out here due to lack of space.

Who would have thought that a very unconventional name like ‘Amitabh Bachchan’, carried by a thin, skinny, lanky figure, whose owner’s deep baritone voice was rejected by All India Radio and whose initial attempts in Bollywood were hardly worth talking about, would one day become ABIG Brand’ with probably the largest fan following on this planet. The story of the effort that he genuinely put into his work and the experience, delight and enjoyment this brand name subsequently brought to the world, is what legends are made of ….. as if resonating a dialogue from one of his blockbuster movies, in the same deep baritone voice saying ….. Aaj khush to bahut hoge tum (Today, you must be feeling very happy) ….. A Brand tagline of sorts !!

 J.P.Singh,

Justplainandsimple Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

JPSConsulting

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….. Helping Realise Potential

JPS Customer Value Academy

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Twitter : @jpsingh55

 (An edited version of this article also appeared in Empowering Times, May, 2011)

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4 thoughts on “The Branding Kaleidoscope

  1. Shyam

    JPS,
    I always enjoy reading your articles, I am puzzled by this brand consciousness that has become an integral part of our lives, from the time we wake up, the tooth paste we use, the tooth brush, the shaving cream, after shave, the soap, the clothes, the cologne, the car and so and so forth.
    But in world of 6.8 billion how many of us are influenced by the brand, with a large chunk of the population being illiterate/poor and hence the significance of branding at a macro level.
    I think this drive towards seeking the best has made us all
    live beyond our means and in the process made us more and more materialistic.
    May be I am wrong but these are my views and thoughts!!
    Shyam

    lve

  2. YS Prabhakar

    JP,
    Good piece.
    A serious cultivation of brands by the marketers only fuels the “perception is reality” concept. Bilions are pumped in to make the ‘brand perception’ a positive one to the relevant customer.

    Hope to read in your future blogs about the examples of dissonances (between perception and reality of a brand) and how good companies still try to bridge those to come out winners!

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