Rejuvenating brands through design

Brands, like people, grow old and risk becoming irrelevant or less desirable unless they rejuvenate themselves continuously.

Trends change, fashions change; and a brand that does not change with the times ends up looking as out of place in consumer’s lives as bell bottoms are in a world of skinny jeans!!

Consumers are defining their selves through brands and their aspirations; their self-images are formed by the set of brands they consume. So, Samsung and not Videocon, FastTrack not Titan, Peter England and not Double Bull are choices made, to become symbols of self-expression.  Brands, therefore, need to mirror the consumer’s aspirations and needs.

When we worked on the Dabur rejuvenation, we reinvented an over 125 year old brand to make Ayurveda relevant to a younger Indian and lift it from the ‘brown’ ingestible powders and pills to other contemporary categories in foods and skin care. Himalaya followed in creating a more contemporary face of Ayurveda. As the younger Indian is looking to negotiate with tradition – a conclusion born out by behaviour:  through the cocktails and dance in the evening and the traditional wedding in the morning or the touching of feet of elders in the family and being on first name basis with their international bosses; both these brands have made space for themselves in the Indian consumers’ lives and shelves as they themselves have negotiated tradition as brands.

Another powerful brand – Vicco – has missed the boat entirely. It appears old and dated and its fortunes are reflected in its low market shares. In 30 years, it hasn’t changed much and its traditional roots do not appeal today. Nonetheless, it has great brand equity (PE firms take note) and a good rejuvenation exercise can make it a powerhouse once more to take on Dabur and Himalaya head –on.

While logos play an important role in how a brand is perceived, packaging can be an equally powerful tool to make brands contemporary.

Packaging, much more than advertising, is what causes conversions. It is what consumers pay for, and dictates actual brand experience closely. Fastrack has broken the mould on classic, elegant watches and has a very strong and distinctive brand personality. The difference between a Titan and a Fastrack is not just in the design of the watches. It is in the attitude and personality of the wearer as well.

The packaging plays a very strong role in driving this brand experience further. Fastrack packaging is a tin – that is not the traditional flip top box. At the very outset – it challenges convention. Secondly, it evokes a rugged and raw world, which is also part of the brand’s personality. Thirdly it borrows from the world of liquor (it looks like a cut off container of a whiskey bottle) – lending an edgier aspect to the brand.

In category after category, particularly in the FMCG product categories; packaging can play a very important role in building the brand.

See the two images below of Fem Hand Soap and Santoor Hand Soap – a structure we created as far back as 2005.  The Santoor packaging caused a disruption in a low engagement category (as compared to skin care) to drive sales and market shares.

The rub off of such packaging also impacted the parent brand – Santoor Soap positively. In some categories, packaging can drive innovations. The zip lock bag for namkeens or rice/ dal/ atta; the easy squeeze tube for glue, the hand pump for shampoos/ moisturisers, liquid soaps – all add to the functionality of the product and can add significant value to consumers. They are willing to pay more for this.

Categories such as tooth brushes – which are generally very low engagement categories after purchase see a disproportionate engagement during purchase. Here the product and the packaging win the day. The colour, the brightness, the shape are all features that directly lead to conversion. The behaviour at the time of purchase is almost similar to one of buying a ‘dinky’ car.  The role of product design and packaging in winning market shares is very significant.

In an era of highly cluttered media spaces and pressures on cutting costs and advertising budgets, marketers need to discover the power of design in building brands. There are true market opportunities to be tapped. The rewards are just waiting to be reaped.

Alpana Parida
President, DY Works


When the realty bug bites …

… it’s entirely possible to be upwardly mobile and retain the local flavour.

There was a time, not so long ago, when our homes were places where we were ourselves. If we spoke English outside, we spoke our mother tongues at home. If we used spoons and forks outside, we ate with our hands at home. If we used fine china for guests, we used steel plates at home. It was a place where we had puja rooms or our own alcoves, where we had mismatched curtains and bedspreads, where comfort was more important than design.

The names of the homes or buildings were Ashiana, Gauri Sadan, Upasana, Diwan Shree, Kanchenjunga, Jal Darshan, Sah Jeevan and the like. From the Nineties onwards came the influx of the Silver Oak, Garden Estate, Palm Meadows, Oceana Towers and Grande Vistas. More lyrical and whimsical names also found their way: Windmills of the Mind and Whispering Meadows became a part of the landscape. Specific locations were evocative, with Mantri Espana and Lodha Bellissimo emerging. Promising international lives, developments have come up in smaller towns as well with Balinese villas being promised in Baroda and Spanish haciendas in Chandigarh.

In less than a generation, we are living lives international. Our homes are no longer the places we celebrate our traditional lifestyles, the one refuge where we can be ourselves. They are places where we flaunt our international tastes and aspirations, where no mismatched décor exists and our interiors are as much statements of style as our clothing is.

We, however, remain proud Indians. We celebrate our cinema, enjoy our music, dance to the bhangra and follow our rituals. So how does this dichotomy exist? How do we explain this exuberant chasing of Western lives with such Indian hearts?

For one, we are fed up of the squalor around us. We are fed up of things that don't work and systems that break down. We long for the escape to international destinations but we no longer want to run away there. There is enough and more in the fabric of Indian culture and the robustness of the Indian economy to moor us here. We simply want to bring the experience here. On our turf, on our terms. And live in bubbles constructed to keep the chaos of India out of carefully crafted realities.

The rise and rise of the new gated communities is the success of this bubble that allows for an escape from the squalor of India.

While the real estate developers have got that right, they all seem to be doing the same thing.

The images appear empty and perhaps they work as the Indian consumer is looking to escape from the jostling crowds outside.

The escape in the gated bubble has become a category promise and real estate brands will have to go beyond that to differentiate. Perhaps they need to channel learnings from other categories, such as the hotels and hospitality business.

Hotels have stood as symbols of luxury long before real estate made the claim. Taj, Oberoi or even the State-owned Ashoka offered islands of luxury. And cloistered spaces that kept the world out. They borrowed heavily from local influences and yet kept a global language. Chettinad, Kerala or Rajasthani, local architecture, art and names dominate the hotel industry.

Other countries see successful elements of local art and architecture incorporated. We are proud Indians. We value our heritage and customs. Real estate brands that leverage that insight would be able create robust, differentiated brands.

The Abu Dhabi airport borrows from the sand dunes of Arabia to create a unique structure. The interiors are also inspired by local motifs, and create a perfect juxtaposition of the modern with the local.

When we had worked on a property being developed by Tata Realty and Infrastructure Ltd (TRIL), located on the Kochi Marine Drive, we found a local culture that took great pride in its roots.

The language was rich and spoken, there was a thriving cultural and literary tradition, Kerala locks and roofs were distinctive elements of local architecture and yet the names of local real estate developments were Sahara Grace, Jairaj Spectrum, Jairaj Starling, Trump Marvel, Eminence, Imperial Gardens, Triton, Link Horizon, Prestige Neptune’s Courtyard, Sunshine Court, Ivy League, Palm Top, Marigold, Solitaire, Good Earth Reflections – to name just a few.

We convinced TRIL that they should celebrate the local culture, and the property, located at the confluence of the sea, land and sky was called Tritvam.

There is a huge opportunity for real estate developers to maximise the appeal of their properties by keeping the codes of luxury spaces that are gated communities, but also by borrowing from local sensibilities.

(Alpana Parida is president of DY Works. The views expressed are personal.)