Category Archives: Branding

Levis, Live wise please

Levis dENiZEN

My regular mall stroll and I all of a sudden found the levis signature showroom replaced by denizen. Soon I realized that atleast in Bangalore where they are test marketing Denizen, they had replaced signature stores with Denizen. What a relief. Finally the brand unmurders itself.

One of the most iconic brands of all times, levis had done something very successfully that most brands would like to emulate. They brought out the same sense of joy that they used to bring when my father shopped for his jeans.  A lot of ‘yester year’ brands have just been that – Fathers Era Brands. They find it difficult to wriggle out to the new generation and gain the same sort of perception.

Levis had been as aspirational for me and you, as to our dads. The red tag that you proudly carried along was aspirational. Everyone wanted a jean. And jeans was only levis. As water is only bisleri.

Levis Strauss Signature - Deepika Padukone

However in my post, david and goliath, I had mentioned that global corporations need to take a different stratagem for India as it is not a monolithic market, the forces affecting consumer decision is not the same as others. Levis unfortunately fell into the ‘Middle Class India’ trap and ended up over extending their positioning base with Levis Strauss Signature, that catered to the lower end consumers who aspired for a Levis but could not afford one. And then there were the Fakes. Anything with two legs could get a levis tag on their jeans. Soon you saw the red Levis ® tag behind every ass, lovely or not.

Levis contributed to its share of woes by diluting its image with Levis Strauss Signature.

Levis was slowly self-poisoning itself by launching Signature. Signature served two purposes, I could own an original levis and get it cheap too. Soon the denim youth, after buying a couple of pair of Levis signature, got it subconsciously registered that a levis jeans can be bought cheap and commands a price of not more than, say, Rs 1000. Cost for the Indian youth is a big consideration as most of them are dependent on their family for pocket money and the decision to buy a jeans is an outcome of countless hours of inkling and maneuver with the head of the family. Now someone who did not think anything before buying a Rs 1500 jeans, now had another stimuli in his mind. A levis, although signature, at Rs 1000. This eroded the brand premium somewhere. and as we all know it is the premium that you add to a commodity that makes it a brand. Levis was slowly becoming a commodity from a Brand.

Add to all this that most of the youth bought their pair of jeans when there was a heavy discount season during diwali or new years or so and would get the same Levis at Rs 500 and thereabouts. Then add to it, also the perpetration of Discount stores and family outlets that landed you a pair of jeans for Rs 800 and two for Rs 1000! All this diminished the perception that the great brand always commanded.

A classic case where monetarily you are gaining but qualitatively your perception is getting hammered and nailed. In short, Marketing Myopia.

However, they realized the mistake soon enough. Soon you found out that Levis Jeans were becoming more expensive. This was a deliberate attempt to break away from the Rs 1000-Rs 1500 price band image that levis had been garnering. The price rise was maintained even when the economy was going through a recession.

Levis Curve ID

Launching a new brand denizen,priced between Rs 799-1399, is a commendable effort to undo what signature did for Levis. Whatever happens to denizen the erosion of brand value of Levis would be considerably lesser. Meanwhile Levis should continue to create a niche for itself and make it aspirational again.

Levis launched its curve id jeans earlier last month and has been successful in an attempt to create another niche for which people would have to pay a premium.

It is absolutely fantastic to see how, eventhough, with a few mistakes here and there, the brand remains to be edgy and still be classic at the same time.

Kindly Note that as an entity Signature, after it was spun off as stand alone stores,  were a profitable venture and contributed almost close to 30% of its revenues.  However, a Signature by Levis would have been much better than Levis Strauss Signature. Denizen is on the right tracks as far as branding goes.


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iGod : Apple


Always wanted to blog on this. One of the most beautiful brands – APPLE. Its almost every ad agencies dream to have Apple on their client list. Because Apple does not sell products, it sells an image, a lifestyle, an attitude. An image that people are willing to pay that extra for. Al Ries and Laura Ries often talk about the failure of double branding. Two brands clubbed together for a single product. For eg: Chevrolet Cobalt, Sony Bravia etc. They maintain that two is never better than one. At least in branding. Reason: Over a period of time people tend to get confused with the value or the promise that the brand stands for.

Apple nurtures its brands. Let it be the mac, the ibook, ipod or the iphone. They let it grow on its own and do not forcefully tell you that it is the Apple iphone or the Apple ipod, its just simply put as ipod by Apple in their communication. There is something  that it does beautifully that many brands fail to do. It manages to glide graciously into their category extension without having to compromise on their image. Apple was only computers before 2000 but last quarter ending december 26, 2009, Apple sold 3.36 million Macintosh computers, representing a 33 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 8.7 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 100 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 21 million iPods during the quarter, representing an eight percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter.Source:

For ex: Al Ries in his biblical book on marketing ‘The 22 immutable laws of Marketing’ tells that a brand that loses its single mindedness and Focus is a brand that is going to be doomed. The examples are of Motorola that tried to enter computers, semi conductors after being the pioneer in Mobile telephones, the leader of which is Nokia that left its other businesses to enter and focus on only telephones.

Apple advertises its product independent of the Apple brand which just sneaks into the last frame of their ads with their company logo. Let it be the macs, the ipods, the iphones or the recent ipads. However they derive their equity form the strong brand that Apple has created. They always seem to come with a magical mixture of a good product and great marketing.  The ‘i’ has become a brand in itself but still does not disturb the equilibrium created by Apple. Nowhere do the image of Apple and ipod clash. They just weave into each other. Even within the ipod there are different ‘perceived’ brands. There is the nano, the shuffle, the touch and the classic. All these vertical extensions fail to confirm that extensions make a brand weaker. It does not if there is logic between the extensions. None gets confused between the promise of any of them. Branding does play an important part in any company or a products success but somewhere along the line its impossible to sell unless you have that perceived differentiation. Apples products are extremely well differentiated. The shuffle is only has 2 and 4 GB, whereas the nano has 8 and 16 GB, the touch is has 8, 32 and 64 GB and the classic is has 160 GB and even the price points never merge. The offering merges only at the 8 GB offering that Nano and Touch provide but they too are highly differentiated from each other.

People don’t think like marketers or say the ‘arm chair critics’. For them Apple is a company that makes beautiful devices let it be computers or music devices.

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So you do not have a differentiator. Now what?

Got an Idea?

When do you do when you do not have an idea. You badly want one..  ever been in such a situation? I am sure you would have been. Never be depressed in such a situation. Let things happen around you and watch them closely. This is something that has always worked for me. Whenever I have sat to think about an ad and I get nothing that is brilliant, I just go under a shower and just let myself free and wander and think about whatever comes to my mind and guess what ? I always do find n answer. And I say always. Sometimes I just doodle around and voila I get an idea out of nowhere. Simply because my accidental stroke of the pencil actually gave rise to a good idea.

I know this is not much like any of the other posts but today I am just happy and hence want to share it with you all. In fact I got so crazy that I thought of lovely ads for Volkswagen, Surf Excel, MaxFresh and a good one for my college and I am proud of that.

Positioning: The battle for your mind

Often I notice that I get stuck when the product or the entity I am thinking of advertising does not have any differentiation because according to me that is what enables a good ad. The presence of a creneau in the head of your prospect where you can put your differentiator and see it grow and occupy a ladder in the mind of your prospect and eventually see your brand build and gain identity. But what if you do not have a differentiator or the fact that you do have a good differentiator but the prospects or the target do not perceive it to be present. Advertising is all about perception. It is not the better product that wins the race but the better ‘perceived’ product. So no matter how good and solid GM cars are they will not be perceived as good as Volvo because they own the differentiator of being safe and solid.

So what do you do when you do not have a differentiator?

You look for what I put as, soft factors. Go through the irrational route, capture emotion in your ad. Human brain is a sucker for emotion and is hardwired to be emotional. And sometimes it is the most powerful way to capture the mind of your prospect. Be the prospect and think what he/she would like to listen, in fact love to listen. You cannot bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them said David Ogilvy. Especially in a print ad make sure that you are not in the zone of indifference, either the prospect should love your ad or hate it. The former obviously being the most ideal situation but the latter at least gives you a chance to learn and impress your prospect next time, when he/she is least expecting it to be. Print ad gives you a marvelous opportunity to talk to the prospect, alone. If you can make the prospect read what you want to say then you have done a good job for sure. What’s the big deal in making them read, you might say? But hold on. “The Average readership of a body in magazine ads are 5%” and this figure is of yesteryears, it’s surely come down now. So, that means if you don’t treat the print ad with respect and thought you waste 95% of your resources and with sky rocketing print media charges that is really high figure.

Now since you have decided to take the soft route of persuasion what all are the factors that you can incorporate in you communication?  Use humor- It always has above average recall. Put a slice of life in your ads and make them realistic and hence charming. Add emotion and always back it up with a rational excuse to justify the emotional content. Be honest and genuine. Honesty shows up in an ad. Well these are just some of the ways.

The sucker emotional brain

If you love your ad then others would like it. But if you only like your ad, others won’t be that impressed. Make ads that mean something to people, so that they can connect the dots. Pat wolfe, author of Brain matters: Translating Research into classroom practice , explains, “Neural networks ‘check out’  sensory stimuli as soon as they enter the brain to see if they form a familiar pattern, If they do, a match occurs, and the brain determines that the new stimuli are familiar. In this case, we could say that the new information makes sense or has meaning. What happens if there is no match? The brain may attend to the meaningless information for a short period of time because it is novel; but if it can make no sense out of the incoming stimuli, the brain will probably not process them further……An idea will be meaningful only if it relates to the listeners experience”


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Why Yahoo is not Y!OU or Me. It is still Yahoo.

 Ok, so Yahoo revamped their website and promise you the best of experiences. The have a 100 million dollar budget and are splashing all across the world with Yahoo its Y!OU campaign. And India alone is supposed to be exposed to 10 million dollar worth of that promotion and a good chunk of the video has India in it.

Yahoo- Its You campaign - India

So is Yahoo going to all set to be ‘You’? Well honestly it is not. I have been seeing the communication for quite a lot of time but I haven’t been persuaded to go and check Yahoo as to what is new about it and if I have been lazy to be stuck with Google then I think there are a lot of people who are.

Well I did check yahoo and there seems to be some change around the corners. The content looks the same but there is a section to your left about favorites from which one can access FaceBook, and other websites that one wants to keep a tab upon. The changes are good and utilitarian but the contention here is about their communication. I did like the campaign and I must say that it has pretty high recall in my mind, I have seen imposing posters on malls and roads showing a normal person whom we might know in our daily life saying “ Internet is under new management, yours!” . But listen! I like the ad and I don’t hate the hoardings either and I agree that Yahoo has become more interactive but what is the use if it can not force me to go to the website to try out the change

I think there was a little bit of self indulgence by OnM and Yahoo when they made the ad. It just speaks about Yahoo and is shot through slick frames and a lot of style. But what they forgot to mention was why you should try Yahoo. Putting several people in a frame dancing, kissing, playing and celebrating does not tell me why I should go to Yahoo. Ok, fine, the internet is under my management and Yahoo is me or infact Y!OU but what more? I don’t understand what Yahoo wants to tell me when it says that you can manage your internet. Too generic. It’s like someone telling you that there is a good product in the market but you don’t know what it exactly is good at. What is Google? It is a search engine. What is Yahoo? has a search engine and shows news also and there is music also and..and..and..IT IS JUST VAGUE! And IT IS NOT ME!

The most important part of any advertisement is that it should sell the product. In today’s world, especially in the internet services segment, none is going to switch to your service until and unless you show them ‘The Reasons’ why they should shift to you. Some proposition where you clearly have an edge over your competitor, either you create it or you create a perception about it, so that people believe that there is a difference as Pablo Picasso remarked ‘Art is the lie that tells the truth’. Create a perception and make people believe that the perception is true.

Why you dont want to be Yahoo. Is it You?

They should have been direct. They should have spoken about the user interface, and the ability to access various apps and accounts through one page. ‘A one page destination to your internet’ should have been the framework for their positioning.

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We know what it takes to be a Tiger. Yeah?

We know it too

Ask Accenture said my last blog and they have spoken, albeit, silently. Search for Tiger Woods in their website and it comes as page not found (on Sunday). Accenture dropped the contract with Tiger Woods on Dec 13. According to me one of the best celebrity branding episodes draws curtains now. With due respect to the supporters of celebrity branding- My deep condolences. Gillette has dropped tiger from any further promotions. AT&T is evaluating further move to keep him or not. Gatorade had dropped him prior to the scandal. Nike and TagHeuer are still backing him or at least not reacting in an adverse manner. So from now on you won’t see Accenture telling that ‘We know what it takes to be a Tiger’. Instead its website now reads – Accenture wishes only the best for Tiger Woods and his family.

 There was a time when he was called “The world’s most marketable athlete.” By many marketing research firms. Wonder what they would say now. This just makes me again and again reiterate my clichéd point that celebrity endorsements is a worthless risk that whose cost benefit analysis is clearly unfavorable. There are too many uncontrollable elements in there. And as a marketer, you don’t want too many uncontrollable factors.

But then what are the implications for Accenture? And why is EA and Nike still making sense by supporting him?

EA sports support Tiger

Let’s say there are two factors- the Hard (core) factors and the Soft (complementing) factors. In Tiger Woods case the hard factor is simply his Golf. Any brand he endorses strictly due to his game and nothing else, would have hired him because of his hard factors and any brand hiring him for his qualities like humility, personality and other qualitative aspects would hire him because of soft factors.

So it’s clear to see that Accenture was more of a soft factor decision as compared to EA (Tiger Woods golf game) and Nike (Nike golf). This means as for the hard factors, Tiger Woods still remains the one of the best in the history of golf, even if he becomes gay but as for his soft factors, he is not exactly the ideal idol anymore. So it makes sense for Accenture and Gillette to drop him. So according to this AT&T should be dropping Tiger as I don’t see any mutual benefit the association can deliver. Even TagHeuer makes sense as they and woods collaborated closely to develop the world’s first professional golf watch, released in April 2005. The lightweight, titanium-construction watch was designed to be worn while playing the game. However, TagHeuer won’t rush for a renewed contract for sure.

Tiger woods Cadillac Escalade crash

Funny thing was he had an accident in GMs Cadillac Escalade, the brand that he endorsed earlier. As if GM had lesser woes already.

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The OOmpH factor

The rise of the OOmpH factor

KingFisher OOH IndiaThere are ads and there are better ads, the better ads sell and the ads don’t. it has become so much more important to connect with the consumer. And that is why it is important to set foot on the OOH segment as soon as possible. Out-of-home advertising (or outdoor advertising) is made up of more than 100 different formats.  Outdoor advertising is essentially any type of advertising that reaches the consumer while he or she is outside the home and this is best thing about OOH, you see them while you are on the move and hence more scope for the impulse to act. It gives more meaning to the two way process. It is no longer what you want to communicate. It is a conversation and the conversation is becoming more active than passive. OOH cost less than what your traditional mass media would cost you and can be regionalized and can be tweaked around to find the ideal communication layout.

There is this recent phenomenon of flash mobs being used. It is a normal method in the west but the Indian public is just getting used to it. It involves a group of people who all of a sudden enact or showcase something in between crowded areas. A very cost effective method. Allen Solly had used this method of hummanequins of live models suddenly freezing in between a mall and having the latest Allen Solly merchandise on them. Novel way indeed. Although the concept is restricted to metro cities as of now it wont be long till we see this concept spread further to other tier cities.

 What OOH solves is your problem of getting to the target audience. You know where to reach them out but if you don’t know if your marketing effort is going to impact them or catch their attention then OOH is the way. It has all of a sudden led to another branch of marketing professionals who concentrate in that niche alone and do a pretty good job for the buck passed to them.

Axe is becoming my favorite brand when it is coming to OOHs and catching their target group off guard. Axe Inxtinct carries the trend forward for them.

What OOH let you do is carry a conversation. The brand tries to communicate something to you. You notice it and react to it instantly and follow it up.

Advertising agencies are trying to separate OOH from its included activities and hive it into another unit simply to focus on it better. So that the clients get a better deal and execution. Like Group M for WPP.

OOH has certainly come a long way from just hoardings and banners.

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