‘Branding is about detail, advertising is about the big picture’
Ceat, Arvind Mills, Shoppers Stop, Godrej, Sify, Cisco, Canara Bank, Network18 — all have got a brand makeover in the recent past. It’s a great time for design agencies, isn’t it?Yes! There is so much on our hands that we have to turn away work everyday. We’ve done the branding for Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad airports. Since January, we also did four brand launches — Ceat, Trident, Arvind and Shoppers Stop.Are companies looking at it as a long-term investment? It has to be long-term. Changing your brand identity every now and then can be too painful. Internationally, there are hardly any companies who changed logos. How long does a re-branding process take? And how much would you charge for single re-branding exercise? It takes about six months to a year. It depends if the company’s made some acquisition or taken some strategic initiatives. Most of the time it happens if it has entered into a new business. We are the most expensive strategic design agency in India and we don’t benchmark our rates with Indian firms in the business. We charge about 10 times more than the next agency.About Rs 10-15 crore? Well, at least that much.Generally, what do companies expect you to do — increase market shares, push sales? Both. Also, address perception issues. It’s something the public sector banks faced when they were unable to address the youth. But design is only a small part of the solution. Today, it is about looking into the entire picture. We’ve been tracking Indian consumers for decades. Most of the times brands become out-of-tune with customer aspirations. Customers have evolved faster than brands. And the Indian consumer has become extremely demanding. The rate of change in his aspirations and desires in the last 5-7 years is much higher than what it was in the last two decades. Today, because of the media, there is a convergence between urban, rural and small towns. They all consume the same media, so their aspirations are shaped in the same way. How do you go about the re-branding process? We do interviews with a cross section of employees of the company; then we brainstorm with separate sets of employees through workshops. We also run anonymous surveys. Then we speak to all other relevant stakeholders, like customers, competition, analysts and even the media. We also include desk research, where we bring in international expertise from The Brand Union. We scan international trends in that industry and decide on the brand strategy.How do you ensure that brand makeover is not cosmetic? Does it permeate to areas like customer service, work atmosphere? You know, people often people say that, “Oh, they just changed the logo”. But think about it. Changing every interface on that logo costs a lot of money and headache. The owners of these companies have spent their blood, money and sweat to grow them where they are, and they wouldn’t opt for a brand makeover if there wasn’t a good enough reason for it. With Canara Bank, for example, people only saw the logo change. What they didn’t see was that we employed management consultants and recommendations were made to bring people closer together, boost morale. So there was an HR consultancy also working with us. It’s just that these initiatives don’t get plastered on Marine Drive. But the logo does! Once a brand makeover has happened, how do you measure the success or failure of the entire exercise? In most cases, its not difficult to do it. Product branding, for example. We used to do it a lot in the past, like Fair & Lovely, Kissan and Mother Dairy. You can measure it because your sales go up. Corporate branding is measured through either a general perception index or through audits, which we do very often. Earlier branding addressed only external customers. Today, branding is targeted at even your employees, because you need them and there’s a huge talent crunch! Employees want to engage with the brand that they’re working for, but organisations don’t allow them to do it. Aren’t ad agencies trying to turn the tide by forming own design cells? Ad agencies don’t have the specialisation required for this. Branding is about detail, while advertising is about the big picture. Clients are clear about what they want.Which agency would you rate as No 2 and by how far? That’s a terrible question to ask (Laughs). There are hundreds of smaller boutiques who do very pretty work on brochures, pamphlets. But these firms are not attractive to buyers. I don’t know anyone who looks at the whole brand and aligns it with the entire business, like we do. In the last few years, every single global firm looking to enter India wanted to do it through R+K. But I wish people would grow up from small 2-4 agency strong outfits. Are you considering acquisitions in the future? Not really. We always manage to hire the kind of people we want. But we’re open to acquisitions in the future, maybe in special areas like digital.
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