In order to commemorate the completion of 25 years, Percept Ltd organised the ‘Percept Business Conclave’ in Mumbai on July 18, 2009. While the first half of the Conclave was an in-house event, the second half saw panel discussions on topics such as ‘Has Brand building taken a back seat?’, ‘Catch me if you can’ and ‘Is content King or is packaging God?’.
The session on ‘Has Brand building taken a back seat?’ had Anil Dua, Senior VP - Sales, Marketing & Customer Care, Hero Honda; Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT India; BBDO’s Josy Paul; KV Sridhar (Pops), NCD, Leo Burnett India; and Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal as its panelists. Ajay Chandwani, Non-Executive Director, Percept Ltd, moderated the session.
Commencing the discussions, Chandwani noted, “All brands were built in the latter half of the 20th Century like Horlicks. Nokia, Vodafone and Airtel are consumer brands that have evolved recently. Advertising agencies have prided themselves in building their clients’ brands as partner and brand custodians.”
Taking the discussions further, Colvyn Harris, stressed, “It is important to invest in a brand from a long-term perspective. It depends on where you are in the life-stage of a product that you service. Brands are built with great ideas, they are extremely vast. At every stage, you need to take the right steps for the brand to keep growing. In future, you take certain steps for legacy. Companies have blamed market conditions and the downturn, but brands haven’t taken a back seat.”
Pops noted, “People are willing to pay extra as they have aesthetics and emotions attached to the brand. If your product is just a commodity, it will not become a brand.”
Brand building: A slow burner or luxury?
On whether brand building was a slow burner or a luxury, Shashi Sinha said that classic brand building was when one was under pressure and looked for short term gains. Citing the example of the Indian premiere League (IPL), he said, “In March 2009, 65-70 per cent of money was invested in brand building of the IPL championship to drive sales. Brand building is a great idea. Invest money in it.”
Josy Paul said here, “I have three points to make. Everything that a brand does is for brand building. Even when you look at Gandhiji, he had the tactics and he did great theme building. We shouldn’t understand brands merely from a scientific level, but the understanding should be from an intuitive sense as well. You need to live with the brand. However, we are so scared to find our own brand voice. There is a need to find that unique voice in your brand.”
Anil Dua remarked, “Brand building future is secure. But has the volume of brand building gone down? It has indeed gone down because a customer has run short of money and demand has gone down. There has been no let-up in demand and supply. But agency commissions have been slashed down; ad spots have gone down. The inventory has built up. There is no slowdown from the supply side. FMCG shows double growth. However, this year looks positive. In all this, the role of the client has become critical.”
Has creativity become commoditised?
Commenting on this, Pops cautioned, “If you don’t understand the values for a brand, then it will be difficult for a brand to survive. Brand building is like human beings. It has evolved over the years. Today, we are answerable to shareholders. Therefore, even creativity has changed. Finally, my take is to decide what values you are selling of brand, as long as you are delivering value for the brand.”
According to Paul, “Relationship needs ideas; and ideas need relationship. Even a commodity has a relationship. Relationship gives license to come up with a bigger idea.”
Harris observed, “There is a lot more to value creation. There is nice balance between value creation, when you try and destroy the brand with short term measures.”
Are specialists good for a brand?
Dua said, “One single entity is responsible. If centralisation has virtue, it will go back to the client. There was virtue in specialization, that’s why the industry was born.”
Harris noted, “If you go to a consultant, you don’t have bandwidth to go to a specialist. It’s a battle about who gets the solutions.”
“I live in a constant state of paranoia,” Paul said, adding, “The agency and the client need high nurturing of emotions for the brand. You need to be intuitive to your brand idea. I believe in specialisation as it creates focus.”
Pops noted that there were two aspects of implementation of a campaign and conceiving of a campaign. Sinha said that there were many advantages of specialisation and downside as well. “Finally, what mattered in the business is creativity,” he added.
“It is important for brands to have custodian that let the brands grow. I don’t see a reversal in this, however, consolidation is possible,” said Dua.
Paul stressed, “Leadership shouldn’t be controlled. Specialists need to come together in an integrated way.”
Pops said here, “Huge agencies are pushing agencies to become integrated partners.”
Sinha concluded, “The story is done with. The faster the industry accepts the fact, the better will be the focus on strengths. Brand building is here to stay and so is specialisation.”