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A brand is much more than advertising; it’s a total experience: Shelly Lazarus

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A brand is much more than advertising; it’s a total experience: Shelly Lazarus

“India is way up there, it is a place of enormous potential, and very much on our radar screen.” That’s how she began her presentation on ‘The global power of brands’, and coming from Shelly Lazarus, Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, it ought to mean a great deal.

Speaking at the O&M Brand Forum on ‘The fine art of building brands,’ held in New Delhi on Monday in association with the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, Lazarus said brands and innovation are both important in today’s highly competitive global business scenario. “Quality is the point of entry for any brand today. But a product has to be able to innovate to survive and thrive, but in the context of the brand,” she said.

Showing advertising clips from Nike, Motorola, Kodak and Huggies campaigns, Lazarus asserted that a “brand is the ultimate relationship between a product and the consumer.” According to her, a strong brand can even help a company tide over difficult times, like in the case of Apple. “Strong brands set the stage, they bring returns on investment, and product quality improves. Apple was always a strong global brand; they were known for their great product designs and user-friendliness. They went through a bad phase. But now, riding on the wave of success of the Ipod, Apple has just reported its highest ever quarterly profits, with 10 million Ipods sold,” she said.

In the global perspective, Lazarus observed that a brand is “the only thing that is ownable and has a proprietary value. A product today can be replicated, it can become obsolete in six months’ time, but no one can take away your brand and its intrinsic value.” She also added that one cannot move products from country to country without a strong brand. “Advertising is a big means to promote a brand. But a brand is much more than advertising; it is a total experience,” Lazarus said.

Peter Mukerjea, CEO, Star India, speaking on ‘Enhancing the value of existing brands’, provided a walk-through on how Star built its brand in the Indian market to become the number television broadcaster in India. Tongue in cheek, he remarked that the “terrestrial broadcaster (read Doordarshan) made it easy (read poor programming) for Star to get a firm footing in the Indian market”.

He explained that Star built its brand on three planks – the ‘E’ factor (the quality element), superior content and a strong grip on the consumer pulse. “These three factors helped us create a strong consumer experience, which in turn helped us create a strong brand equity.”

Mukerjea said the next step in Star’s brand journey is “localisation, which is the key to enhancing our brand value”. He added that “KBC was the cornerstone of the successful localisation drive as it established Star Plus as the premier entertainment channel in Hindi.” He further said that the Star Group has embarked on brand expansion by reaching out to new markets with Radio City and Star Vijay, a Tamil language channel.

“Very recently we launched Star One, which is really the next generation in Hindi language entertainment programming, and is targeted at the metro-centric, urban Indian. The theory that one size fits all does not really work any more,” Mukerjea said.

Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman & National Creative Director, O&M India, held that communication is the voice of a brand. “It is all about connecting to the consumer’s heart, and not so much about logic,” he said, drawing from the campaigns of Cadbury’s, Titan and Fevicol. And humour works very well too, he added, citing the 5-Star chocolate and Centre Shock ads. As he said, “Products are made in factories, strategies in boardrooms, and brands in hearts.”

Dr Xavier Dreze, Professor of Marketing Strategy, Wharton Business School, USA, observed that brand equity is built on awareness and brand associations. “A brand is a name, symbol, design or sign to fight competitors. There will be points of parity and points of difference. That is where your brand salience counts, because it is an idea that you use to deliver products,” he said.


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Prior to joining Madison PR in 2012 Chaudhary was Group President Corporate Communications at Reliance Industries Limited.