(Principal Correspondent, Pitch Magazine)
Accepting no limits, alternative thinking and driving positive change; These are the three brand pillars of ‘Rise’ – the new positioning of Mahindra Group. The group that was one of the winners in the Globetrotters Category in the Pitch Top 50 Marketers Awards 2010, has made a shift from its old positioning – ‘Indians are second to none’ – for the reason that today the group has a presence in 79 countries across the globe and has a workforce consisting of foreign nationals in excess of 10 per cent.
For Ruzbeh Irani, Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Chief Brand Officer, Mahindra Group and Member of the Group Executive Board, ‘‘Rise’’ sums up the aspirations of Mahindra's stakeholders and employees. “When we speak to customers across the world, all of them express a strong sense of optimism about the future and share a common desire to ‘Rise’, to succeed and create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. And brand Mahindra epitomises what its customers want – a company that empowers them to ‘Rise’,” he says.
Also, the group that was primarily an engineering centric company – tractors and farm equipments – till the 1990s, today has a presence not only in automobiles but in service lead sectors like IT and retail as well. The idea is to give one face and one core brand value to the various businesses of the 65-year old and worth Rs 33,000 crore.
‘Rise’ isn’t just a word for Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group. “It is a rallying cry, which enables people to unify around shared ideas, values, principles, a way of life or a common goal,” he says, adding, “It is a call to see opportunities where others can’t and to set an example for the world.”
However, experts are of the view that just an aesthetic change in terms of brand logo, tagline etc. can never help a brand unless the change is strongly inculcated internally. Unnikrishnan, Managing Director, India, Brand Finance (a global brand-evaluation company), warns, “The real challenge for Mahindra will be how they deliver on this aspiration of ‘Rise’. The role of employees will be very critical in this. Most of the time corporates make these grandeur statements but they fail to deliver at the customer touch points. In such cases they remain just an aesthetic change.”
Ashwini Deshpande, Director, Elephant Strategy & Design, agrees, “For any rebranding or positioning exercise to be successful it is very important that the consumers experience the change that you are promising.” Thus, it is very important for brands to review the rebranding exercises in order to ensure its impact and effectiveness on the stakeholders and measure the returns on those valuable marketing bucks spent.
And Mahindra doesn't seem to be off-mark. The group has also launched a new core purpose for the group: “We will challenge conventional thinking and innovatively use all our resources to drive positive change in the lives of our stakeholders and communities across the world, to enable them to ‘Rise’.”
This is a change not planned overnight. Mahindra Corporate Brand Council gave this task two years back to the New York based advertising agency, StrawberryFrog. The agency conducted an anthropological and semiotic research across the globe and that’s how the positioning of ‘‘Rise’’ was arrived at.
According to Dr SR Singhvi, Professor of Marketing, IMI, and formerly with MDI and IIM Indore, “Rebranding comes with a cost, which can be from monetary to emotional, and has affects from within the organisation to the consumers.”
This rebranding will cost Mahindra a hefty Rs 120 crore over the next three years.
Interestingly, the last five years have seen many Indian corporate giants opting for a makeover or a new corporate identity. Goliaths like Godrej, Bajaj, Dabur, etc. have all opted for a new brand personality. And this list has grown even thicker and faster over the past 12 to 14 months with brands like Airtel, HDFC Life, Horlicks, Taj Group, Jagran, Star Plus etc. opting for a new avatar.
Commenting on Mahindra's repositioning, Naresh Gupta, National Planning Director, Cheil Worldwide, says, “It seems like a clarion call given to the entire organisation that this is the way how we will be doing business and this is the philosophy we will be following from now on.”
Gupta’s point seems valid as the group stresses that the idea behind this new brand positioning is to unite the Mahindra workforce as a group of passionate individuals and unconventional thinkers who create world-class offerings and aspire to greatness.