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Indian brands do not believe that India is worth it: Wally Olins

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Indian brands do not believe that India is worth it: Wally Olins

International brand identity and communications guru Wally Olins addressed an august gathering of marketers and media professionals on building an identity of a brand, at IAA Global Marketing Summit held in Mumbai yesterday in partnership with exchange4media.

After confessing his love for India, Olins began to talk about how emotional factors are key to how one perceives a brand, giving examples of what emotion and human qualities various brands possess; for instance, Volvo represents safety and environmental friendliness, while its competition Alpha Romeo represents pride and being sporty.

“A brand is not a logo, tagline or slogan,” explained Olins, who’s also the Chairman of Saffron Brand Consultants, based in London, Madrid, Mumbai and New York. “A brand is what you stand for, and how you represent what you stand for visually,” he added.

Olins also talked about how a brand idea can be projected through its products and services, via communications and advertising, and through environment. A motor brand, for instance, is product-dominated, whereas a brand like Coca Cola has always been communications-driven. A hotel is a perfect example of being a brand that’s ‘environmentally-dominated’.

But arguably, the highlight of his session was when he spoke about Indian brands – what works for them and where they tend to miss the boat.

There are a lot of products that are ‘made in India’, a line that’s ubiquitously mentioned on the wash-and-care labels of big international consumer brands. “When will products and brands be ‘designed by India’?” asked Olins. He believes that this is because the problem is essentially a psychological one, and not intellectual. “Indian companies and brands do not believe that India is worth it. ‘Made in India’ does not add value. Companies lack confidence of seeing Indian brands on a world stage. There’s no reason for this but it’s there,” Olins stated a harsh truth.

He also added that Indian brands are pretending to be something else. They are mostly inspired by the West, but are not really communicating qualities that are ‘intrinsically Indian’.

Olins proceeded to talk about another interesting quality common to Indian brands – they sometimes get lost in the image of the brand ambassador, which more than often are popular celebrities and Bollywood stars. “Too many brands are built on someone else’s personality. What are you selling here? The face or the brand?  Are the brands suffering from multiple-personality disorder?”

He ended his session by stressing on the fact that Indian brands need to focus on their authenticity, “Brands really don’t need to shout or scream, but it’s more important to communicate that they’re real.”

Olins also shared a few concepts that can help Indian brands shape communication – concepts that are instantly relatable to Indian audiences such as healthcare, frugal technology, Bollywood pop culture and food.


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