Sustaining a cult brand is herculean - CM Sethi, Reckitt Benckiser

Chander Mohan Sethi, CMD, Reckitt Benckiser, delivered his keynote address at the Pitch CMO Summit by talking on what it takes to keep a cult brand like Dettol relevant with changing times.

e4m by Neha Goel
Published: Nov 22, 2011 8:13 AM  | 3 min read
Sustaining a cult brand is herculean - CM Sethi, Reckitt Benckiser

The Mumbai leg of the three-city Pitch CMO Summit 2011, started with Chander Mohan Sethi, CMD, Reckitt Benckiser, paying tribute to cult brands like Harley Davidson and particularly, Dettol.

“Harley Davidson and Dettol are strong and magnetic brands, which win in the marketplace due to the loyalty they command. They forge a human connection with the consumer by fulfilling their human needs (safety, social, esteem, self-actualization) and leveraging the higher-level needs and also consistently associating the brand with the right archetypal image,” he said.
Sethi was delivering his keynote address, “Cult Brands: keeping them relevant to the ever changing India”.

Brands like Dettol, Cherry Blossom, Disprin, Mortein etc from RB's stable have maintained their cult status over decades despite the changing Indian consumer preferences.

Sethi felt that while it was a must for a cult brand to stick to its values it stands for, but at the same time, it has to keep evolving with changing times. And in the end, it is the consumers' devotion, repeat usage, premium pricing and advocacy of the brand by users that lend to the charm of the cult brand. He pointed out that inspite of the fact that most of the cult brands have a price higher than other brands, yet they remain to be consumers’ favourites.

Sethi did not just limit the concept of cult brands to products, but expanded it to personalities as well. “Brands like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King are cult brands as well. People can still relate to the values these personalities stand for.” Keeping cult brands relevant needed an understanding of what makes these brands click with consumers. “Cult brands like Amul create a space and energy for people to follow,” said Sethi.

He picked up the case-study of Dettol to explain what it takes to keep cult brands alive. Dettol came to India 78 years back. What started as an antiseptic liquid for cuts and wounds has taken various forms such as a soap, liquid hand-wash, hand sanitizer and even a shaving cream, to cater to the changing needs of consumers. “Cult brands build resonance with consumers, said Sethi, adding, “and Dettol has been doing exactly that.”

Building resonance for Dettol required taking up the rational as well as the emotional route. While the antiseptic is an effective purifier and cleanser, it also stands for trust. Dettol’s brand elements have also contributed to its success. The name, slogan, symbols and the multi sensorial experience help the brand to re-iterate its position as a brand that can constantly be trusted.
He said that the reasons for Dettol's success could be associated to continuous brand reinforcement, modernisation and laddering up.

Sethi pointed out that cult brand picture was not all mushy. “Creating cult brands is difficult, sustaining a cult brand is herculean.” He elaborated on the same by sharing the challenges that cult brands face. Clutter, competition and changing consumers make the task of marketers rather tough.

Sethi concluded his presentation by sharing his lessons of being niche, aspirational and having a sharp positioning in order to succeed in the genre of cult brands.

While Jagran was the presenting sponsor of the Pitch CMO Summit 2011, in association with Zee Bangla, the other associate sponsors included Times Television Network and Open magazine.


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