Friday, July 6, 2007

Bonding with brands

WORMS in chocolate. Pesticides in cola. Unmentionables in most other stuff that goes down the gullet... It’s only fair that people love to hate brands these days. MNC brands, in particular.

Why so? Maybe because we feel cheated. All along, we’ve bought MNC brands in the name of quality. If they want to play dirty, we might as well go back to the original dirties—the desis. At least, we’ll be able to identify with the sweat, grime and hair strands found in their products. And pay less to boot.

You may feel that I’m stretching the point too far. You may be amused by my display of feeling for ‘mere brands.’ I will therefore transport you to a normal city.

You are now standing at a corner shop in Gandhi Nagar, Jammu ( For the geographically weak, its in the strife torn state of J&K, India, for more further details, the wiki family will provide u all the details). You want bread. Your eyes scan the counter for Bonn, Dalima or Bakeman’s—three familiar brands. You see Kwality and St. Michaels and Bimbo—three unfamiliar brands. There’s also a day-old packet of Britannia. You take the Britannia. Why? Because it’s an old friend. It spares you the guinea pig feeling. That’s a brand’s place in your life.

Cadbury and Coke do the same to people who move between countries and continents. Otherwise, it’s a moot point whether Cadbury’s chocolates are any better or tastier than Amul’s or Campco’s.

The day-old Britannia you’ve bought is like the offshoot of a banyan tree. When you saw it, you were reminded of another offshoot in your hometown. The association inspired confidence. Similarly, Cadbury is a banyan tree on a much bigger scale. Its offshoots span places as far apart as Harvard and Haryana. It homogenises markets across the world. When a Haryanavi sees Cadbury in Harvard, his eyes twinkle, "Oh, so you are from the house of Cadbury! So glad to meet you, I have known your sisters in India these last 30 years`85"

Yes, brands grow to be our friends and relatives. That’s why we love and trust them. That’s why we remain loyal to them. That’s also the reason why we hate them when they let us down.

I have talked about the ‘brand banyan’, which starts out locally in one place, spreads its shoots far and wide and comes to be seen as ‘local’ in all those places. But there’s also the genuine local brand, which remains confined to one area but inspires fierce loyalty in its patrons.

This kind of brand is capable of triggering the strongest feelings. Recently, on a trip home to Jammu from Delhi, I was served HPMC juice and Verka butter. It had been over six months since I had seen these products. Holding them was like homecoming; it was as if I had found long lost friends on the way home!

Their limited reach is perhaps what makes us cherish a genuine local brand more than any ‘banyan brand’. Consider this: you are a Indian, alumnus of an Indian University and settled in New York for the past 20 years. You read The New York Times everyday. One morning, while walking to work, you spot a copy of any Indian newspaper at a news stand, do you pass it by????


mithrandhir said...

good work man, real good.
brilliant analysis on brands... gotta admit, ur rite.

neha said...

without exaggeration this is a real good piece...good observation...keep it up

aamir said...

its a nice analysis , well done sir

Dhruv said...

sir? i havent been knighted... yet..