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Tuesday, March 20

Are we incapable of building iconic youth brands?

When I look around, all I see are 'phoren' brands that attract the youth.
Limca, Gold Spot, Campa Cola, Citra, Thril( the cool Indian brands of the 70s and 80s) have long been bought and killed by Coke.

Thums Up is the lone survivor among Indian cool drink brands!. In beers - Kingfisher is the market leader, but lacks edginess of any sort...

In cosmetics, Lakme had lost its sheen but seems to be on its way back. Elle 18 is visible but is it cutting edge?

In watches - Titan was a cool brand yesterday...but with the entry of Swiss and other foreign brands, its relegated to being a mass player...but again don't think has the attitude, the advertising edginess to be called a 'cool' brand...

All the hip jeans brands are 'firang'...

Actually these thots came while reading the interview of Shailesh Chaturvedi in ET - the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger India.

He lists a few reasons why there are no iconic Indian youth brands to talk about...with a dash of my own two cents!

1. The issue of sustainability - "Youth market demands constant innovation. Many Indian brands like Proline, Titan, Woodlands, Flying Machine, Liberty shoes started with energy and unique product and communication ideas but most of them could not sustain the tempo and the Indian youth migrated to the 'sexier', innovation-driven phoren brands...

2. The fear of loss of existing core customers - As the existing core users of a brand start to age(Papa-isation), their tastes change incrementally/ gradually...But the newer, younger users may want a complete make-over...Most Indian brands in order to protect their current franchise change incrementally and thus fall off the youth radar...

3. Universal Common Language - In a wired world, the young follow the same language offline, online, in gaming and chat rooms, on the cricket field...In a Bollywood meets Hollywood world, they are more comfortable with brands that traverse seamlessly in the connected eco-system...Indian youth brands clearly are not spending enough to create that aura/ texture around them!

4. Older youth icons in India - For a nation that boasts the largest percentage of youth in the world, our icons are strangely quite old.
In most researches, its Sachin(in 30s), Amitabh(in 60s) and the Khans(all in their 40s) who top the ratings!! I have always wondered why all youth Congress/ BJP leaders are in their late 30s and 40s:-)

And while all of them have mass appeal, none of course have the attitude of an 18 year old...

5. Cool brands are created by cool people with artistic sensibilities - Maybe, with our ultra emphasis on analytical skills and data-dependency, many of our brand and marketing managers are becoming purely analysis/ research driven and risk averse...

6. In fact there isn't an exact word for 'cool' or 'attitude' in Hindi! Don't think there exists one in regional languages as well. It's as if we have reconciled that 'cool' is an import item...

We can copy cool but seem unable to create them anymore...Ramesh Chauhan of Parle was the last cool creator it seems...Maybe Kishore Biyani, when he upscales might create a 'cool Indian youth brand'!!

10 comments:

Tanaya said...

Hey Mansh

Interesting post...
few thoughts that came to my mind while i was reading..
Titan Fastrack was a step towards the youth and i think it was a very very good attempt. Struck the right spot with the first ad. It is so relatable and 'Cool'.
A Flying Machine i feel with the kind of idea that we are giving should do wonders i feel. even as far as the product line is concerned they can if they want to keep innovating..Levis has done a brilliant job of keeping all kind of people in mind and have an extremely varied range..So can flying machine..
Yes about the youth Icons definitely all old people are the ones because they are the ones who have acheived and have that weight in theri personality. The younger generation of acheivers in our country i feel lack that attitude. Thnk we as a race lack that killer instinct and attitude and it show therefore the yuth seems to want to follow the guys with some gravity..The younger lot be it john abraham or abhisekh or whoever lack that inspiring feel. Though i would personally speak otherwise for a Hrithik Roshan.. hardworking, acheiver, modest,Dignified attitude, goodlooking,sexy and stylish (john players) is the brand personality that goes with that name Hrithik Roshan for me...but he again needs to be used for the right brand. For a coke he sucks i feel so does he for TATA SKY but John players is one brand which has got him just right..
Brands need to grow eventually keeping in mind their core personality.. They can't keep changng their personality just because their consumers are ageing and changing..Change, Innovation, Risk taking are i think few of the youthful attitudes and i think if a brand keeps that in mind and constantly keep growing holding its core personality it succeeds Nike i feel has done that..Thumps ups new ad is stpid i must say but i feel its still doing a much better job of mainting its personality types than a sprite and a muntain dew specially..they are losing it..
As marketers indians are over analytical in life..consumers are least analytical when they buy something. they care a fuck..ROI (Return of Investment)is all they look for most of the times... a brand is got to be natural.. like people strike a chord with each other when they are most natural and themselves similarly i think a brand does the same too. The latest Nike commercial is an example of that..its strike the heart. natural , exact and an apt representation of life in india and the meaning and extent of cricket following india...

Hmmm so those were instant thoughts..

Tanaya said...

Also for Flying Machine personally i strictly feel that the no celebrity way is the way it should go.. BUT there is always a BUTTTTT... he he.

pooR_Planner said...

Interesting thoughts here Manish. Remember when dad used to take us to the Bata store below the Grand hotel in Kolkata for buying our shoes. Now that brand is completely lost. Gold Spot and Jungle Book, I have such fond memories of collecting the caps of Mowgli, Akela, Bagheera.
I still wear Proline tees. Probably one brand which has the potential to sustain. Tantra T is the new kid but they are slowly becoming a part of the herd. Titan Fasttrack has that cool attitude but not enough to enamour Indian youth to which they look as a poor youth's premium brand. Another brand that comes to my mind that had the potential but lost somewhere is Mohan's Cereals. Now Kellogg's have taken that place. Kingfisher has indeed lost its edge even being the leader.

Brand custodians lack of foresight and focus, eventually killed some of the best Indian cool brands. The new breed of youth is no more 'cool' they have progressed to a 'sensible cool' (if thrs any term like that)

As you mentioned in a seamless, connected and wired eco-system, the new Indian brands need to do more to imbibe their cool attitudes into the youth culture. A tough task but not impossible.

Manish said...

thanks roop...
But Bata or Mohan's cereals were never really cool brands.. Bata was/is a solid middle class VFM brand!

Mohan Meakins cereals was an oddity, FMCG brand...i was specifically talking about iconic youth brands!

i guess it also has to do with the marwari, bania mind-set with which most businesses were run till a decade back. Brands were no more than logos on the products.

Business was equal to sales and brand understanding was native-wisdom driven which perhaps worked when you were a Nirma or Ghadi detergent, but up the price/ status continuum, this thinking and approach didnt work!

Of course you did have an occasional Garden Vareli and the Bombay Dyeing man!

Woodlands and Ramesh Chauhan stable,etc. was an exception but the MNC dollar money was able to buy them off...

It's the new breed - the 3rd generation business guys and the 1st gen software businesses who might be savvier...

FiNK said...

Is Elle18 still visible? I thought they had killed that brand. I read about them bringing it back to life this year actually. Lakme, I feel has added color and style, is on its way back but isn't a cool youth brand to me.

Tantra t shirts were cool for a bit, but went too mass. Agree w Roop thr

To me: Cool is masala chai in the rain. cool is fusion music -medivial punditz at a park. cool is homegrown khadi products (do u have their stores in mumbai?) cool is the nokia phone for truckers - my driver has an unbreakable type with a little torch. cool is not licensed by a country or sold with a price tag. cool is a state of being - mixing it up - prada bag and janpath t shirt. cool is driving a red swift, playing nina simone - heading to a dhaba off jaipur highway. Cool isnt owned by brands anymore, cool is a state of mind that is created BY consumers

Manish said...

Fink....Cool was never entirely owned by brands...Cool always starts at the fringes....it's just that the cool brands are early enough to tap into youth culture...

Cool is a state of mind. totally with you...its just that currently that state is not an Indian state:-)

Sort of coolness that RDB, Dhoom2 etc have created, mainline Indian brands are slow to adopt/create...

Provogue i feel has the right elements but the chaudhary duo are not able to scale it up and keep the product at par with the image...

ashutosh said...

Maneesh,

Interesting thot. I feel ToI is probably the true iconic youth brand of this country. indian youth is not the individualistic, rebellious type as in the US so our youth brands are also less edgy and more mainstream.

I have tried to capture some aspects of the ToI phenomena on http://awaks-allinthemind.blogspot.com/2007/05/life-and-times.html.

But keep raising these provocative questions. Takes the mind in interesting directions.

Manish said...

hey ashutosh
I don't know if being operationally profitable and being immensely successful is an overiding indication of an 'iconic status'.

Icons show direction to a whole generation. They have a strong moral compass. One's marketing prowess alone cannot be a substitute for great content.

TOI is good. But as soneone said - Good is the greatest enemy of great!

Icons generate passion, respect and fan following. TOI has just a wildly growing readership, including yours truly:-)

BTW - i was unable to post a comment on your blog....nice thots u have!!

ashutosh said...

Thanks Maneesh

I meant Iconic in the Dough Holt (How brands Become Icons) sense about iconic brands being a cultural symbol of the times a la Beetle and Flower Power. ToI is a symbol of the highly materialistic, catchup-with-the-west generation most of us have become. It's compass comes from a place of deep respect for the consumer (not the editorial fraternity) and the belief in the customer's ability to pick and choose from a wide array of options presented. Unlike the earlier idea of newspapers as the 'fourth estate' and shapers of opinion, ToI sees itself as a business whose job is to inform and entertain (although it could also inspire).

It may not generate passion in an overt sense (like tatooing oneself) but its appeal as a symbol of being in tune with the times is unmistakable.

And as i said earlier, till a newspaper comes along and shows us what great can be, I am a little skeptical of the endless finger pointing i see as far as ToI is concerned.

Will be spending time on your blog..stuff looks pretty interesting.

And will look at the post comments section.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

Cool=Jhakaas,Bindaas