Coca-Cola is, arguably, the world’s most recognized brand, although Google and Nokia will likely close in soon. And, 122 years old, it is definitely an iconic brand, defined for the purpose of this story as one that has simply stood the test of time.
Still—although it is valued at $65 billion (around Rs2.77 trillion) by UK brand consultancy Interbrand Corp.—Coca-Cola is not an iconic brand in India. In its present avatar, it is just 16 years old in the country, which it re-entered in 1992. But Coca-Cola does own an iconic brand in India, Thums Up.
“Thums Up’s invincibility underscores the fact that while some brands are glorious, some are truly iconic,” says Y.L.R. Moorthi, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Parle-G, Amul, Lifebuoy, Dettol, and Horlicks are some other brands that enjoy the same inviolable relationship with at least some consumers. Age, competition, brand clutter and changing consumption culture have not been able to dent their equity among loyalists.
To be sure, every brand aspires to be an iconic brand, but only a few achieve the goal. “If there was a sure shot formula to building an iconic brand, every brand manager would follow it to the hilt,” says Nabankur Gupta, founder CEO of Mumbai-based consultancy Nobby Brand Architects and Strategic Marketing Consultants. After all, which company wouldn’t want its brand to live forever?
The process of creating an iconic brand is more intuitive than definitive, say brand experts. Yet, there are some attributes that are common to all iconic brands. They fulfil all the needs of their consumers—physical aspirations, functional requirements or emotional needs—and they do it with consistency.
In the process, their custody shifts from the hands of the company to their consumers. “Every iconic brand is perceived as ‘my brand’ by its consumers. It is they who own the brand, not some branding whizz-kid,” says Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman of advertising agency McCann Erickson India .
Thus, even when a company that owns an iconic brand runs into trouble and finds itself in a position where it is unable to spend as much time, money and effort on the brand as it should, the brand doesn’t suffer much. Loyal consumers continue to relate to the brand even if there hasn’t been an effective advertising campaign that reinforces the brand’s benefits. And they continue to buy into the brand. That explains why some iconic brands, such as the Ambassador, retain their lustre, albeit for a limited group of customers.
Campaign profiles 18 such brands.
Stealing the thunder
History:Launched in India by Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd. Now owned by Coca-Cola India
Status:Market share is a much disputed subject in the cola industry—yet some insiders, who claim to be in the know, say that Thums Up accounted for 50 million of the 550 million cases sold in the carbonated drinks segment in 2007, and the brand is the largest selling cola in India, with a share larger than that of Coca-Cola and Pepsi
Brand story: Thums Up was launched by Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd to fill the void left by the government ban on American soft drinks giant Coca-Cola in the 1970s. The thumbs-up logo was adopted early on, but the brand was positioned differently then.
“Thums Up was earlier positioned as a refreshing cola, with slogans such as Thums Up Makes it Great and Happy Days are here Again. It was post-1996 that the brand moved towards a more individualistic, masculine positioning,” says Kashmira Chadha, director of marketing at Coca-Cola.
Things changed post liberalization, when Thums Up faced stiff competition from Pepsi and Coke. After a tough fight, the Chauhan brothers, owners of Parle Agro, finally sold Thums Up to Coca-Cola. Though Thums Up enjoyed a market share of around 30% at the time, Coca-Cola focused all its energy on promoting the Coke brand.
“Any outsider will not be able to fathom the equity that the brand Thums Up enjoys among its target group. Coca-Cola did not understand it either. It was busy fighting Pepsi with its brand Coke,” says Arvind Sharma, chairman, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd, the creative agency that has handled the Thums Up account since the 1990s.
While Coca-Cola refutes the suggestion that it tried to kill Thums Up in India, people in the industry think otherwise. “They tried to divert Thums Up loyalists to Coca-Cola in a concerted way,” says a person who used to work with Parle Agro.
“By the time Coca-Cola and Pepsi came to India, a whole generation had grown up drinking Thums Up. Their connect with the brand was not easy to break,” says a senior media buyer involved with the brand who did not wish to be identified.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola also realized that about half its sales were on account of Thums Up; killing the brand at a time when competition with Pepsi was intense would mean losing that much in sales.
Around 1995, Coca-Cola began focusing on the brand—its positioning changed, to a more masculine brand. “The strategy was rooted in the simple insight that India is a market where most of the soft drink consumption is outdoors, and a majority of consumers are male. Using the strong taste of Thums Up, we repositioned the brand by marrying the taste to our target group,” says Sharma.
In the recent past, the 31-year-old brand has held on to its market share. “For a brand as iconic as Thums Up, one does not need to innovate; it is consistency that won the consumers over and it is, therefore, consistency that we offer them,” says Chadha.
Standing guard, always
History: Owned by Unilever Plc., the parent company of Hindustan Unilever Ltd
Status:Has 18% market share in the bathing soaps category, worth Rs6,000 crore
Brand story: Lifebuoy landed on Indian shores in 1895, when the country was in the grip of a plague epidemic. With its positioning as a powerful germicidal and disinfectant, and with a strong carbolic smell, it was what the nation was looking for. But the health advantage waned over time as competitors came out with soaps that promised both health and beauty.
The 1970s were challenging times for the brand, especially in the rural markets, its mainstay. “The biggest challenge was to break the mould and do clutter-breaking advertising,” says Manoj Tapadia, creative director at Lowe India, the advertising agency for Lifebuoy.
It was around 2002 that the product moved from being a hard soap to a mild soap that delivered a significantly superior bathing experience. The new soap had a refreshing fragrance and its overall positioning changed, painting its promise of health in softer, more versatile and responsible hues—for the entire family. The packaging was also changed: The rugged looking packs were soon replaced with a softer pinkish cover. This was followed by a series of ads highlighting the soap’s germ-fighting benefits.
Lifebuoy had become a family soap with hygiene as its core promise. “For a soap that had been relegated to toilets, Lifebuoy has gathered new adherents in an age where more consumers are getting concerned about germs and cleanliness,” says Arvind Sahay, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
“Lifebuoy has 112 years of existence in India and has constantly reinvigorated itself. In the last five years, it has touched nearly 100 million Indians across 44,000 villages,” says Srikanth Srinivasamadhavan, category head, personal wash, HUL.
Right from the early days, the brand has preferred effective communication to celebrities. An exception is its recent, limited exposure campaign with cricketer Yuvraj Singh.
Still 100% sure
Born:1930, in the UK
History: Owned by Reckitt Benckiser India Ltd
Status:A legacy brand, it was launched in India in 1932. Dettol has become the generic name for the liquid antiseptic products category and enjoys 85% market share in the segment. The brand today is present in various segments such as soaps, hand wash, shaving creams and plasters
Brand story: Despite its first-mover advantage, it did not become a household name from the word go. To break into the consumer space, the company launched an aggressive advertising campaign in 1960.
“By 1970, 4.7 million Dettol bottles were sold and, over the next one decade, the brand had penetrated into 40% of urban households in India,” says Chander Mohan Sethi, chairman and managing director, Reckitt Benckiser India.
Dettol’s reign in the market, though, has not been unchallenged. When UK-based consumer products company ICI Plc. brought its flagship brand Savlon to India, recalls Sethi, Reckitt Benckiser realized how serious the competition was—and “Dettol went to consumers with even more forceful campaigns”. In the 2000s, the company’s long-standing slogan, Strong enough to protect the ones we love, changed to Dettol, be 100% sure. “As a brand, Dettol has always retained its standing on the anti-germ platform, although its portfolio has expanded to suit the lifestyle demands of consumers,” says Suman Srivastava, chief executive, Euro RSCG, the advertising agency for Dettol.
A mighty bite
History: Flagship brand of Parle Products Pvt. Ltd
Status: Has a market share of 60% in the glucose biscuits category, worth about Rs2,000crore
Brand story: In the hit Bollywood movie Welcome, actor Nana Patekar, in a passing reference to Parle-G, notes that even biscuits command respect and have to be addressed with a ji (a term of respect in Hindi). His remark, while made in jest, is not far off the mark.
“It is a heritage brand. We sell over 25 crore packets every month. That should reflect the stature of the brand,” says Praveen Kulkarni, marketing head at Parle Products Pvt. Ltd.
Parle’s mantra has always been about repositioning the brand without tweaking the look and feel of the product. “The brand is clearly an Indian brand and it straddles all economic strata. The fact that it is a staple for everyone in the house keeps it going,” says Nirvik Singh, chairman and president, Grey Global Group, South and South-East Asia, the agency that handles the Parle-G account.
There was a time when Parle-G’s dominance was threatened by rival brands, especially the Tiger brand from Britannia. “We found out that Tiger was getting stronger in the kids segment, and we decided to change our positioning,” says Kulkarni.
Later, when the company sponsored the television show Shaktimaan on Doordarshan, it literally rescued Parle-G. The brand also had some innovative commercials involving young children with a new punchline, G means Genius, which was an instant hit.
While rivals have signed on celebrities, Parle-G has managed to retain its leadership position with just a simple white-and-yellow striped wrapper with a picture of a baby on it. “We don’t need celebrities as the brand equity is so strong,” says Kulkarni.
“The biggest concern is that the brand shouldn’t become outdated as it is a historic brand. The brand has managed to retain its leadership position because it has evolved its campaign with every consumption trend,” says Singh.
“The last campaign, Hindustan ki Takat, (the strength of India) is a huge position which no other brand can take so effortlessly.”
Tickling the funny bone, since 1967
Born:1946,? christened in 1955
History: Originally marketed by the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union, Anand, it was taken over by the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) in 1973
Status: Has a 15% market sharein the Rs15,000 crore milk category, and a 37% share in the Rs900 crore organized ice-cream segment.
Starting with milk and milk powder, the Amul brand today covers a range of dairy products—from chocolates to cheese and, of course, butter
Brand story: If a brand’s value is to be judged by the ease with which it can be recalled, then Amul’s marketing campaign wins hands down.
With its clever use of topical events, Amul’s utterly butterly campaign—it has the distinction of entering the Guinness World Records as the longest running campaign—has won the brand several accolades.
Playing the role of a social observer, its weekly comments have tickled India’s funny bone since 1967, when Sylvester Da Cunha’s irrepressible Amul girl first had her say.
But what’s kept the brand going all these years? “We have changed the packaging, our technology and our approach to marketing based on the changing taste buds of our consumers. However, the only thing that has helped us sail smoothly is that we have not changed our core values—give the best quality product to the consumer, and the best possible price. It holds true in any era,” says B.M. Vyas, managing director, GCMMF.
In fact, it is not just the core values at Amul that have remained the same; the core team associated with the brand is still the same. Even the advertising agency hasn’t changed, and Da Cunha and FCB Ulka, have played a pivotal role in the growth of Amul.
“This has helped us maintain consistency in our communication. Our strategy of umbrella branding has also helped establish our brand firmly in people’s minds. This, despite the fact that we do not spend more than 1% of our turnover for marketing, compared with 7-8% (spent) by most of the food and consumer product companies,” R.S. Sodhi, head of marketing, GCMMF, says.
From Utterly butterly delicious Amul to The Taste of India, Amul continues to be the toast of the country.
A shoe for every foot
Born: The T&A Bata Co. was registered in 1894 in Zlín, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).
History: It came to India as Bata Shoe Co. Pvt. Ltd in 1931
Status: With around 35% market share in the organized footwear market in India, the company sells more than 45 million pairs of shoes a year, and is targeting an annual turnover of Rs1,000crore this year
Brand story: Till the 1980s, Bata enjoyed an almost monopolistic position in the organized footwear market—its simple, yet iconic, brown leather sandals and blue-and-white rubber slippers were instantly recognizable.
“Bata was the choice for everyone in the family. Whether it was shoes for the monsoon, school shoes, formal wear or even comfort wear for the elderly, the brand had something for every member in the Indian household,” says Sanjib Kumar Dey, executive vice-president, Saatchi and Saatchi, which handles the brand’s advertising.
The real challenge came in the early 1990s as newer rivals entered the market, and continued into 2004, when sales were the lowest ever. At this point, the company decided to go for a complete makeover.
In March 2008, Marcelo Villagran, managing director of Bata India, announced that the company was profitable on a sustainable basis. In the last week of May, Bata India launched a new advertising campaign, inviting consumers to come to a Bata store and Be surprised.
The launch of myriad shoe brands notwithstanding, “Bata has a shoe for every foot and every social class”, says Arvind Sahay, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. “It’s an evergreen brand.”
No longer fuddy-duddy
Born:1873, in the US
History: Two Chicago, US-based brothers, James and William Horlick, first patented the malt-based milk drink as baby food. While the exact date of its India launch is not known, some of its commercials date back to the early 1900s. Currently owned by GSK Consumer Healthcare Ltd in India
Status: Horlicks holds 58% of the Rs1,900 crore health food drinks market, and is currently a Rs1,000 crore brand in India
Brand story: From a drink that was supposed to promote a good night’s sleep to one that can help children grow taller, stronger and sharper, Horlicks has come a long way. Simultaneously, its brand image, too, has changed—from a fuddy-duddy, boring health drink recommended by doctors to something that is nourishing, and enjoyable.
In 1992, as its market share grew, the brand extended itself to a new product—Horlicks Biscuits. In 1994, it started singing the “micronutrient” story, followed by its “smart nutrients” campaign in 1998.
The brand underwent a massive transformation in 2003, when almost everything about it changed—from the taste and flavour to the packaging. It also changed its positioning: it was nourishing, yes, but also tasty.
Another turning point came in 2005, when the brand released a clinical study which claimed that children who consumed Horlicks were “taller, stronger, and sharper” than those who did not. For the first time, the brand tried to communicate with children, not just their mothers.
Beginning a major advertising and marketing campaign along that theme, new variants such as Horlicks Lite were launched, followed by the revamp of Junior Horlicks in 2006. The latest variant is Women’s Horlicks, launched this year.
“We are constantly striving to ensure that the brand is relevant to consumers,” says Shubhajit Sen, vice-president, marketing, GSK Consumer Healthcare Ltd. Product innovation, he maintains, is likely to remain a priority.
Glued to the leadership position
History:Owned by Pidilite Industries Ltd, it is the company’s flagship product
Status:Has approximately two-thirds market share in the adhesives market
Brand story: Sold in its trademark white-and-blue packaging, this product is almost a category by itself. Just think about it—who is Fevicol’s competitor? What other products can you recall that stick things as well as Fevicol does? Zorlagakehaisha (put all your might into it), the good old punchline, still comes to mind when we think about Fevicol.The Fevicol story began when chairman D.B. Parekh saw some carpenters using glue from animal bones, which required days of preparation. Spotting the potential, he started Pidilite Industries.
“We are so successful because we were first in the market, and then, the pioneers in all other innovations,” says Apurva Parekh, executive director at Pidilite Industries.
Fevicol’s success and reputation got a boost when Pidilite introduced its first product line extension—a 30g tube—in the early 1970s. Later, a host of uniquely packaged Fevicol products were introduced for school students, office-goers and institutions. “We didn’t want to be restricted to a ‘carpenter’ brand, and introduced different applications and packaging formats that helped change our image to an all-purpose adhesive,” says Parekh.
And that gets reflected in every ad campaign, with each advertisement depicting a new application. In fact, the basis of its success is the brand’s communication.
A creative approach of owning “bonding” while retaining the Indian flavour in the campaign, with a good measure of humour, has been the trademark of its advertising.
The ads have showcased human bonding in different forms—be it the rickety bus ad (an overloaded bus with people all over it, hanging on and not falling), the Pakde rehna, chodna nahi series (the hold-on, don’t-let-go ads, doffing the hat to the climaxes of Bollywood films), or the pundit reciting the mantra, Yeh Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai, tootega nahi (this bond won’t break). The Fevicol ads have won 30 awards in the last five years.
While the advertising definitely gives the brand an edge, Fevicol has always maintained a close connect with its primary customers—the craftsmen. “We have a Fevicol Champions Club (FCC) for skilled craftsmen, which acts as a platform for social gatherings and to celebrate festivals, etc,” says Parekh.
Like its creative advertising campaigns, Fevicol is still glued to the leadership position, even after 45 years.
A thing for beauty, and a soap forever
Born:1929, in India, as a bathing soap
History: Owned by global consumer products giant Unilever Plc., the parent company of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL)
Status: Enjoys more than 17% market share in the premium soaps market valued at Rs6,000 crore
Brand story: What is the common seductive link between Hollywood actor Paul Newman, Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J. Jayalalithaa? They have all tried selling a soap at some point or the other. And the soap is Lux, the premium beauty soap from consumer products company HUL. “Lux has been the epitome of beauty for the Indian woman and inspires all women in India to enjoy the process of beautifying without any constraints,” says Srikanth Srinivasamadhavan, category head, personal wash, HUL.
Lux—derived from the word luxury— was launched in 1899 as a laundry soap in the UK. In 1925, the brand was extended to the toilet soap category. It was positioned as a beauty soap in India, and HUL has since used successful film actors of the time—such as Leela Chitnis, Madhubala, Hema Malini and Kareena Kapoor—to endorse the product.
Lux’s secret of longevity has been its consistent evolution—be it the soap colour, packaging or new variants, the brand has banked on innovation to keep its youthful image intact. Extending the soap cake to a range of shower gels, liquid soaps and moisturizing bars has helped the brand keep consumers excited and the competition at bay.
What has not changed is the consistency in its communication and its positioning. Its tag lines—If it’s good enough for a film star, then it’s good for you too to Play with beauty—have conveyed the same message over the years. “Lux is a brand like Mills & Boon. While the packaging and content could change, the romance angle doesn’t. It taps into an emotion very close to humanity’s basic need—social interaction. The brand has always hired celebrities when they have reached a certain height rather than using them at the start of their careers. This avoids the issue of celebrities overshadowing the brand,” says Agnello Dias, national creative director, JWT, which handles the account.
The right ingredients
History: Owned by home-grown consumer products company Dabur India Ltd
Status:Has more than 60% market share in the digestive products market, worth Rs150 crore
Brand story: Hajmola, one of the strongest brands in Dabur’s portfolio, was launched in 1978 with a core proposition of “fun, taste and digestion”. Its tag line for years, Chatpat swad, jhatpat aaram , (tastes good, provides instant relief) conveys the product’s benefits simply and succinctly. Over the past few years, the brand has moved away from its ayurvedic positioning to that of a mild digestive product with a younger and naughtier image.
With a category penetration of close to 80% (which means eight out of every 10 Indians have used digestive tablets), the company claims that around 20 million Hajmola tablets are consumed every day in India. A lack of serious competition has given the brand a definite edge over the few regional and unorganized players that compete with it. “The (brand’s) fundamental premise is a ‘universal’ need. Hence, it is sustainable,” says Sanjeev Malhotra, director, Alia Creative Consultants Pvt. Ltd, a brand consulting firm.
Another reason for Hajmola’s success is that it has kept pace with the evolution of the consumer. “Earlier, Hajmola was available only in glass bottles and was more of an in-house consumption product. But the introduction of Hajmola in pouches gave consumers an option of buying and consuming it on the go,” says K.K. Rajesh, executive vice-president, Dabur.
The brand has extended itself to candy and other forms of digestives as well. “Apart from a new price point, a new format like candy (has) brought new consumers, mostly kids, into the brand fold,” Rajesh adds.
Another evolution strategy was the use of celebrities such as cricketer Kapil Dev in the 1980s and actor Amitabh Bachchan in recent times. This helped in giving the brand a certain status.
An Ambassador in its own right
History: Owned by the C K Birla-managed Hindustan Motors Ltd. The first Ambassador car, modelled after the Morris Minor, rolled off the assembly line as the first truly Indian car
Status: This sturdy behemoth continues to thrive in smaller towns and is also popular with the minority wishing to make a “retro” statement in the cities.
Brand story: The car that won’t die has also become a brand that won’t die.
Hindustan Motors, the manufacturer of one of the world’s oldest cars, sells about 13,000 cars each year, mostly in the eastern and southern parts of India. Most spend their lives as taxis, about a quarter ferry government employees and the remaining 15% are for the retro-chic and nostalgic customers.
Earlier this year, fashion designer Manish Arora—himself the owner of a black “Amby”—hosted a special on Discovery Travel and Living, where he took the car, gutted, and then rebuilt it. With Puducherry leather upholstery and cloth from New Delhi’s Karol Bagh and old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, he turned it into a fashionable symbol of eclectic India.
The Ambassador’s dependability, spaciousness and comfort factor made it the most preferred car for generations of Indians till sleek, powerful beauties took over Indian roads. And its brand ambassadors ranged from the Prime Minister’s motorcade to the kali-peelis (black and yellow cabs) that stood, and still do, at every taxi stand.
Last year, Hindustan Motors rolled out a special model to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The bulging headlights, rounded body and a big bonnet were there, but there were also many new features—reflecting changing consumer preferences and a refusal to die. This is not your grandfather’s Ambassador, but features bucket seats, power steering and mobile chargers.
A fitting brand Ambassador, indeed.
—S. Mitra Kalita
Weaving a winning bond
History:Raymond Woollen Mills Ltd was set up in the 1920s by the Sassoon family. The mill was bought over by the Singhania family in 1942
Status: Raymond produces more than 35 million metres of fabric and holds over 60% of the market share in the suit fabric market in India
Brand story: In the early years, the brand started out with a chess king logo. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Raymond decided to include the common man with an instructive campaign. The brand offered a “guide to the well-dressed man” that would educate the consumer.
The brand’s persona was taken forward by Vijaypat Singhania, chairman emeritus of the Raymond Group. In the 1990s, it launched The Complete Man campaign. And, more recently, Raymond has taken this concept further with a new initiative which also focused on the product— Feels like heaven, feels like Raymond .
“Raymond’s success lies in the fact that its pursuit of innovation is part of an ongoing strategy, not a knee-jerk reaction imposed by market conditions,” says Gautam Hari Singhania, chairman and managing director, Raymond Ltd.
“Till date, any special occasion—first job interview, a wedding in the family or even the first board meeting—Raymond is the preferred brand,” he adds.
“A brand can never be created through ads or campaigns alone…it takes a lot more than that to win the consumers’ faith and confidence,” says Nabankur Gupta, founder CEO, Nobby Brand Architects and Strategic Marketing Consultants.
Raymond has, year after year, delivered on a brand promise, Gupta adds—with trust and performance creating a strong emotional bond with consumers.
The irrepressible devil, and a blessing in disguise
History: Owned by Mirc Electronics Ltd
Status: The most recognizable home-grown brand in the highly competitive consumer electronics industry dominated by Korean chaebols such as LG and Samsung
Brand story: Onida is a brand best remembered for its unique mascot—the green devil with horns, long nails and spiky tail slithering across television screens. The tag line, Neighbour’s Envy, Owner’s Pride, was as catchy as the mascot. The devil turned out to be an angel in disguise—his mischievous message stood the brand in good stead in times that saw many of its rivals capitulate under market pressure.
For, Onida, too, was a victim of liberalization: Korean heavyweights such as LG Electronics and Samsung came to India with aggressive pricing and distribution strategies and conquered the consumer electronics market. The older players, such as Mirc, Videocon and BPL, couldn’t match their ability to scale up operations and cut prices while playing the volumes game. Most companies went into the red.
Onida survived. “There was a great fear that all Indian companies will be washed out with large MNCs (multinational companies) coming to India. But, Onida had managed to build a strong connect with its consumers and it remained intact even in challenging times,” says Gulu Mirchandani, chairman of Mirc Electronics. “We soon decided that to stay ahead, we must make products that are not only globally competitive but measure up to global standards of quality as well,” he adds. The company continued to communicate its brand promise through clutter-free advertising—and the irrepressible devil.
According to a study of brands by market research firm TNS Mode released in September 2007, more than 78% of those surveyed could recall the devil, and connect it with the Onida brand.
The times remain challenging, but the devil and his antics have built a strong equity among consumers.
For the sake of?a fair share
FAIR & LOVELY
History: The fairness cream brand was developed by Hindustan Lever Ltd (now Hindustan Unilever Ltd) in 1975. The product was then marketed nationallyin 1978
Status: According to industry estimates, Fair and Lovely holds 80% market share in the at least Rs1,000 crore by sales Indian fairness cream market
Brand story: Made to cater to the Indian market, where beauty is equated with fair skin, the launch of Fair and Lovely was met with much enthusiasm. In 1988, the brand went international, and is now available in 40 countries.
The brand has had its share of negative publicity, with women’s groups calling the ad regressive. The ads, which focused on the mass aspiration of “marrying well”, soon moved to more progressive ones in the 1980s.
The early 1990s saw the brand take on the role of enabler of dreams. In the late 1990s, the brand message was that a woman could make her own destiny—a thought that was carried forward in all its campaigns. In 2007, the brand tweaked its approach to the Power of Beauty platform.
With the fairness cream business accounting for the lion’s share of the skincare products industry here, several companies have launched fairness creams in the hope of securing a piece of the growing pie. While none were able to challenge HUL in terms of numbers, they did start eating into the company’s market share with unique offerings.
Fair and Lovely was quick to take on competition—with variants. So, whether it was unique offerings such as ayurvedic formulations with saffron (to combat Fairever by CavinKare Pvt. Ltd) or those that claimed to erase marks (to fight No Marks by Ozone Ayurvedics), Fair and Lovely managed to launch variants that matched, and in some cases even topped, the promise touted by the competitor. To tap the premium segment of the market, Fair and Lovely also launched Perfect Radiance. The popularity of the brand and category can be gauged from the fact that today, it even has a variant for men.
The original people’s car
History: Launched as a joint venture between the Indian government and leading Japanese automobile company Suzuki Motor Co. The government eventually sold its stake to Suzuki. Now, the flagship brand is Maruti Suzuki India Ltd
Status: Maruti 800 has a 4.5% share in India’s 1.5 million passenger car market and is no longer the car that sells the most in India. However, it was responsible for making its company India’s largest car maker
Brand story: Much before Ratan Tata unveiled the Nano in January this year, India had its own unique people’s car—the Maruti 800. Introduced in 1983, it still zips across Indian roads, making it one of the longest surviving automobile brands here.
Maruti 800 captured the imagination of a nation that had gotten used to expensive, fuel guzzling vehicles of World War II vintage. A small car that was within the reach of middle-class households, the Maruti 800, or “car” as it is still known within the company, introduced a whole generation of customers to four-wheelers. Within a couple of years of its launch, it became India’s largest selling car, a position it held for almost a decade-and-a-half before being overtaken by Alto, a larger, more spacious small car from the same company. Till date, around 2.5 million units of the car have been sold in India and 180,000 units exported.
For any brand to survive so long, “expectation and product promise should match”, says Mayank Pareek, executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki. “This car came as a breath of fresh air and almost immediately became the first choice of its target consumers. It has evolved from an aspirational product to a common man’s car,” he adds.
While Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has tweaked the positioning several times, the underlying theme remains unchanged—an affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle, easy to run and maintain. It was, and remains, a car for the first-time buyer though rising disposable incomes, cheaper loans and the introduction of other slightly apsirational brands have started eating into its market share.
The car, however, still remains in the Top 10 list of automobile models sold every year. Introducing new variants and facelifts—four so far—and targeting new, first-time buyers have been the driving strategy behind this. The communication—especially the television commercials—has been aimed at getting across the value proposition of an affordable and fuel-efficient car.
Maruti has targeted two-wheeler owners with promotional offers. Still profitable, it could be a key weapon for the company in the battle against the Tata Nano.
“One would assume that with a fully depreciated plant and proper cost allocation, a Maruti 800 with a little facelift could come in at a similar price as the Nano,” says Arvind Sahay, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
—Priyanka Mehra & Ravi Krishnan
Doesn’t get bigger than Big B
History: Amitabh Bachchan made his debut in Bollywood in the 1960s but didn’t see success till 1970. In 1980, the Bachchan brand was successfully extended to politics, but only for a short period
Status: He is still a favourite with film-makers, television producers and ad makers, especially if the prime consideration is mass appeal. He has successfully bequeathed some brand attributes to his son
Brand story: Few brands have had as many ups and downs as Brand Bachchan. He was a superstar in the 1980s, had a short stint in politics that didn’t end too well, tasted box office failure in the 1990s, botched an attempt at becoming an entrepreneur, and then made a fairy-tale comeback.And how.
Today, Bachchan is one of the most sought-after actors in Bollywood, and a durable entertainment brand. According to people in the film industry and celebrity endorsement circles, he charges anywhere between Rs3 crore and Rs6 crore for a film and Rs2.5-5 crore for endorsing a brand.
Despite a lukewarm response to many of his recent films—such as Nishabd, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom—and despite being criticized for endorsing too many brands, Bachchan remains the first choice of both film-makers and marketers.
“Amitabh Bachchan is a classic design, he will never go out of fashion,” says R. Balakrishnan, chairman, Lowe India, a leading advertising agency. Balakrishnan cast Bachchan as the lead in his directorial debut, Cheeni Kum.
The actor has made his mark on the small screen as well with the stupendous success of the first season of television game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). KBC, launched in 2000, salvaged the actor’s sinking career.
A chequered life history, yet a dogged belief in himself, and relentless efforts to make a comeback have given Bachchan the status of a cult brand. “He has an irrepressible spirit. That is what makes him so attractive and worthy of the adoration he gets from professionals and fans at large,” says Sunil Doshi, chief executive of Alliance Media and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, who has served as a business adviser to the actor for several years. “He is possibly the only person who has managed to sustain himself for 40 long years as a brand.”
Still pulling in the crowds
Born: 1975, directed by Ramesh Sippy
History: ‘Ab tera kya hoga, Kaliya’ (What will become of you now, Kaliya)? is a cult dialogue from ‘Sholay’, the most successful Indian film ever. Since its release in 1975, the success story of ‘Sholay’ has not been replicated: It grossed about Rs35 crore in its first run, a record that remained unbroken for the next 19 years, and has raked in more than Rs162 crore at the box office, making it India’s highest grossing film
Status: Thirty-three years on, the film’s dialogues and images are still popular and often used in advertisements and as mobile ringtones. It is not unusual to see posters of ‘Sholay’ adorning dhabas as well as high-end Indian restaurants around the world
Brand story: Quite a few attempts have been made to rekindle the magic of Bollywood’s biggest blockbuster, but none have managed to do it. Last year, Ram Gopal Varma made a remake titled Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, but it lasted only two weeks in theatres.
Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd recently entered into a $100-million franchisee deal with the original makers of Sholay to make an animation version of the film, along with a prequel and a sequel—indicating, perhaps, the cult status (and the brand value) of Sholay. The movie, the characters and dialogues continue to have high brand recall, with critics and directors trying to crack its success code.
“Sholay is an iconic film that made icons of all those who acted in the film,” says M.K. Machiah, general manager of MindShare, the leading media buying agency of the WPP group.
While the storyline was the standard good winning over evil, it was the direction and execution of the film—reminiscent of Spaghetti Westerns—that set it apart.
“Sholay was a piece of art; it is a classic and even today, students of cinema study it,” says Manmohan Shetty, Bollywood producer and distributor and founder of production house Adlabs Films Ltd. “New technology, new scripts and new methods of film-making will come and go but Sholay will never die,” adds Shetty.
‘Kyunki...’ made family drama prime time staple
KYUNKI SAAS BHI KABHI BAHU THI...
History: One of the first family soaps created by Balaji Telefilms Ltdfor Star India Pvt. Ltd
Status: Till 2005, it was the No. 1 show in the Hindi general entertainment category. In its eighth year now, the show has slipped to the No. 2 slot, according to statistics from TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd
Brand story: No one would ever have thought that kitchen politics could be the topic of coffee-table conversations. But when Ekta Kapoor and her father, Bollywood actor Jeetendra, pitched the idea for a daily soap titled Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi...” (Kyunki...) to the senior management at Star India, the universality of the title had them hooked. Within weeks of being telecast, it became the top-ranking show among the Hindi general entertainment channels. It held on to that position till 2005, and has since been among the Top 5.
Kyunki... spawned a whole new genre of saas-bahu (mother-in-law, daughter-in-law) family soaps. “It reinvented and heralded the age of soaps in some aspects,” says Anupama Mandloi, senior creative director, Star Plus. “The characters, the look, the sets, the budgets that went into getting a larger-than-life feel for the show—with its grandness and gloss—the lives and aspirations they (the characters) mirror, all these helped to create a unique channel differentiator for Star. The average Indian woman suddenly became the glorified heroine who was willing to sacrifice all for family unity and yet depicted a resolute and fearsome strength when it came to her convictions.”
Critics, however, say the show is regressive as it portrays women in traditional, stereotypical roles. But, then, its appeal lies in its ability to portray a typical (or not so typical) joint family and the power plays that take place. The show has gained cult status, with women viewers keen to imitate their on- screen idols. Everything from saris, bindis and the jewellery that the characters sported in the serial soon became fashion must-haves for viewers. No surprise, then, that retailers marketed their goods using the show as their selling point.
Innovation and new media are a core part of the channel’s strategy to keep Kyunki... relevant to audiences. “Simulcasts, mobisodes and on-air innovation are a part of the stunts in keeping the show legacy alive, but ultimately content is king,” says Mandloi.
“If there is any doubt about the universality of emotion that Kyunki... evokes or caters to, it is the top show on Tolo TV in Afghanistan! Dubbed in Persian,” says Mandloi.
Methodology: There are no official surveys or ratings of brands in India. The brand culture is relatively new in the country, and there are not too many agencies equipped to carry out such an exercise.
To identify and arrive at our list of iconic brands, we held several brainstorming sessions with well-regarded marketing and branding experts in the country. Taking all recommendations into account, we first created a long list of brands and then short-listed 18 brands, including 15 mainstream and three off-beat ones.
The experts who participated in the exercise are: Arvind Sahay and Y.L.R. Moorthi, professors of marketing at the Indian Institutes of Management in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, respectively; Shripad Nadkarni, founding director of marketing consultancy MarketGate Consulting; Nabankur Gupta, CEO of Nobby Brand Architects and Strategic Marketing Consultants; Unni Krishnan, the managing director of the Indian arm of global brand consultancy Brand Finance; Harish Bijoor, CEO of marketing consultancy Harish Bijoor Consults; Jagdeep Kapoor, chairman and managing director of Samsika Marketing Consultants; Prasoon Joshi, chairman of advertising agency McCann Erickson; and Arvind Sharma, CEO of ad agency Leo Burnett.