New Delhi: With the Hero Group’s 26-year-old association with Honda Motor Co. Ltd coming to an end, India’s largest selling motorcycle maker is devising a new branding strategy to make sure it doesn’t fritter away consumer goodwill.

“In terms of branding, there will be a gradual shift going towards 2014. They are planning a whole new corporate identity, including a new brand logo," a Hero Honda Motors Ltd board member said on condition of anonymity. “The company is likely to hire a branding company soon to develop a new logo."

Brand deadline: Board member Sunil Munjal on Thursday said the auto maker will continue to use the Hero Honda brand until 2014. Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Hero Honda’s advertising firm JWT has been asked to gear up for the new media campaign.

“We have been asked to regroup for a new branding strategy for the Hero Group," said a top JWT official, without elaborating. JWT has been associated with the Hero Group for at least 20 years.

“Yes, such a development has happened," another JWT official said. “But things are under wraps for now."

Honda Motor is selling its 26% stake in Hero Honda to New Delhi-based Hero Group for an undisclosed amount. Honda’s stake in Hero Honda, formed in 1984, has a market value of nearly $2 billion (Rs 9,080 crore today).

Under the new agreement, the Hero Group has bought time to develop its own research and development (R&D) capability by signing a fresh licensing agreement until 2014 with the Japanese company for both current models and new launches.

A third official at JWT said the campaign was most likely to focus on the Hero Group’s motorcycling pedigree, although it’s involved in other business activities as well such as bicycles, auto components and electric two-wheelers.

Beyond that, the auto maker will use the names of the models that have become iconic.

“The focus will be more on promoting individual brands such as Passion and Splendor as these brands have built themselves up in customers’ minds over a period of time," the third JWT official said.

All the advertising executives declined to be named.

Reinforcing the brand will be important for the company, said an expert from a top consultancy firm, requesting anonymity as he’s not authorized to speak on specific companies.

“A new branding strategy will be critical as there are doubts whether popular bike brands like Splendor and Passion continue to evoke the same excitement or whether the absence of the Honda brand will change the fortunes of the company," said Prayesh Jain, an analyst at brokerage India Infoline Ltd.

Marketing and sales officials at Hero Honda did not return phone calls. The company’s spokesperson did not take calls.

The firm will continue to use the Hero Honda brand until 2014, board member Sunil Munjal said on Thursday. “However, the company will evolve its own brand name over a period of time," Munjal had said.