What tough times? Big spenders keep at it

What tough times? Big spenders keep at it

New Delhi: Contradicting a widely accepted notion that marketing and advertising spending is often the first to get cut during belt tightening efforts, several of India’s marketers have gone in for a complete brand makeover or a partial change in their identity through fresh advertising and slogans in the past two months.

These changes often involve big spending, ranging from Rs5-30 crore, somewhat surprising amid a general economic gloom and cost-cutting.

On 4 November, Bharti Enterprises Ltd, the telecom, retail and insurance conglomerate, unveiled a new brand identity that involved change in its corporate colours from blue and red to indigo and orange, a new logo with three arrows embedded in it and a new advertising slogan: Big Transformations. Brave Actions. A company official, who didn’t want to be identified, says Bharti spent in excess of Rs15 crore on the exercise.

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This comes on the heels of the 28 October rebranding by Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s entertainment arm, Reliance Big Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, of its retail cinema exhibition venture, previously known as Adlabs Cinema, into Big Cinemas. Apart from the change in the name, the logo of the brand was also changed with a new marketing campaign using the catchline: Ab Bada Mazza Ayega (It’s going to be a lot of be fun now).

Similarly, in early October, Essar Group, a Mumbai-based conglomerate with diversified businesses in the telecommunications, shipping, steel, construction, power and oil, changed its corporate branding by replacing a 14-year-old logo and slogan. According to a senior executive of a Mumbai-based media buying agency, the company spent around Rs30 crore on the initiative.

“At a time when the sentiment is a bit low, companies want to project a more optimistic image of themselves. It could be done through communicating new targets, announcing new ventures or simply singing their own praises. All this helps in creating a positive buzz among the stakeholders," said Gopinath Menon, senior vice-president, media, TBWA India.

In September, when the financial crisis was at its peak, state-run Union Bank of India launched a new logo discarding its 40-year-old sun symbol. A Rs75 crore initiative, the switch was accompanied by new advertising campaigns running across media. “The company has gone through some transformation making our services more simplified and technologically advanced so we can better engage young customers because they form the largest base in terms of spending and saving," said S. Govindan, general manager, personal banking and operations, Union Bank.

For Bharti, which owns Bharti Airtel mobile brand, the change stemmed from the need to communicate its new goal to become a $10 billion (Rs47,600 crore) conglomerate by 2010, in terms of revenues. “Having diversified into new businesses in agriculture, financial services and retail business with world-class partners, we have laid the foundation for building a conglomerate of future which will achieve $10 billion in revenues by 2010," said Sunil Mittal, chairman and group chief executive, Bharti Enterprises, at the time of the announcement of the change.

For Reliance Big Entertainment, it was about pre-empting more economic troubles on the horizon.

“Ours is a feel-good business," says Tushar Dhingra, chief operating officer, Big Cinemas. “While the business is expanding very fast, the recession is upon us and the economic sentiment is worsening by the day. We thought we will announce the good news before it got any worse." Dhingra says the company has already spent nearly Rs70 crore on the rebranding of the entertainment arm this year.

It isn’t just makeovers that are leading to more spending on advertising. Several companies have launched new advertising campaigns in recent months. Max New York Life Insurance Co Ltd unveiled a new advertisement campaign and a new slogan: Karo zyaada ka iraada (Aspire for more). The campaign has been running across major television channels ever since. And, beginning November, consumer products company, Dabur India Ltd, changed the packaging and advertising of its flagship health supplement brand, Chyawanprash, replacing pitchman and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan with cricketer M.S. Dhoni.

“Smart companies continue to spend on their marketing communications even in times of crisis. It’s their way of communicating to the consumer that they are not a short-term or a feeble player. They are there to stay with them through good times and bad," said Atul Hegde, chief executive, Ignitee India Pvt. Ltd, a?digital marketing agency.

Some advertising professionals also note that India’s free-spending youth are still largely unaffected by the slump in the overall sentiment and it is important for companies catering to them to keep at it. “The youth in India are still earning good salaries and still spending most of it. So it’s important to keep them engaged," said Rohit Ohri, managing partner, JWT India Ltd.