Archive for Branding


Sometimes I wonder what the world would be if there were no benchmarks. No expectations from a person, product, or service.

You treated each person afresh each time you met them, you tried out every product each time you tested every service as if you had no idea of what to expect.

Standards. The world lives by them. They help you set your expectations, decide in favour of or against a product or service, or grade them as per your choice.

In pure terms standards are neither poor nor good. They are what they stand for, what is expected of them, and what they deliver.

In the minds of people, these standards get classified in buckets as per their choices and preferences.

A foodie may be more concerned about the standard of food than the service at the eatery and therefore rates it high compared to someone who values the service equally or higher and therefore may disapprove of the standards of the eatery.

Standards in simple terms also mean consistency. It means the predictability of a product, service, or behaviour.

A lot has been talked about excellence. Excellence is not being outstanding. It is just beginning by having a consistency in your deliverables, and gradually raising them to a point of consistency.

And then excellence becomes a standard.

Posted in: Branding, Entrepreneur, Excellence, Motivational, Personal Development, Work Culture

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New Wine for Old Bottles

The world witnessed the Gulf boom from the mid-seventies for nearly a decade. Many equations changed as the new found wealth travelled the globe and impacted the world politically, financially and socially.

During this period it was not uncommon to hear bizarre stories which shockingly were found to be true. The Arabs could be believed to be outlandish but nothing was beyond reach. Stories of wealthy Arabs making offers to buy London’s Big Ben or our own Taj Mahal in Agra were a chuckle amongst the rumour mills with little surprise if they came true.

Amidst all this came an authentic anecdote from some known sources that left me in awe. Two global entrepreneurs, one from Japan and the other from India were on the hunt for a very large business deal from an Arab. Their pursuits landed them at a luxurious summer resort in Hawaii. Both hung on with stiff necks to the scent of their target as he relaxed in the pool oblivious of the predators. They waited eagerly for the Arab to step out, to make a dash and close the deal.

Suddenly there was a splash as the Indian saw his Japanese competitor jump into the pool making strokes towards the Arab. On reaching him, he pulled out his recent Japanese innovation – a plastic visiting card, and after a chat concluded the deal in the pool itself.

Though it’s nearly three decades since this event occurred, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a repeat of such stories every few years. No, I don’t mean in the pool but in the innovative ways to conduct business.

Consider the recent phenomenon. You don’t need to know, yet you know so much of whom you want to know. You can think of doing business with anyone on the globe and be connected via a social network in the next hour. People are digging info records, references, collecting data of prospective customers, vendors, employees or just following the fortunes of certain companies for their diverse interest. You don’t even need an email address, leave alone a contact number.

Today’s era has made visibility disappear in a cloud. Earlier business referrals were accustomed to be identified with source. Today it seems futile and almost a backward step. People are making every effort to be visible to the entire world and not the least surprised with overtures from across the globe. In these times you don’t need matchmakers to pick an equity in a start-up, or approach a giant for a niche requirement. You have enough dope to make your own dossiers and devise your move.

There’s a change in how you do business today. Definitely old models and practices are being thrown out of windows. Floating clouds with newer practices reinvent the hammocks that earlier platforms rested on.

New businesses will have to tune themselves not to just business offerings but also stay abreast of fresh challenges and the ever changing environment that promises to bring a new dawn with every sunset.

As the Head of Science, Einstein suffered the wrath of the university when they found that he had repeated the exact same questions for the Science paper as the previous year. How could he make such a blatant mistake? He just smiled and replied, “The questions are the same, but the answers have changed.”

The times now have turned the proverb on its head. More than new questions, expect new answers, to the same questions.

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Posted in: Branding, Entrepreneur

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Testimony of April 1st

Across the globe April 1st is celebrated and is sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day. It is a day that is marked with hoaxes, practical jokes and ridicule that takes various forms and shapes.

I meet some people who give me an impression that they are celebrating April 1st round the year. Like making tall promises; making promises to show up, which they don’t; or making commitments which they have no intention to honour.

You would have heard of the boy who cried wolf. The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. He probably celebrated April 1st once too often which resulted in the wolf actually putting in an appearance and destroying the flock whilst his cries fell on deaf ears.

Reputation: Brands are nothing but a string of dots. People behave in a certain fashion and that establishes a pattern in the mind. Some companies have a reputation for reliable products whilst some are known to have cheap and affordable products which may however not last long. Some are innovative, others run of the mill. People show up on time, punctuality being one of their virtues whilst some don’t show up at all nor do they bother to inform. Their behaviour registers a pattern which becomes their brand.

Commitment: Brands are etched in the minds of the people. Both good and bad impressions leave a mark. A poor experience may take years to erase from memory and a great experience can be cherished for life. These are a result of the commitments that brands make to deliver what they promise and the experiences they wish to leave in people’s minds. Everyone encounters trials and adversity in one form or the other. Their commitment towards what they wish and choose to do makes their brand equity higher than the others.

Talk: At the bottom of this brand value is talk. Some don’t walk their talk seriously nor do they expect others to take them seriously.

Brands are built tirelessly by people who are serious about their commitments. They understand that there are some April foolers and they choose to use this day to remind themselves that unless they work towards what they say, what they commit, and what they deliver, their brands would appear to be as ridiculous as some of the pranks played by people on this day.

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To be known or unknown

Everyone does something. Some do what they ought to. Some what they like. Some do it for pleasure. Some do it for profit. Some do it quietly. Some make a noise about what they do. Some are known for what they do. Some do, but are hardly known. Some do it with a purpose. Some do it without knowing why they are doing it.

Different folks, different strokes!

A passionate teacher works tirelessly, sometimes for a pittance and sees many students reach great heights. They prosper financially, make a name for themselves and are remembered more than the one who taught them the foundation principles.

A small actor from a town’s street play group performing for social awareness makes it big on the silver screen. Though doing meaningless roles, he becomes immensely popular, starts making big bucks and hits the headlines.

If you look around, you will find that these are not isolated cases but some of the many that you will come across.

The tough question is what do you aim, desire or be satisfied with. The teacher could definitely do with some recognition and of course money. The passionate, driven by a larger purpose of social awareness would welcome better achievement of their objectives and some better conditions for themselves too.

Like people there are many brands in the marketplace which face similar dilemmas in their journey. Should they aim at popularity, recognition or focus on what they have to. Should they look to more profitable avenues or continue in their areas of strength.

Honestly, there are no clear cut answers. If there were, then the world would not have the various shades of grey that makes up the landscape.

However, conventional wisdom does teach us that fame, popularity and financial gains should not be the sole guiding forces of any journey. They are by-products.

The teacher does what he does because he is qualified to do something, enjoys what he does and is happy for what compensation it provides. The actors driven by the passion to make a difference do what they do, enjoy their purpose, drive satisfaction and the compensation is incidental.

If people enjoy what they do, why they do, and what compensation they get from it, it bothers little to them if someone else is getting something which they aren’t. They understand that some vocations allow people to be more visible, some don’t and people are willing to pay more for some things even though they may not be of as great a purpose as theirs.

Many organizations especially in the B2B segment are doing a great job, and are in fact extremely profitable too, but are hardly known outside their industry. On the other hand small players who need to make themselves noticeable are well known to the general public even though their operations are a fraction. Both need the maturity to understand that popularity is not the litmus test for what they are doing.

However, there is something that the people can do in their evaluation process. On their part they too can understand that mere awareness or visibility of a brand is not what matters. They can put into their minds an evaluation matrix that will then put what people do, why they do, and what they get for it, in the right perspective.

Would that change your perception? Try it.

Posted in: Branding, Work Culture

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Two Sides of Branding

What’s more important? Content or Packaging

If your last birthday cake was flooded with candles, chances are that you believe more in content. However if you had fewer candles it means that probably you believe more in packaging.

For ages, people and businesses were judged by their content, what they were made of. Strong foundations, sound business practices, and good fundamentals were those that met the approval of the people. Packaging was considered just an optional extra that completed an otherwise perfect picture.

As people and markets have evolved, so have the evaluation processes. Today, packaging has taken centre-stage and is inseparable from the person, product or service. And there’s where branding makes a compelling presence.

The evaluation processes have turned full circle. If you don’t make the right first impression, or don’t tick the right boxes in the minds of the people, you don’t move to the next level in their mind space. You don’t make the cut. You are simply abandoned.

While this is true on an elementary level, it doesn’t stop there. Brands are getting more sensory and real. People are defining which brands they want to be seen with and those they don’t. So marketers are spending the midnight oil to get into their mind spaces and eventually seek their acceptance.

Branding has now to shoulder the entire burden of breakthrough. It can make or break the marketability of a person, product or service that is full of promise inside. It has to create an external appeal that will induce people to break the shell and look inside.

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Truth or Lies?

The op-ed article of Greg Smith who served Goldman Sachs till the day of the article opened a can of worms. Let’s face it; this episode has raised a storm in every tea cup wherever it has been consumed.

A corporation which takes years to create a brand and has thirty thousand employees finds itself at the wrong end, facing the music.

Some thoughts on the episode:

  • David and Goliath: Increasingly people are looking at David’s view of Goliath. When confronted with the reality that Goliath was too big to hit, David’s view was, it was too big to miss. Large organizations and people who are known or popular run the risk of being hit. If an employee of a non-descript organizations has such revelations, it will hardly have any ears. If a husband gets slapped with a shoe by his wife at home, or a neighbor features in a fight, it doesn’t constitute as news. But slapping a well-known politician will surely get you column centimeters, tweets and eye balls.
  • Insider Credibility: When an intern at Washington House, a wife of a famous personality, or a disgruntled employee reveals some juicy inside information, people are drawn to the bites as bees to honey. Due to the insider status, a healthy claim of credibility is established and usually the onus of proving otherwise falls on the accused.
  • Damage: Genuine or not, unless outrageously ridiculous, the damage is caused by the accuser. The defense strategy that the person or the corporation adopts is also tricky. You start defending and you get dragged into a war of words, which could be the intention in the first place. And when the accuser is an unknown entity, he has nothing to lose and can exit at his option. If the accused stays quiet, your silence adds credibility to the claims. In this case, the Goldman Sachs PR machine tried to blunt some of the damage by stating Smith was just one of over 30,000 employees, but its defense, thus far, has been tepid at best.
  • Truth or Lies: The acceptance of the allegations depends on the reputation of the organization and the type of allegations that are leveled. If the allegations are in total variance of the public opinion and reputation, the facts claimed by the offender need to be backed with a lot of concrete evidence to lend credibility. However, if there have been some doubts, this salvo serves as the nail in the coffin. It serves as an important piece to complete the jig saw puzzle in the minds of the doubters.
  • Objectives: History has shown that this strategy is used many a times as a bargaining tactic. You open your mouth, show the extent of damage you can cause which gets the opponent to the bargaining table. Or it could be a last ditch effort by a disgruntled soul to inflict whatever damage he can when all doors seem to have been closed.
  • Social Media Vulnerability: With social media becoming an integral part of our lives and the cascading effect of its bombardment across the globe – genuine, malicious and innocent barrages have a telling effect. Social media strategies towards such situations are in its nascent stage. With few case studies or precedents in the wisdom bank of what works and what doesn’t, people have yet to crystalize the best strategies to such issues.
  • Motivation or Opportunism: Was Greg smart or dumb to make such a spectacle of his departure. Did he genuinely want to correct a system which he thought was unfair and unjust? Or did he aim at instant stardom? Few of us knew Greg’s name before March 14th, he is now the toast of Wall Street and has gained instant worldwide recognition. Reports suggest that he is now in talks with leading publishers for a book deal. This may be better than a 9 to 5 job at Goldman Sachs for the next decade. Sounds like a neat strategy, if that was the purpose.
  • Larger Picture: With the advent of internet and social media, news travels across the globe in nano seconds. There was a time when rumours could be suppressed before they assumed dangerous proportions. But not today. The tweets, Facebook walls, the instant messengers, and the like transmit the news instantly across the world. People pass on anything without verifying and in many cases verification, as in this case, is difficult. So the damage is done. This causes the risk to grow exponentially.

Brands will have to work harder to protect themselves from this assault. They will have to create the bond, proximity and emotion quotient with their customers to make them look at such barrage as trash rather than give it credibility.

Posted in: Branding, Motivational

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