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Tips from Top: “How to Re-position Brands – Learnings From Successful Global Case Studies” – By, Mr. Sandeep Verma, President, Bajaj Consumer Care

MBA IIT Kanpur was honoured to have Mr. Sandeep Verma, President, Bajaj Consumer Care, for a guest lecture on the topic, ‘How to Re-position Brands - Learnings From Successful Global Case Studies’ on 11th August 2019. Mr. Verma has an experience of 20 years in FMCG industry across diverse roles in Sales, Brand Management, Category Management, and various P&L stints handling multiple brands. Currently, as the President to Bajaj Consumer Care, he looks after the management of the P&L of the company, international business, mergers and acquisition, mentoring start-ups, etc. Before joining Bajaj Consumer Care, Mr. Verma was working as the Marketing Director of HUL and has handled multiple brand management like Sunsilk, Lifebuoy, Vim, and Domex.

Since the very beginning of the lecture, Mr. Verma’s jovial nature transpired the hall. He began the talk by explaining what does an excellent ‘brand positioning' means. If every stakeholder (including the CEO, brand manager, the consumers, etc.) in the life-cycle of a brand gives precisely the same answer on being asked what this brand stands for, then your brand is correctly positioned. To elaborate on the idea, he gave the example of Apple, L’oreal, and Maruti. Apple stands for ‘innovation’; similarly, L’oreal stands for ‘glamour’ and Maruti stand for ‘Value for money.’

Mr. Verma then elucidated on when a company should re-position its brand. There are mainly seven signs, which indicate a need for re-positioning of the brand. These signs are, the brand lacks vitality or is perceived as ‘old’ or ‘tired.’ The present state of ‘Action shoes’ is an example of this lack of vigour. Next, is when your brand has lost the competitiveness in terms of cost-effectiveness. For instance, Deccan airlines used to be the sole cost-effective airlines a decade ago, but today, every other airline markets itself as cost-effective.

Further, if a new competitor with a superior value proposition has entered your industry, the most-suited example is that of Jio. The next sign is when the competition has deliberately negatively re-positioned your brand. It is similar to what Apple’s iPhones did to Blackberry phones. More symptoms include disruption caused by technology in your industry and your brand; research indicates that your brand is no longer unique or compelling and lastly when your brand doesn’t have an emotional connection with the customers.

Then, Mr. Verma moved on to the next important part of the session, i.e., how to reposition a brand. He gave his mantra of "Magnificent – 8", the eight golden ways in which a brand can re-position itself. The first way is to ‘Go back to your roots.’ It means that a company should take some time to study its ‘brand history’ and the reason for the brand’s inception. This revision of the brand philosophy paid real dividends in the case of Lifebuoy. Mr. Verma showed various AVs of advertisements on how Lifebuoy re-positioned by focusing on its roots of “saving lives by hand washing.” The next way of re-positioning is by ‘Getting a new purpose.’ It means a brand must find a new direction of projecting itself in front of the customers. He quoted the example of Surf and how it reversed the conventional logic of detergents v/s dirt with their campaign “Daag Acche Hai.” He pointed to a caveat here, a company must clearly identify its target audience when adopting this strategy; otherwise, this reversal of conventional logic can backfire badly. The next way of re-positioning, as explained by Mr. Sandeep is, ‘Getting a new wardrobe.' Sometimes, the brand only requires a bit of ‘freshening-up.’ It may be the design of the brand or the look and the feel of the brand. He quoted the example of how PayPal used this strategy effectively. PayPal wanted to be more involved with the commoners, as it felt that ordinary people are a bit scared to use PayPal and prefer the new market players. They launched their "New money" campaign and made the brand look "cool!" among the common users.

The next one in line is to ‘Find a new partner or re-ignite the passion.' Sometimes, the brand needs to rejuvenate their collaboration with other firms. The best example to illustrate this is the case of Lego and Star Wars. For a long-time Star Wars hadn’t released a movie and hence Lego was getting behind its competitors like Hasbro, whose partners were coming up with new movies. Therefore, Lego launched the campaign "Yoda chronicles” which not just helped Lego, but also the entire Star Wars franchise. The next way to re-position is by ‘Finding a new, unexpected friend.' Under Armour is a case in point. Under Armour had a perception among the customers of being a masculine brand, which was not considered suitable for females. This proved to be highly disadvantages for them, as the sale of female sportswear was skyrocketing. Under Armour collaborated with, Gisele Bundchen, a supermodel and sent shock waves in the industry with this unexpected collaboration. But, with its "I will what I want" campaign headed by Gisele, Under Armour created a considerable buzz and broke-free of its brand perception of being a masculine brand. Mr. Verma then moved to the next strategy, i.e., ‘Get a new string to your bow.' He explained it with the example of Old Spice and how it re-positioned itself by their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, which targeted females who purchase the products for their men. Also, Old Spice enhanced their brand engagement by launching a response campaign on social media.

Mr. Verma explained the last two strategies, i.e. ‘Get back out in front’ and ‘Be reborn’ by quoting the examples of Toyota Hybrid and Mr. Amitabh Bacchan, respectively. The session ended with a fruitful Q&A session with the audience.


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