How to end the debate on “cult brands” v/s “iconic brands”?


 

One of the biggest debates in the marketing and advertising circuits for a while has been on what makes a brand cultish? Any popular brand, which is not cultish, is generally considered as Iconic brand. Well does this call for debate or clarification? I am only qualified to do the former, let me try and put forth my understanding and learning before I let others to vent theirs.

Whether the brand has a cult / iconic status or not it must definitely stand the test of time. Both these statuses demand a brand to stand for values beyond functionality and must be rooted in popular culture and find a place in people’s lives over a long period of time.

Cult Brands: Apple, Volkswagen, Harley Davidson, Star trek and Benetton.

 

 

 

The word “Cult” originated from Latin word “Cultus” meaning worship or religious practice. And by extension it had started to connote the cultural aspects of religion like rituals, ceremonies, myths and personal sacrifices, miracles etc only later “Cult” started being associated with obsessive to faddish devotion to a religious myth or a religious leader or object of such devotion.

Now lets look at contemporary meaning of “Cult” in the context of brands:

Cult brands are the brands, which dare to be different and celebrate that difference and therefore posses the power of the loyalist who come together on a common ground for the common values and ideologies.

Cult brands are the brands, which are more evolved to just talk about functionality or the benefits of the category they peg themselves much higher in the human value systems, like upholding truth, honesty, simplicity, perfection and goodness. They intelligently tap into innate reserves of human conscious.

“ Star Trek” became a cult by being a crusader of human rights by juxtaposing humans and aliens, war and peace, racism and space born humanitarians all in an adventure story of planets and space.

Volkswagen” achieves with Beetle, all with utter common sense. Harley with it irreverence sense of fantasy and adventure. Apple does with its child like simplicity and perfection producing magical joy to the end user.

Now try to fit any Indian brands? Mahatma Gandhi? Osho? Thums Up? Old Monk? Royal Enfield? Rajinikanth? Mona darling? Its your turn to pick..

 

Iconic Brands: Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Lego, Rolex, BMW Mini, Marlboro and Vespa.

 

A purist definition of “Icon” means an image; a representation of a sanctified personage; an important and enduring symbol; an object of great attention and devotion.

As mentioned earlier Iconic Brands posses the ability to transcend from product benefits to become part of people’s lives and of their popular culture. And they also have the ability to tap into collective desires and anxieties of people for instance Rolex taps into the desire to be successful, Coca Cola taps into the emotion of happiness, Marlboro into the need of freedom, Lego into the need of imagination for children.

Therefore the brands endure as long as the human needs exist and over a period of time they become synonymous with the values to become “Objects of desire or devotion.

Lets try to fit some Indian brands: Tatas? Amitabh Bachchan? Sachin Tendulkar?

Godrej ? Raymond’s ? Wills? Bajaj? Hero? Scooty? Nalli’s? MTR?

While there will be less debate on what make a brand Iconic or Cult, I recon their will be heated debate on which Indian brands can make it to the list.

The debate has just began.

 

 

 

 

 

“Ganesh” most loved god by people. And most fascinated by artist.


Today Hindus celebrate the festival of “Ganesh Chaturti”, where Lord Ganesh was made head of all deities by his father Lord Shiva, religion apart, Ganesh the half elephant- half human, short, fat and has rat (rodent) as his vehicle is the most loved god in India, he cuts across all religious and physical boundaries. In Bangkok or Barampur  no business is conducted without worshiping him, similarly there is no child in the sub-continent who can not draw Ganesha. His physical appearance and his stature as god of gods and his victory over his smart brother made him as an identifiable hero with kids. And growing up with this affinity is what makes him the favorite amongst the creative people. Like kids there is no poet, writer, painter or a caricaturist who had not dabbled with this lovable god’s image. Great painters right from Raja Ravi Varma to M F Hussain all were fascinated by him which is evident from their work.

The greatest contribution to Lord Ganesha came from the much celebrated Calendar art of Shivakasi a small town in Tamilnadu. Today Shivakasi is the second largest printing capital of the world only after Gutenberg of Germany what started as a backyard litho printing units of British India, developed into rich hindu calendar art/ film poster studios to present day offset.

As a child I used to make clay Ganesha for the festival celebrations, now my daughter follows the tradition.

Creation of Gandhi font.


Or is he a different type?

In hatred he saw love. In fear, courage. In weakness he saw strength. And in violence, truth. In cruelty he saw kindness. In anger he saw humanity. And in struggle, he saw peace. He saw things through his soul that are invisible to the eye. Yet through his eyes, we can still see the shining light of humanity. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A different type.

Above are the words came out of Agnello Dias when I told him about my intention to create a font for Gandhi.

” There is no god higher than truth.” is what he said and is what got imprinted in my mind  ever since I was a little boy, my grand parents always told me stories of Gandhi at bedtime, I am still a vegetarian thanks to the impression he made on me. I am just a spec in billions who follow him. Once he said “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

When Indian Industrialist Vijay Mallya salvaged the pride of a nation by bringing back the priced possession of a man who owned nothing. The day New York auctioneer announced auctioning of Mahatma’s spectacles the nation put her head down in shame, as embarrassed Indian government’s  desperate attempts to stall the action failed, Mallya’s $1.8 millon came to the rescue.

His glasses has a deep significance to all Indians, when he gave away the glasses in 1930’s to an army colonel he said ” these gave me vision to free India”. Today as we live in a free India we still are slaves to violence, terrorism, untouchability, communalism and many more evils. A young nation celebrates holiday on his birthday than his wisdom as Nitesh Tiwari one of our copywriters put it.

How do we make him and his vision relevant and how do we make people try to see the world through his eyes? Than the Idea of a typeface created out of his glasses came about.

Typographers from Leo Burnett went on to create this marvelous Gandhiji font in Devanagari and the team is working overtime to launch english and other Indian languages.( an up-date:English, Devnagari, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are available ) The website went live last night http://www.gandhijifont.com

What’s the best way to keep Gandhi’s spectacles away from auctioneers than this?


iPad painting : T20 of art?


Resisting change is in human nature. Well in marketing terms I could be classified as an enthusiast or an early adopter. People take their own time to adapt to new things, because familiarity with the old gives us solace hence adoption curve will take time to climb as in the case of digital photography. Every photographer worth his salt resisted the digital formats till Hasselblad and Sinar came up with digital backs, even I resisted till Nikon D90 happened.

Purist will resist the “bastardisation” of any art form. Human talent and craft rules supreme any intervention by machines or non-human is believed to contaminate art. Each art moment faced this challenge be it Cubism, Dadaism or Expressionism. This divine Apple’s intervention will also have its fair bit of resistance from purist. Never before the digital software gave the gratification of real painting experience, where technology is invisible. Thanks to the touch screen and tablet format, suddenly one gets instant gratification of drawing or painting.

I have never tried to create art using digital technology in my life till iPhone happened a year ago, where I downloaded an app called “Fountain Pen” which allowed me to scribble on the screen, I loved it but never took it as serious art, while my friends from Twitter and Facebook insisted that indeed it was, when shared. When I picked up my iPad last December on my son’s insistence to watch You Tube Videos and ads, I discovered many silly drawing apps which did not interest me till I stumbled upon “Art Rage” which blew my mind, it was like a live TED video and magic unfolding every second. I looked at havens and adopted “Art Rage” instantaneously.

What magic did iPad and Art Rage did on me?

As I said before iPad gave me the gratification of real drawing and painting and further iPad allows me to carry my studio with me almost every where like a mobile phone. Art Rage gave a complete studio of 2000 square feet with innumerable capacity to store canvases both painted and new, hundreds of tubes of colors free with infinite shades, entire sets of hog hair and sable hair brushes, palate and painting knifes, rollers etc, etc, all this lifetime supplies for a meager $7.00.

Nothing is more tempting to a soccer player then seeing a still ball, and same is true to an artist, give an artist a white paper and ask him/her not to scribble? Materials tempted me to carry on painting especially the oils, all this without the hassle of cleaning or arranging. I painted close to 70-75 canvases in less than 40 days and did around 200 charcoal sketches, all this in normal process would have taken almost couple of years, what does this say to us? At an average time of 3 hours for each painting it make you more prolific than any one can ever imagine!

Technology is not helping art it’s just helping the artist, you still need to be a trained artist to paint even on a dame tablet. Prolific art may cause a supply surplus in the market but on the other hand artist may actually see some money while they are alive.

Had anyone ever guessed that one can score 300 runs in 20 overs?

Creative v/s Media.


 

Why creative agencies win media awards?
 
Be it Cannes or Goafest, why is it creative agencies steal the thunder from media guys? What is it about awards which brings magical enthusiasm from creative agencies? What can media brothers learn from hated separated cousins?
 
Believe me I am a neutral party here. I have worked in the same office and shared the same table and mind space with some of the media legends of today to name a few: Shashi Sinha, Ambika, Nandini Dias, George Mathai, Ashish Basin, Lynn, Hiren Pandit, Ravi Kiran and many more, I had the privilege of interacting with them every day,at leat thosedays there were no egos no fighting for credit, just partnership and respect for each other’s talent and thinking.
 
It pained me when I heard the whispers last night at Media Abby Awards, who deservers more credit or have right to enter a co-created idea. I truly believe advertising is not a solo game, it’s a large team game, often there are more than playing eleven behind the scenes who contribute most. It’s unfortunate to see them not collaborating insted confronting.
 
As the new leaders grow-up in this new collaborative and co-creative world these differences hopefully fade away soon.
 
Back to my original point of why creative agencies win more media awards than media agencies?Because of their emotional affinity and proximity to the heart of the brand and the passion for awards and most importantly ideas, media teams look at the scale and innovation while the international juries look for freshness and relavence of ideas. Added to all this is packaging and presentation of ideas make a diffence to winning, creative agencies tend to do a better job of the later.
 
No wonder Creativeland Asia stole the thunder yesterday by winning 2Golds at the media Abbies as Leo Burnett Sydney did it at Cannes last year by winning Media Agency of the year.
 

DeBundleling to ReBundleling.


Everyone needs to reinvent him or herself every now and then to make him or her relevant to the changing environment around us.  Human needs or brand needs, business needs or even nations are no different from each other.

Early nineties were the most frenziest times I have ever seen in my 33 odd years in advertising. Opening-up of economy, Microsoft & Google revolution, satellite television, Infosys vision and Ganguly’s audacity transformed a timid nation to the most ambitious one in the world today.  This change had its own impact on Indian advertising. Good old boy’s comfort zone of 15% commission had come into close scrutiny, lazy bum’s were thrown out, Microsoft and Adobe replaced proofreaders and cut-paste artist, kickbacks were officialized as negotiations and media buyers emerged as new heroes for clients and villains for traditional agencies.

In short 15% been reduced to 10% to the traditional agency and 5% went to media thereby separating media from creative. Today traditional agency is been reduced to just a creative agency for television scripts, clients buy media planning, media buying, digital planning, digital buying, mobile, events, promo, direct, PR, consumer research, insight mining, brand strategy, design even stock images and film production are bought directly.

While the theory of specialization sounded good and arguments of rupee efficiencies were appreciated, clients across the world were caught in a new dilemma, while brand managers can deal with creative TV scripts and brand strategy rest needed specialists (who never existed) Today most of the clients have 10 specialist dealing with content and contact management, while stand alone performances of each vertical is spectacular, collectively they added up to nothing as far as the brand’s emotional equities are concerned hence the emergence of IMC leaders in MNC clients ( Integrated Marketing Communications) who are seeking a single point to orchestrate brand communications. Today it is not surprising to see agencies like Crispin or Droga 5, even our very own Creativeland Asia or TapRoot flourishing as they are offering integrated solutions and orchestration of ideas as opposed to TV scripts by partnering with medium specialist. If big agencies do not get it yet god help them, smaller ones will gulp them and digest them in no time.

Agencies need to go back to 20 years and get champions of ideas. Today what independent small media neutral \ new age media agencies are doing is nothing different from old agencies approach of Integrated solutions to brand communication and orchestration of brand ideas in all mediums.

DeBundeled verticals are getting bundled again in smaller integrated agencies and hope the big ones are listening.