A brand is a phenomenon. And so is the entire brand building process. It takes years of hard work and consistent deliveries for a small business to evolve into a big brand name. However, the lack of management expertise at most of the small and local run businesses in the country, makes it imperative to seek the right kind marketing consultation. In a bid to answer this untapped need, Vertebrand, an integrated brand value management consultancy, follows the left brained approach to the process of brand building. It has helped many homegrown family run businesses and export houses to transform into bigger brand names. To add a global edge to its offerings it has also tied up with Equancy, an international CRM consultancy.
From regional to national
Though its list of clients include corporate names like Titan, Timex, TVS Tyres, ITC and Unilever; Vertebrand has also been instrumental in shaping up smaller businesses like MTR, Nilgiris tea and Parry Sugar (mostly South based companies). Its other clients include Madhya Pradesh Sugar Group, Rajshree Sugar from Coimbatore, Nuziveedu Seeds Limited in Hyderabad, Wheels India and Lala Masala.
Some of them make for a case study. Pitch takes a look.
Case study 1: MTR
MTR was a homegrown family business in Bangalore, it started as a South Indian restaurant. Buoyed by its popularity it planned to diversify into the instant food market. Vertebrand’s job was to scientifically restructure the business internally and create a comprehensive brand identity that could take the client from a regional business to a national organisation. Vertebrand mapped out the brand’s expansion across India, creating channel strategy and structure, tailor – made for each specific market. Thus, it successfully created a pan India presence for the brand in the instant foods market. However, later on, the brand was bought over by Norwegian company Orkla.
Case study 2: W women’s wear
TCNS Clothing, a premier garment export house in India, wanted to diversify into manufacturing, designing and retailing daywear for Indian women by launching a new brand. For Vertebrand, the first step was to understand the target customer – that was the urban Indian woman. The result was W – a contemporary brand that targeted working women with affordably priced work wear.
Following market entry and retail strategy, W was launched in the top eight metros of India to begin with. Today W is well-known women’s clothing brand with a loyal customer base across urban India.
Like the above, the agency was helpful in creating a retail market for EID Parry refined sugar in the South, convincing consumers to pay a premium for the product. Similarly, in Bangalore, it helped an organic F&B manufacturer Namdhari to create a retail brand. Vertebrand also assisted KDDL, manufacturers of watch dials and hands, to create luxury watch brand Ethos.
Left brained versus right brained marketing
All this was executed on the back of left brained thinking, which believes in marketing as a science. According to marketing Guru Philip Kotler, marketing is beyond selling, which is just the tip of the marketing iceberg. He says that selling starts only when you have a product. Marketing starts before there is a product. Marketing is thus, a far more comprehensive long-term investment effort of any brand.
Agreeing upon the fact that marketing is not merely trading, Raghu Viswanath, Managing Director, Vertebrand says, “For most of the agencies in this business, branding has had more to do with the physical identity and visual grammar, logo etc of the brand. While Vertebrand believes that though it is an important aspect, it is however, the strategic grammar, which is more crucial. We believe that any visual strategy is a consequence of the business strategy. Therefore, we place emphasis on areas like positioning, marketing strategy and analytic.”
Thus, the agency claims of following a different process as compared to other brands. “We believe that means to the end is more important than the end, while in terms of deliverable the objective of brand consulting is the same like others,” he adds.
Sharad Sarin, Professor of Marketing, XLRI, however, feels that branding alone is not sufficient enough to build a strong brand. A strong brand should ideally have a good product quality and marketers should be able to deliver on the performance and experience consistently. “This is a challenge for both the brand and the branding process,” he adds.
Adding global flavour
Hence, to provide a wider basket of expert offerings to marketers, Vertebrand recently tied up with Paris based marketing & web analytic and CRM consultancy – Equancy. This is very unique kind of a JV because there are no financial implications or financial stake for either parties at this point of time. It is an exclusive strategic alliance for a licensing agreement.
Viswanath explains, “This is happening for two reasons. The first is transfer of knowledge; we have reached a stage wherein in India we are probably the largest brand consultancy service provider for small and mid cap companies or the family run companies. We have developed a very strong niche in this area, and with Equancy we are expecting to bring cutting edge consulting tools in the market in the area of data analytics, marketing, corporate communication, CRM and digital marketing. These will obviously be of a higher order and more relevant to the large Indian and international companies in India.”
The partnership will also help in broadening the client base for the two. Currently, Equancy’s key clients in Paris are Accor Group, Nissan Europe, AXA Corporate, Cartier, L’Oreal and Nestle International.
Explaining the rationale behind the JV, Viswanath adds that the Indian market has become global so big names like a Lever or Titan needn’t look for a brand consultant only in India. Thus, if the companies are thinking global it becomes important for a brand like Vertebrand also to have to those global tools and techniques and have a far more global flavour even in India.
The agency also boasts of being the only largest structured organisation. The consultancy’s MD adds, “Most others are largely driven by one person or are perhaps a one man show. However, we have 34 senior professionals with over 20-25 years of experience, spread across five locations: Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai.”
Small players or small thinking?
However, when it comes to dealing with small and mid business clientele, the agency faces certain challenges at the operational and psychological levels. Viswanath draws attention to the fact that SMEs have a very ‘dhandha’ attitude of handling their brand. He adds that they don’t understand long term strategy and want action even before planning. Unlike other evolved players they do not believe in science of marketing. “Whereas on the contrary the mature ones understand the need for research, need for the right media exposure and other important tools of marketing,” he says.
Thus, the biggest challenge has been in battling this mindset and the agency has been successful in doing so for many of its small and mid cap brands. According to the MD, in India people don’t want to look before they leap as they want action without spending time on planning. “Since our products are not tangible, convincing clients for something intangible is an enormous challenge,” he adds. But, brand value indeed is created on such intangible attributes of brand building.
Since SMEs are cost sensitive when it comes to advertising and marketing investments, what is the hurdle there? Viswanath replies, “We cater to those SMEs that have a certain vision of brand building, therefore willing to put in the moneys for that. Thus, the filtration process becomes extremely important for us.”
However, Professor Sarin feels that though smaller brands have short term orientation but that is due to resource crunch. “Many times agencies think that these brands are being stingy but the fact is that finances play an important part when it comes to investment efforts. Consultancies should take this into account and prepare step by step marketing strategies that fit well within their budgets. Successful cases like Lijjat Papad and Nirma exemplify the consistency in endorsing values like adherence and commitment. So, there are no short cuts to fame,” he adds.
On its part, Vertebrand focuses on how to make marketing spends more effective, so that the client knows which part of the brand is growing better. The agency will be looking at integrating digital as part of its plans, due to its ever widening reach even among mass consumers.