A Brand storming session

Well-known business strategist Anisha Motwani's Storm the Norm is a first-of-its-kind collection of contemporary stories of truly inspiring business brands from India that either wrote or rewrote the norms of their respective industries and brought in unprecedented change and vibrancy.

Anisha MotwaniMotwani is a regular speaker at national and global business platforms and publishes her point of view on gender diversity, business, consumer and digital trends in MarketBuzzar.com, a portal of insights she founded,  and also to several leading publications. In recognition of her achievements, she was voted as one of the '50 Most Powerful Women in Indian Business' by Business Today for three consecutive years since 2009. She has also been recognized amongst the 'Top 50 Women in Media, Marketing and Advertising' by Impact & Colors for 4 consecutive years since 2011.

She has been conferred 'Women at Work Leadership Award 2011' by Asian Confederation of Business and 'Udyog Ratan' by the Institute of Economic Studies amongst many others. In this interview with Swetha Amit, she talks about the marketing strategies behind different brands and her experiences in writing Storm the Norm.

Storm the Norm is a compilation of stories of different brands, which have rewritten the norms of business and emerged successful. What inspired this book?
I have been wanting to write a book on this for a long time as it pertains to my domain. When I look back at my 25 years of corporate experience, I realise that I have been fortunate enough to work with different companies across varied industries like advertising, automobiles, finance, etc.

One thing  that I observed was that practical applications in business are completely different from our theoretical learnings back in B-school. I also got an insight into what happens on a day-to-day basis while creating a business and building a brand. It's all about a person's vision, which is converted into a burning desire to achieve this goal.

I realised that this entire process was not captured anywhere and I wanted to bring to light as to how businesses are actually built in India. And that's how Storm the Norm came about.

Given several companies and brands to choose from, how did you finally decide upon the final 20 for your book?
Well there were three - four criteria, which I had in mind while choosing these companies for my book. The first was that I wanted to cover the spectrum of brands ranging from those that were a decade old, to those that were about 100 years old. This explains why I have written about new age brands like Makemytrip and PVR along with 100-year old brands like Raymond and MTR.

The second criteria was that I wanted to represent a wide range of categories right from automobiles, personal care, lifestyle, media, etc.

The third criteria was to cover brands that fell under the legacy, challenger and start up category. The start-up brands give an idea about how new businesses enter the market as a fresh concept and what it takes to thrive in the long run. The challenger brands give an insight into what happens when you enter a market when there already exists tough competition. Lastly, the legacy brand describes different tactics on how to keep themselves refreshed and sustain their equity over a long period.

The last criteria was to select only those brands which had created their success stories by defying all odds, or in other words by challenging the norms.

Your book consists of three business segments - legacy, challengers and entrepreneurs. Taking all three into consideration, what did you find unique to each  that made them stand out and what would you say is common among the three ?
Let me first address the common aspect between these three types of businesses.    These brands are basically what I would call 'stormers' as they have made it a point to understand the situation beyond their existing boundaries and the changes that happen in the eco system. These 'stormers', are the ones who have a clear vision in their minds. They have their antennas tuned towards the outside world and are able to adapt to the changes that take place outside their eco system and are able to learn from their mistakes.

Now coming to the differences, I would say that the way things are done within each business depends largely on the size, scale and structure of the organisation. For instance, if you take the challenger businesses, there is a lot more risk-taking ability and willingness to experiment with new ideas. However, if you consider legacy businesses such as the large organisations, the movement is dependent solely on the leaders' vision and changes tend to occur more slowly.

Both the stories of 'Real' and 'Kissan', indicate the importance of using real vegetables and fruits, which ultimately boils down to the health factor. Considering how Indians are becoming fitness-conscious, do you feel that brands selling packaged foods or drinks will slowly require a reinvention in their marketing strategies?
Yes as a matter of fact, consumers have become health conscious today. To be in tune with this trend, organisations too have evolved in their approach of being more morally responsible and ethical towards their consumers instead of merely focusing on making profits. The advent of technology in terms of digital and social media have also increased transparency today. Hence, there is a fear of being exposed if organisations are not careful about their products.

Taking all these into consideration, communication becomes a vital part in the entire process. The bigger responsibility, however, lies in creating the right kind of product for the consumers. You see, in India our food is very rich and it's essential to cater to the taste buds. If we can find a way to attain a balance between creating healthy yet tasty food, it will ensure the sustainability of the product in the long run. There is a lot of effort going on in this segment and hopefully in due course of time, we should see a positive shift in this direction.

Going by the stories of Tata Tea and Sprite, these brands initially had to target the youth segment in order to retain sustainability for a longer period. Do you feel that targeting the youth segment is the key success for many brands today, especially the FMCG ones, when they initially come into the market?
It's difficult to generalise something like this. The target audience all depends on what the business propagation is and how the product is to be positioned. Now, if you take life insurance for instance, the youth segment is nowhere near it as the need for insurance comes from largely working individuals and a mature audience.

Raymond is another example of a brand that is targeted towards older men and you will hardly find the youth segment adorning any Raymond clothing.

With regards to food and beverages, they are not necessarily meant for one category alone. If you take for instance the 'Kurkure' brand, it has been positioned as a wholesome family snack right from the beginning. The brand could have easily been targeted towards the youth alone but chose to widen its target audience instead. However if a brand wants to target the youth segment as well, then it could be done by creating a variant and extending the brand. This is termed as brand architecture and brand portfolio where two brands are created if there are two different target segments.

The Cadbury's brand worked on similar lines of targeting the youth, yet it had to reinvent itself over a period of time to ensure its sustainability in the market. According to you, how often does a brand need to keep reinventing itself?
As often as the market gives the necessary signal of change. As I have mentioned earlier, the antennae of different businesses need to be in tune with the changing market trends, which is happening at a rapid pace. Earlier change in trends would occur over decades and today it's happening over a span of 3-5 years. So one needs to adapt to these changes as and when they occur.

As for the Cadbury brand, it initially started out from being a kid's brand and gradually evolved over time. Adults were seen to eat more mithai than chocolate and hence Cadbury had to reinvent itself to make itself scalable to the adult segment as well. Now, brand scalability can happen by creating one kind of chocolate within the same category and introduce various segments such as the 5-rupee chocolate to the premium 100-rupee ones.

It's also important to keep an eye on competition as well. For many categories today, competition has to be seen with a lateral lens. For instance, today's generation hardly wears watches due to their ability to see time using their smart phones. Taking this into consideration, the competition for watches today is not necessarily another watch brand but mobile phones.

Meeting people from different business segments must have been a riveting experience. How would you recollect the entire process of meeting several people while writing your book?    
For me, this has mostly been a virtual process through several emails and telephone calls primarily because I had a full-time job. Secondly, meeting 20 different people multiple times especially when residing in different cities is an impossible task. I spent three whole years writing this book and it has certainly not been an easy process. Not everybody has that same level of time and commitment. While some would respond in a month, others would respond only after six months or so.

However, when I look back at this entire process, I only see the richness of learning, the experience of interacting with different people, learning and researching about diverse industries. Overall, it has been an enriching experience despite the fact it was a cumbersome and a long drawn procedure.

Lastly any more books in the pipeline?
I currently run a portal called marketingbuzzar.com. I am actually planning to move my operation online and launch insightbuzaar.com and that is where I will do most of my publishing.  If at all energy and time permits, I may write a book on the stories of some other brands- a sort of sequel to 'Storm the norm'. But that won't happen anytime soon.

Excerpt from Storm the Norm -

Kurkure: An 'item number in the mouth' that keeps the family fun times rolling

The story of Kurkure is one of a brand that created a completely new segment in the salty snacks category, created value in consumer life and did it all with a sense of humour. And along the way it challenged many beliefs.

Publisher:Rupa Publications
Price:Rs 500

How much value can a small crooked piece of a salty something that crunches and melts away in your mouth in no time at all, create? Turns out, plenty-the value of navigating between tradition and modernity, the value of aspiration, and last but not the least, the value of embracing imperfections and loving with a laugh. The belief that families that snack together and laugh together, stay together, will continue to be the bedrock of the Kurkure campaign strategy.

Truth, quirkily told
When it comes to describing the success of the fifteen-year old brand Kurkure, the Rs. 1000 crore plus snack brand of PepsiCo India, old timers often talk of providence. Over the years, Kurkure has come to be identified as a quintessential family brand and has brought joy to many families, consistently highlighting thought-provoking contemporary points of view on the Indian family and its myriad interactions.

'Tedha fun' has been at the forefront of product and marketing innovation and the brand has constantly reinvented itself to remain relevant to the Indian ethos and culture. India's most loved snack brand, since its launch, has been engaging Indian families with its inimitable taste and highly addictive, full-bodied offerings. Right from the beginning, Kurkure has been steering between tradition and modernity: made with familiar kitchen ingredients but in shape and format and flavour delivery, a 'twist in tradition'. As we will discover, this would go on to become a cornerstone of brand Kurkure. Be it in product, format, flavour or shape, in brand communication and the characters it portrays, Kurkure has followed the 'twist on tradition' formula.

Moods, twist and turns
Kurkure was launched in 1999 and has since then transformed the way Indians snack. At its core, Kurkure questioned the existing norm that salty snacks were divided into two large segments, traditional and potato chips. Kurkure introduced a new sub segment within namkeens, creating a new palate experience for consumers. Armed with its unique product proposition:' Familiar taste in an innovative format', the brand broke category codes and transformed the landscape of snacking in India, both sensorial and visual. It introduced a sub-segment that was not palm food, but finger food-so if namkeen was eaten in a bowl, Kurkure was eaten out of a bag. Kurkure bridged traditional Indian snacks-namkeens-and the modern potato chips. It also substantially modernized the codes of namkeens while still appealing to the spicy Indian palate.

Brandishing a strangely addictive, intense chatpata taste, Kurkure was lunched as Lehar Kurkure, a sub-brand under the umbrella of Lehar (which was positioned at that time as an irresistible snack). It used traditional Indian 'Kitchen ingredients' like rice, lenthils, corn and Indian masala seasoning; and the story goes that it took 220 trials to make Kurkure. Consumer testing had people loving the crunchiness and saying it was very 'kurkura' (crunchy)-and from there came the name.

When it was launched in Chandigarh, the sales team literally 'painted the town orange' with all three-wheelers carrying the packs being painted in that colour. One of the fastest market placements, Kurkure had near 100 percent coverage in ten days, something that was repeated in many other markets soon after. A significant retail merchandizing innovation that marked the initial years was the 'rack' which gave consumers a modern trade experience in traditional trade, today an accepted and ubiquitous sight. The small packs hanging in 'ladis' (hangers) outside shops rather like shampoo sachets, was another innovation that became a category norm.

With its zesty, multi-sensorial taste that was energizing and mood transforming, and as a consumer once put it, an 'item number in the mouth', it was launched with the tagline: 'Kya Karen, control nahin hota' to drive home the addictive taste of the product. Focusing on the value of mood transformation, Kurkure tapped into a variety of flavour buckets, giving its consumers a range of experiences, sometimes coming from regional palates, sometimes emerging as fusion flavours with a hint of the west but always Indian at heart.

The 'Great Indian Family' brand
While in the initial years, Kurkure leveraged the product's irresistible and unusual taste to establish itself and create the category, in 2003 it shifted its fun positioning to encompass the entire family. With this, it also stepped out of the shadow of Lehar, as a brand in its own right.

The brand created a context for itself by appropriating the territory hitherto occupied by namkeens enjoyed as moments of family togetherness over a cup pf tea. Kurkure took the battle into namkeen' own backyard by developing its contemporary perspective on Indian family dynamics.

In a country so rooted in family values, few brands came across as truly 'family brands'. Kurkure talked to snack-loving, spice-loving, variety-loving, conversation-loving Indian families. Kurkure rooted itself in the family social context and became a commentator on the changing Indian family, always bringing its own insightful observations on quirky truths of the great Indian family.

Kurkure professed that families that snacked together and laughed together, stayed together. In a country where family love was historically deep-rooted in duty and responsibility, obedience and sacrifice and codes of conduct; where Bollywood idealized family love, lump-in-the-throat melodrama, replaying mythology themes of duty, sacrifice, protect and save; where advertising revelled in portraying the perfect mother, the perfect son, the perfect wife; where TV serials paraded the dark side of family life, kitchen politics, conflict, jealousy, manipulation, power, marital violence, and money fights; with its strangely addictive, intnse chatapata taste, Kurkure assumed the role of a catalyst. It portrayed a family that was happily, unabashedly idiosyncratic and playfully imperfect, always accepting that 'we are like this only' and that 'in our family it happens like this only'. It loosened stiff, formal relationship hierarchies in Indian families and let in fresh masti-filled air!