What this pandemic means to us in 480 words

What this pandemic means to us in 480 words
What this pandemic means to us in 480 words

What this pandemic means to us in 480 words

One thing everyone is sure about is that this pandemic is a taste of things to come.

Although people are unaccustomed to this kind of lifestyle – which includes washing hands frequently and avoiding handshakes – they are warming up to this new normal. The world hasn’t changed a lot in the past few weeks, but people have. They all had to move away from their regular ‘coping, hoping, doping & shopping’ cycle and do everything from home and at home. Now work is where WiFi is. With this swift change, businesses and services were also forced to take an indefinite break. Though people are coming out now, armed to the teeth, they wouldn’t move about like they once did. Now, with the fear of infection prevailing in the society and a new set of guidelines for markets, what is the future anticipating from us?

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There was a time when business owners talked about building a future-ready company. Of course, not many walked their talk. To be future-ready is to be able to hardwire the habit of openness and zero-resistance towards transformation. For example, when the digital transformation changed every industry, some companies stepped back or were left alone for various reasons. Polaroid, Blockbuster, General Motors and other such companies, which failed to redraw their road maps at the time, had to take the hardest blows in the decades that followed. Though this pandemic is not as mighty as the digital transformation phase, it surely poses an opportunity for business leaders to reprioritize their business goals and emerge reskilled.

With more government intervention, shopping habits of people and the way businesses function would change in the months to come and this change is here to stay. Many companies spent the last few weeks on keeping their heads above water to protect their market presence. Therefore, in every possible way, this is the best time to effectuate the growth hacking ideas brands have shelved. This also stands as the right time to take the step-of-transformation brands have been avoiding. All said and done, the last thing that carves out a new niche in these unusual times for any brand belonging to any industry is the message brands convey to their customers. When the customer knows that their favourite brand has transformed during this extraordinary situation to serve them in a better way, they feel better.

At the end of the day, we too are a brand. Even we took the bold and transformative step. In the past few weeks, we have acquired new skills and designed a new strategy and it is our job to communicate with the world that we are emerging anew.

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We are ready to provide proactive guidance to brands to help them effectuate new ideas and to communicate the same with their patrons.

One thing we are sure about is that the hungriest wolves hunt the best.

Putting oneself in an athlete’s shoes

athlets blog post - M+M
athlets blog post - M+M

Putting oneself in an athlete’s shoes

A young Israeli-Jewish boy goes on a school field trip to an austere Holocaust (mass destruction/slaughter of Jews in Germany) museum. He gets to know about the extremely callous Nazi ideology and remembers his grandfather who was a victim of that holocaust. He passes through each room – full of pictures depicting the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany before and during the Second World War. He gets back home and there’s a surprise gift for him waiting to be unpacked. The gift is his favourite pair of expensive Adidas shoes his doting parents got for him.

*****

India has seen greatest athletes and sportspersons of all time. We’ve seen Milkha Singh, Dhyan Chand, P.T. Usha, Karanam Malleswari, Anju Bobby George, Abhinav Bindra, Mary Kom and many others. They all have pushed boundaries to make it to the winner’s podium. And on a global stage, we talk about Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey, Michael Phelps, Birgit Fischer, Usain Bolt and other legends who have outperformed against all odds. Each has a success story. Each athlete earned all the attention s/he got at the winning moment. If we glance through history, we can learn that athletes have always been famous. The star status athletes and sports persons enjoy today is not a recent phenomenon. This is as old as sports itself.

Orsippus of Megara, an ancient Greek athlete won the stadion race of the 15th ancient Olympics in 720 B.C. He was the crowd’s favourite, and he was thought to be a great pioneer for being most likely the first ever athlete to run naked. Varazdat was an athlete from Armenia who won the Olympic Boxing tournament during the 291st Olympic Games. Although only men were allowed to compete in the Olympics initially, the rules have been rewritten later. Several women took part in the ancient games, and even won competitions. The most famous of these was Cynisca of Sparta, the first woman to win. On the other end, Milo of Croton was a wrestler who had won numerous tournaments in his long career. This tradition of celebrity-athletes continued and their charm never waned. Unlike any other time in history, athletes possess a great amount of value, following and money today. The reason was the post Second World War hunger. It is not an easy job for any athlete to outperform his/her competitors but how modern athletes kept their fame intact and leveraged it with an unbelievable monetary value is the question.

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In the 1940s, most sports events were cancelled because of the Second World War, which includes two Olympics. Not surprisingly, a number of athletes have served in the armed forces and fought for their countries. In the 1950s, sports like Baseball and Boxing were widely known and Hockey and Football were growing slowly. In the United States, Baseball and NBA gained the most attention at the time and the tournaments were aired on television. The beginning of 1960s witnessed the Pro Football leagues on television which was a huge success. On the other hand, Boxing bred a separate fan base for itself around the controversial and iconic figures Muhammad Ali and Cassius Clay. Later, the 1970 Olympics witnessed tragic terrorist attacks on Israeli participants. Nothing eventful happened for a decade after that and in 1980, Russia hosted the Olympics. In protest of Russia’s invasion in Afghanistan, 60 countries refused to participate that year. Until then, sports have been a matter of entertainment and valour and time has added business to it. Decades have passed since then and the world has seen the best of the best performers in every sport. Some sports gained unprecedented popularity and some have been completely ignored. Brands entered the stadium at this moment and created an industry that was struggling to take birth. In no time, brand associations have brought athletes closer to their fans. In a way, brands have packed and sold people’s favourite athletes and their successes in nicely designed boxes. Suddenly, the shoes worn by a famous NBA player or a celebrity-athlete became a novel piece of gear.

According to the branding consultant and professor David Aaker (1991, 1996), brand association is one of the four constructs of brand equity. The four constructs are – brand awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality, and brand associations. In his model, brand associations were classified into four categories (product, organization, person, and symbol). In his framework, consumers associated product-related attributes (e.g., quality, usage situation, users, country of origin) organization-related attributes (e.g., innovation, culture), personality of the brand (e.g., fun, active, young, humorous, boring) and symbolic image or meaning of the brand (e.g., logo, endorser). Not all this seems unusual or merely theoretical if we know the history of Nike, Puma and Adidas.

It is said that Nike has not tied itself to a distinct identity with any country, not even America. However, Adidas has both German and American identities. Nike inspires individuals to become athletes and therefore sports individual iconic sportspersons and Adidas always captures the team spirit. Romanian Tennis star Nastase, Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal, Michael Jordan and LeBron James were the prominent brand associates of Nike and the whole world knows who they are. On the other hand, it’s not that Adidas didn’t have individual players as brand associates, but it still is identified as a brand that gravitates team players. Here, it can be assumed without hesitation that the perceptual attributes (celebrity athlete, speed, victory) and functional attributes (durability, comfort) have worked their way in both cases and made inroads into the market giving each brand a sub-category to occupy. Like an example from the luxury automobile industry – Mercedes is to luxury as Land Rover is to performance – what comes to your mind when you are to choose between Nike and Adidas is just a walking history that crosses paths with your personality.

Rudolf and Adolf Dassler, the famous German brothers, made their first sneakers in the laundry room of their parents’ home. By 1927 their small company had grown to 12 employees and the brothers were forced to find other premises. Their big breakthrough came at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin when the athletes they associated with received seven gold medals and five silver and bronze medals. And then came the Second World War. After the war, the brothers parted ways establishing the brands Adidas and Puma. A couple of decades later, in the United States, came the Blue Ribbon Sports, now known as Nike. It was properly branded in 1972 and the products were designed and marketed by Phil Knight (founder) and Bill Bowerman (track-and-field coach). Even though Nike imported shoes from a Japanese brand initially, it eventually made its own products with the insights and inventions of Bill Bowerman.

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Now, if you see closely what international relations and the world wars have done to entrepreneurs in different parts of the world, you will hesitate to imitate the branding techniques used by the brands mentioned in here. First, Olympics gave birth to an upcoming brand in Germany and the war has split it into two (Adidas & Puma). The relation between Japan, Germany and America has created Nike and later the cold war had fueled entrepreneurship in the United States. None of these brands were created out of thin air. As every athlete has a different story, every athletic brand has one too. The resources they had, the markets they found and the innovation they exhibited were the only things that fetched them a recognition. So the next time you feel the urge to follow or imitate any of these brands, you might want to have a historic incident for you to draw inspiration or see your country at war. Not to overstate, but there were quite a number of brands, which followed in the footsteps of these pioneering companies and all they experienced is a pratfall. In the beginning, we quoted David Aaker. He talks about product-related attributes and organization-related attributes. Glance through the attributes that have been mentioned in the parentheses and instantly the timeline of a brand per se unfolds at your feet.

Only shoes were discussed in here, which makes only a small part of the big picture, because it is said – the rest [of the picture] is history.

*****

[Continued]
The boy opens the gift already knowing that his parents got him his favourite shoes. His mother tells the boy that she got him a good pair of expensive German shoes. With this, the boy reminds his mother that his grandfather is from Germany and the mother falls silent thinking about the horrific past. Then, the boy says to his mother that he is going out to play with his friends and puts on the shoes. While walking down the street and into the playground, all that the boy thinks about is his grandfather and the holocaust. He moves his feet carefully not to stamp too hard or heavy because he thinks his grandfather is in his shoes. Even while playing football, he kicks hesitatingly and carefully. At last, he kicks a tiebreaker and then feels more comfortable in his new shoes. By the end, he assumes that his old man in the shoes liked his last kick, and walks back home.

This is a short story by the Israeli writer Etgar Keret. It was first published in 2004 in an anthology named ‘The bus driver who wanted to be God & other stories’. This short story meanders through the many phases of history. It reminds us of the post world war inventions, global aspirations, brand aspirations, east meets west discussion, pain, memories and an optimistic future the then entrepreneurs envisioned. Before starting out as a brand, sensible entrepreneurs first learn where they are and what they have and then they move on to question who they are. The ‘who’ is the identity one builds over time. Therefore, building a brand identity is a historic event.

Indian cricket also had seen one of the longest and most respected brand associations that almost nudged a company to make a product that is far from their product line. This is the story of Sachin Tendulkar’s cricket bat with MRF (Madras Rubber Factory) sticker on it. Although MRF does not make cricket bats, kids would buy a fake bat with a fake MRF sticker just for the pleasure of perceptual attributes at the time. Thus and thus, how MRF leveraged Sachin’s batting stance and cover drives is a different story altogether.

How brand linguistics rescued Kellogg’s

brand linguistics - Marks & Methods
brand linguistics - Marks & Methods

How brand linguistics rescued Kellogg’s

The Indian subcontinent is inhabited by a significantly large population and the people speak languages belonging to three major language families: Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda. These three language families have dozens of languages under them and these languages have some traits that are common and also entirely unique (compared to other language families) at the same time. It’s needless to say that India, as a linguistic area, is a living laboratory of linguistic evolution.

Not knowing the diversity of comprehension and expression of Indians, many global brands have ventured into the market in the baby steps of globalization. Some of them were embraced by Indians. Some were rejected. A few were given a chance to improve according our likes and dislikes. One such brand that was given many chances was Kellogg’s. After tasting a series of successes in the west, this brand landed in the land where nearly 1600 languages are living. Almost all MBA graduates and marketing professionals know the case of Kellogg’s as a brand, which took decades to own a place in the Indian market. They all have dissected the case in and out. They tried to understand why it failed initially, what Indians like for breakfast, what they usually eat, which taste do they prefer and how can they position the brand to appeal to the consumers. However, they all missed one simple thing – they missed exploring the languages they speak.

They ignored the tip of the iceberg.

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Kellogg’s has struggled to stay relevant on the shelves for decades. Somehow, Indians were not buying the idea of ‘corn flakes’. After extensive research, they marketed the same product as ‘Basmati Flakes’ which did well with numbers for a few years. Identifying this make-over, Andre Lefevere, a noted professor and critic, mentioned in his essay ‘Composing the other’ that this change in the name made all the difference. He reminded that even when Indians speak multiple languages, we still have something ‘Indian’ in all our languages and cultures, that nudges people towards belongingness.

India is such a country which is open for any amount of foreignization until it comes domesticated. This is the reason why we love paneer pizza along with coke and we are up for a Meetha-Paan at the end. So, when brands are forced to fish or cut bait like Kellogg’s, it is advised to look up brand linguistics.

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After decades of persistent trials and punctual errors, it got an identity as a good option for breakfast. Of course, the domestication of the name ‘corn flakes’, the positioning and the marketing of the brand, and the introduction of newer flavours helped the brand to find a niche, but it is brand linguistics that held things together – not letting them fall apart. Concurrently, the proof of the pudding is in the eating

The love life of arts and science

The love life of arts and science
The love life of arts and science

The love life of arts and science

I think part of what made Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.
– Founder of a tech-product company named after a fruit

1939
June 10, 1939 was the first time Isaac Asimov sat down to write a Robot story. It was his first piece of fiction. It is the story of a robot nurse and a little girl and love and a prejudiced mother and a weak father and a broken heart and a tearful reunion. Science fiction was quite famous at the time and Asimov was the first person and the first writer to think of robots as ‘industrial products built by matter-of-fact engineers’, as he puts it. He continued writing such stories and the idea of – carefully built robots that assist humans – permeated his stories and it didn’t stop there. Almost all sci-fi writers took his path.

In 1942, he coined and used the term ‘Robotics’ for the study of robots in his story ‘Runaround’. He didn’t use any existing word but created one. In the same story, he listed ‘Three laws of robotics’ which were regarded as pioneering principles at the time. However, those principles were stretched across the length and breadth of AI and science later and were criticized for the naivety. Asimov admitted that he had no thought that robots would come into existence in his lifetime. He was formally trained in biochemistry but wrote some intriguing sci-fi stories. He was one of the original thinkers of his time who envisioned the future without inventing it. Asimov’s three laws:

    1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

In the late 1950s, Joseph F. Engelberger, an American entrepreneur and physicist, founded a firm by the name Unimation, Inc., because he was so interested in robots and made their production his life work. But how did he become so interested in manufacturing robots when there was no such industry? According to his words, he grew interested in robots in 1940s when he was a physics-major undergraduate at Colombia University, reading the robot stories of his fellow Columbian Isaac Asimov. Later, Engelberg even invited Asimov to write the forward for his 1980 book ‘Robotics in Practice: Management and Application of Industrial Robots.’ Asimov, in all his stories, envisaged a world with robots that have built-in safety techniques and are employed to do specific jobs assigned by humans. It all came true.

To invent this future, it took a little over a decade, along with a biochemist’s wild thoughts and his art of writing, and a physicist’s courage to make it happen because he just believed in his fellow’s wild thoughts. They both scrapped the que sera sera mood of the post-world-war 2 scenario with sci-fi.

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1984
On 24 January 1984, the Macintosh was unveiled to the world at an event in an auditorium, throwing the crowd into a frenzy. Too many hands and too many brains were involved in building the machine. There were too many cooks too but nothing was spoiled. This event took the founder and the firm to a higher celebrity orbit. It’s a thing of the past but it’s worth remembering that the seed for this heavily idolized machine was sown by someone else.

Jef Raskin is philosophical guy who could be both playful and ponderous, writes Walter Isaacson in the biography of Steve Jobs. He envisioned Macintosh, and even named it, to be a computer that has a graphical interface and available to everyone at a low price. Raskin had studied computer science, taught music and visual arts, conducted a chamber opera company, and organized guerrilla theatre. His 1967 doctoral thesis at U.C. San Diego stated that computers should have graphical interface rather than text-based interface. If we see his life, we find odd polarities in his tastes and likes. He was a computer scientist who taught fine arts.

Because of the fog of war in the then Silicon Valley, nobody noticed the radical diversity possessed by some companies and Raskin was a part of one such company. The counterculture movement inspired Apple’s culture. The company gathered a diverse group from diverse backgrounds with diverse interests and of course diverse capabilities. Jobs’ vision for his company’s future was vividly playing before everyone who worked for the firm. He justifies the possibility of a computer scientist being a musician or anything for that matter. Not only Raskin, a few others also had different interests and a few members of the Macintosh team didn’t come from a relevant educational background. Jobs was not an artist but he often left space around artistic souls to do something new, not fearing naivety. He blended his knowledge of the art of calligraphy and typography in the Mac with ease. This tinge of art around science is what defined as innovation. He says that if we want to live our life in a creative way, as an artist, we have to not look back too much and the more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of us, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, they go and hibernate somewhere and maybe later they re-emerge a little differently. His understanding of this sort of diversity at workplace and the ‘let’s-run-risks’ nature gave the firm a shot in the arm every now and then.

2014
On 7 November, 2014, the movie ‘Interstellar’ had a worldwide release. Chris Nolan delivered an ambitious, mind-bending spectacle to the world and The Telegraph described him as both a rational puzzle-maker and a problem-solver. There is one person alongside Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, who steered this movie preventing scientific embarrassments. He was the physicist and researcher Kip Thorne, who was also the executive producer of this film.

While writing the film, the Nolan brothers spent a substantial amount of time in Caltech, where Kip Thorne had been working for a long time. His research on gravitational waves spanned decades by the time, beginning in the late 1960s. Chris Nolan’s English literature degree might have helped him write a racy plot, laced with the inspiration of Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go gently’ poem, but Kip Thorne fed the script with some shapeshifting scientific principles that made the film a spectacular watch. While they were discussing the science, art and possibility of designing a black hole, which had never been done even by scientists, he collaborated with VFX experts to translate the equations he’d been sleeping on for decades, into a visual medium. In the process, Kip Thorne, along with his team, published two research papers on how they created a software to invent the image of a black hole and how accurate it turned out to be. It all paid off well and later it was proved that there is maximum possibility that the black holes, which his team had designed, are close to the real ones.

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Excepting Kip Thorne, none of the team members knew anything about physics, leaving out what they’d learnt in school. None of them had formal education in such science but they somehow pulled it off with accuracy. In 2017, he won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics for his remarkable research on gravitational waves.

These are not the only instances where the intersection of art and science created a bang. This same point of intersection may have inspired the author Mary Shelly to predict about organ transplantation in her 1818 novel ‘Frankenstein’. She didn’t attend a medical school. All these seem borderline-surreal but they came true, not by accident but maybe by design.

Arts and science as disciplines were studied together in ancient times. Later, when each discipline branched out accumulating great amounts of knowledge, interdisciplinary knowledge became scarce. In Ancient Greece, there was a unity of arts, science, and philosophy. In the renaissance and pre-modern days, scientists were not only scientists but also artists, mathematicians and philosophers. Leonardo Da Vinci was known both for the mural painting ‘The Last Supper’ and topographic anatomy of human body. Samuel Morse invented the Telegraph and he was also a painter. The great German poet Goethe wrote on colour theory and also botany. The lead guitarist of the British rock band ‘Queen’ was an astrophysics researcher.

Earlier, one person had diverse interests and excelled in more than one. Today, not individuals but diverse teams are proving to be innovative in inimitable ways. Scientists and artists are coming together from all over the world to exchange perspectives. In this future our ancestors talked about, ideas are crossing paths. Neuroscientists are collaborating with theatre directors to work on auditory impulses, the Antarctica climate-change project has a painter in their team of researchers to document the images. Speech scientists are working with poets. Photographers and sleep scientists are studying human sleep patterns.

Scientists and artists have many opportunities to collaborate, from exploring philosophical questions to making products. However, no two collaborations follow the same recipe. The secret spice differs in each collaboration.

Twitter, sandwich, donkey, economics & advertising

Marks + methods - Chicken Blog Post
Marks + methods - Chicken Blog Post

Twitter, sandwich, donkey, economics & advertising

A few tweets made a popular restaurant run out of chicken sandwiches in a week.
Are we missing something here?

Twitter & sandwich

The end of the last decade has shown us what brands actually mean to their followers. Brands meant so much to them that they started a small battle on twitter and ended it as quickly as they started.

In Aug ‘19, Popeyes, an American fast food restaurant chain started making chicken sandwiches for the first time and they posted about this on Twitter. Chick-fil-A, another American fast food restaurant chain, also tweeted about their already famous chicken sandwich claiming that they invented it. Popeyes, being cocky for a while, replied to that tweet whether ‘they’re doing alright’. It all started off on a lighter note but escalated quickly. Fans and followers of both the brands came on board and continued retweeting this issue until it took a ride across the country. Popeyes claimed that their sandwich is the best, which was challenged by Chick-fil-A, which has been making sandwiches for a long time now. Eventually, both the companies sold sandwiches like never before. No amount of advertising has helped them run out of food in their entire lifetime.

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While both the parties occupied the battlefield, a third player entered. It was another American fast food restaurant chain named Wendy’s. With no intention to win the war or conquer the followers of the former, they just tweeted with peace. They said their chicken sandwich is the second best. They tried to have a bite of the market and eventually succeeded. After a week or so, it was reported that Popeyes’ sales soared in a short period and one of its store even ran out of sandwiches one day

The philosophy of the ass

French philosopher Jean Buridan expounded about free will with a hypothetical situation of an ass/donkey that is hungry. He asks, if there are two identical (in appearance & quality) haystacks lying equidistant from the ass, which stack would it choose to eat? For this, the philosopher’s answer is rather sour. Buridan argues that, unable to choose one, the ass dies of hunger. There are other versions of the same paradox with different variables, but the point of interest is about choice between two equal objects and equal forces.

If we read the chicken sandwich story against this philosophy, it appears that when we ought to choose one among two options, we try to evaluate the available options considering different parameters or wait for the conditions – in which we are placed – to change. So, if the object is a sandwich, we will not die of indecisiveness of course, but would choose any one or just walk away disliking both. As an add-on, if we have a third option to evaluate, as in the case of the chicken sandwich ‘tweet war’, what would we do?

The economics of searching

Suppose you decided to change your car, what would you do first? You go see what is trending in the market and you may read some reviews about the options you are considering. Then you may take a test drive and then get home one which pleases you the most. For all this, you spend some money and time. The sum of this money and time is defined as ‘search cost’.

So, at a nano level, suppose you are searching for a good chicken sandwich. Given a chance to decide on one chicken sandwich (so that you need not try different sandwiches later in your life) how much would you spend? Now that there are three options at hand – Popeyes, Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s – one would obviously try all the three and pass their judgement. Because the search cost is too less here, it works. Unlike Buridan’s ass, we settle down with at least one. The search cost helps us to choose between equal looking options.

The argument may seem flimsy but it apparently sold more than anticipated.

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Marketing or advertising or just proper branding?

Now the debate stops at the Wh- questions – the whats, whens and whys. No party in this case advertised extensively but managed to sell what they wanted to sell. People may argue that it is just a momentary marketing technique, which burns out in no time. But isn’t all advertising short-living in nature and isn’t selling the ultimate goal of any advertisement? So, why did tweets work in the place of advertising?

There could be multiple reasons for this to have worked out so well such as the season, the brandscape, history of the respective brands and the brand equity they possess. As professional brand consultants, we see something basic here. It is the presence of these brands on social media and right branding that worked like magic. Brand advocates and followers, who usually hibernate, rise to the occasion to defend their favourite brands as in the case of the chicken sandwich. Advertising may not work all the time but branding does.

Slowly, brands are acknowledging the fact that the brandscape has moved from magazines and billboards to social media.

PACCS

PACCS

A group that’s paving new roads
with the vision of being pioneers forever.

The PACCS group is a legacy that has its journey inscribed on the
parchment of time. What started a couple of decades ago as an innovative, anesthetic group practice is today a foundation for a branding agency, a gaming start-up, a rehabilitation center and a clean-food kitchen. “And this is just the beginning”, say the leaders shaping the group’s future. So the yellow in our branding represents the dawn of new ideas and the white, friendly font represents the approachability, transparency and finesse in operations. The positioning statement, ‘Pioneers for good’ is an ode to the group’s undying enterprising spirit that’s dedicated to the good of people.

Corona: A Twin Earth Case

Corona: A Twin Earth Case
Corona: A Twin Earth Case

Corona: A Twin Earth Case

Remember ‘it’s not in the head’.
We’ll talk about this toward the end.

The Ting Tings, a British musical duo, released a song by the name ‘That’s not my name’ from their debut album in 2008. This song is about a girl whose name people forget and call her by different names like Hell, Her and Jane. The girl reacts to it and says out loud, ‘that’s not my name’. After more than a decade, this song still seems relevant.

Corona, the Mexican-brewed beer, has been struggling to cross some unanticipated roadblocks since a couple of weeks, but at the cost of its brand equity and value. Ever since the news about Corona virus broke out, searches on the internet ebbed – about the virus and where it has been spreading. Surprisingly, people are searching with the keywords ‘Corona-beer-virus’. By the second week of January 2020, the searches for ‘beer virus’ jumped up more than 700% and the searches for ‘beer coronavirus’ soared to a staggering 3,200%, which is quite a blow to this brand.

It all seems stupid but somehow stupidity works at times. Maybe, it’s time for Corona to sing a song like ‘that’s not what my name means, for god’s sake!’

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This is not the first time something like this happened. In 2016, Tata Motors announced a city car by the name Zica but they renamed the same car just before its initial release because of the outbreak of Zika virus, which is a homonym of the car’s previous name Zica (derived from ‘Zippy Car’). Tata had some luck lurking in their pockets which helped them pull it off really well. In 2014, Italo Sussie, the Belgium chocolate maker, renamed their brand as ISIS but called off this new name because it sounds like one of the Islamic terrorist organizations (ISIS). In 1987, a diet candy which went by the name Ayds, decided to find a new name for itself because AIDS (which sounds like Ayds) virus was too serious to be ignored. These are just a few instances where a brand name made some irreversible changes to brands.

When such roadblocks appear in the way of a brand, does it mean that the brand is destined to fall into panic and take a break or rebrand itself? Maybe not. A brand’s name is as good as its brand persona. This persona grows over time. When naming a brand, brand owners deliberately try to plant as much sense as possible in the name so that it is pregnant with meaning. Amazon, Slack, Intel and Accenture are a result of such a thought process. Corona, Ayds, Zica also fall under the same category.

When a virus possesses a name that resembles that of a brand, just like Corona, the brand suffers misrepresentation. It may be because of the fear of viral contamination or precautionary steps of prevention, but when a tech-giant (Amazon) bears the same name as a rainforest that had been recently burnt down due to wildfires, why didn’t people relate the forest to that tech company?

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Corona beer stands in stark contrast with Corona virus; and so does Amazon with Amazon rainforest.

The American philosopher Hilary Putnam has left an answer for this with his ‘Twin Earth experiment’.

Putnam says, it [meaning of a word] is not in our head. He says we acquire the meaning of a word through the environment we live in. His ‘Twin Earth experiment’ says: If there is another planet just like the Earth and that planet also has water like thing on it, but not exactly, we call it water for our understanding because it resembles the water that is on the Earth. But, it is to be noted that the water present on the Earth and the ‘water’ on the other planet are not identical. It just possesses the same name. The meanings and references are entirely different. Therefore, meaning of word is not in our mind but it lives in the ecosystem we live in. This linguistic concept answers the questions of Corona and Amazon too. Corona may be a refreshing beer for its consumers but it is a fatal virus for many others who do not consume it. The people who consume the beer may have surfed the interned just to be sure of its safety. Therefore, it is just a name that is living in two ecosystems, but with different references.

Such unprecedented problems are quite difficult to avoid while naming a brand. So we believe. a multidimensional linguistic evaluation of a name is necessary before naming a brand. Shakespeare may have said ‘What’s in a name?’ We say, in a name, there are things that a brand cannot afford to buy, such as brand equity.

Branding for Millennials + Gen Z

Branding for Millennials
Branding for Millennials

Branding for Millennials + Gen Z

21st century seems to be running on steroids and so are the youngest generations. The millennials and Generation Z are moving with this unbreakable flow and there is no looking back. Both these generations live and work closely but identify themselves apart from each other. Some obtuse experts say, the worst fear of both generations is FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. Others say they enjoy JOMO, the Joy Of Missing Out.
Well, both are wrong.

Marketing clan suggests brands to study these two generations as fast-moving cohorts sharing similar interests. Some brands did that but failed to leave a mark in the market though. As a result, Gen Z entrepreneurs took charge of this void and began consulting so that brands can make a way in the long haul. What these entrepreneurs are saying is that millennials and Gen Z are not cohorts but just individuals seeking individual attention.

Like every new generation, Millzys (Millennials + Generation Z) too have made their lives a little amusing. They have a million opportunities to grab from and a hundred choices to make every day. However, they have less time to spend. They live in their own world. Internet is their basic need. Job-hopping is a part of their profession. Connectivity is a social norm. Freedom of expression is the new normal. They are ready to take risks. They have no problem being gig workers. They choose brands wisely, but are not repulsive to new choices. Environment protection stays on top of their checklist. They are pennywise and brand conscious. If the brands talk for them, they reciprocate without hesitation.

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Recently, we stumbled on a comment in the Instagram account of a famous athlete brand. It was posted under an image the brand uploaded as a part of one of their campaigns. It reads, “Why does this comment section feel like family?” With this one comment, our digital branding research, which was progressing in one direction, drifted into the modish branding techniques. We started with the question, ‘Since when did peeps start treating brands like family?’

It was a question worth wondering.

According Morgan Stanley report published two years ago, India will have 500 million Millzy population by 2020 and their spends are expected to cross 400 billion dollars. With this fact in mind and figures in hand, a few brands tried to impress this group by trying to talk to them – like them. One of the trials included brands using the acronyms these two generation use frequently. All these efforts went unnoticed. The truth is, even if Gucci says Gucci (another term for ‘good’ that Millzys use) Millzys are not going to buy it. We found that they just expect brands to be what they actually are. The only character they expect from serious brands is brand purpose because Millzys have a story for why they buy what they buy. If a brand can tell their story, they come closer to the brand.

Now brands are consciously advertising in a narrative way. Advertisements are creating more content than content creators. This is the new normal for brands. In this plethora of stories, some are liked, some are disliked and most of them miss the targets. Because these people are so connected to each like no other generation, if they find a promising brand story, they suggest to their friends. The network effect works its way here. Peer-reviewed preferences are a result of this effect in branding. So, digital branding starts with a moving brand story and it all eventually moves towards consumer experience.

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It took a while for brands and branding consultants to discover the fact that Millzys are not digital-savvy but are digital-natives.

Millzys feel they have a moral responsibility to save themselves and the earth from dying. The other generations may not know this but they are very much concerned about this pressing issue. With no power at hand and not much money to spend for such a huge cause, they are waiting for their chance to change the world. We found that they are liking brands which are more environment friendly and transparent with their processes. Most of the heritage brands and the conglomerates failed to break this blinding wall. A few heritage brands even criticised new-age brands for being jumpy, reactive, approachable, interactive and responsive. But what these heritage brands do not know is that Millzys are gravitating towards new-age brands for being all the above. Why do you think those people admire and loveTesla, but just have a liking towards other automotive brands (only) because they have a history? Those heritage brands can no longer can afford being dogmatic.

Therefore, Kim Kartavyam? (What to do?)
As branding consultants, we first drive every brand to know thyself.
Then we help them stay relevant.
Next, we make them relatable.

Environmental Branding: Meeting strangers

Environmental Branding: Meeting strangers.

James Joyce once said that if Dublin suddenly disappeared from the Earth one day,
“it could be reconstructed out of my book [Ulysses]”.

Now, let’s talk about strangers for a while.

If a stranger walks into your room, what do you want him to know?
what do you want him to see?
how do you want him to feel?
what would you tell him?

Let’s be strangers for a while and walk into some place, like a stinking parking lot. Traffic cones, reflectors, entry & exit signs, fire extinguishers, water sprinklers running all over the ceiling and bare walls; except these, we do not find anything to feel or see in a parking lot. Yet, there is always something that communicates with us in these places. Some brands utilize parking spaces to communicate with their customers. This is why we see different kinds of parking systems. Some divide the parking space into alphabetized blocks and some use numerals. Every wall may act like a traffic director, carefully guiding us. Before we say ‘where on earth is my car’, environmental branding comes to our rescue.

Let’s walk into a museum now and a hospital next.
Unlike parking lots, museums do not pose bare walls. In fact, if it is an art museum or an art gallery, no wall is left un-hammered. Museums try to take us back and forth in time with prehistoric relics, dinosaur fossils, ancient civilizations, sculptures, utensils, paintings and what not. Some museums are housed in centuries old buildings and some in newly designed ones. Wherever it may be, the environment just blends into the era which the museum posits. It is here where wayfinding and environmental branding marry design to walk us through every gallery. We might not be knowing this, but behind every good ‘A visit to the museum’ school essay, there lies an intelligent branded environment.

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No hospital would want us to feel more sick. It is not that the walls and windows cure our illness, but they can ease our visit for sure. Good hospitals always possess segregated departments, time saving routes to pharmacy and intensive care units and easy walk-in & exit paths. Environmental branding escorts us all along our way.

A subtle brand identity is also mixed up with environment so that our visit remains as a soothing experience in our memory.

Let’s now walk into the knowledge hubs – schools and universities – to experience how strange it feels to get lost. This is a place where structured segregation and systematic architectural planning takes place. Numerous departments, labs, lecture halls and millions of books sit in the same vicinity. Numerous flights of stairs, huge walls, giant facades and wide, open spaces offer a great chance to communicate with people. A student should be able to find the book he/she is supposed to carry to the lecture, pick a coffee at the cafeteria, collect passes for the play in the evening on the way, and reach the class on time. It looks like quite a task but environmental branding and wayfinding makes it easy. Educational institutions provide great opportunities to experiment with new communicative ideas. Most successful environmental branding projects happened in educational institutions.

Let’s now walk into stores. Stores are the only places where branded environment/environmental branding can be felt overtly. Irrespective of the size of the store, branded environments can pull or repel the customers. A store can offer an immersive experience to the stranger. The most talked about Apple stores, where we find ‘Genius Bar’ and the glass staircase (which was patented by Steve Jobs along with the designer) also fall under overt branded environments. In stores, we unknowingly take routes because they are built that way. Some stores have different entry and exit doors. Some do not have an exit in the middle. So, all that happens between entry and exit can be influenced by environmental branding.

The latest co-working spaces, corporate workplaces, libraries, airports, stadiums, bus shelters, movie theatres, the largest complex and the smallest store, whichever place it may be, branded environments meet, greet and guide the strangers towards the brand.

We at Marks+Methods comprehend environmental branding as a concoction of psychology and decision making. Here, everything boils down to only one question – ‘If a stranger walks into your room…’, which is our method. When we meet someone new, we would want them to think about us and understand us for good. A dialogue, a relationship and an association starts with a person who was once a stranger.

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The 20th century literary giant James Joyce is a celebrated writer all over the world. He was both famous and infamous for his detailing in his writings about the city of Dublin, the capital of Ireland. His most famous novel ‘Ulysses’ is an account of the happenings of one day in the life of the protagonist; yet the novel runs for more than 700 pages. He writes explicitly about many streets in Dublin along with markets, a church, a hospital, a pharmacy, a college, a national art gallery, a museum, a bank, a bridge, a school, a hotel, a famous tower and so many more locations which are actually present in Dublin.

Joyce decocted Dublin into his writings. He was so sure that the entire city can be rebuilt – as it is – even if the city gets erased all of a sudden. Branding and branded environments is all about this nexus with the environment. When a brand owns its environment or surroundings, it helps in building brand identity within a stranger, turning him into a customer and a patron.

Healthy Delite

Healthy Delite

Cooking up an appetizing brand image for a nutritious food brand that aims to cater to those at the hospital and also at home.

In ancient times, only the most significant and powerful brands would represent themselves with a bounced instead of flat text. Today, there’s nothing more significant than a healthy diet. Hence a text treatment that’s drawn from history for a brand that’s here for a better future. The background color is pleasing so the subtleness of simple food is not lost in creating a legacy. And the font is sharp and clean to complement the nature of the food coming from this kitchen. It’s peppy and humble at the same time, just like the menu, which is a balance of taste and nutrition.