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

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.