Thursday, September 19, 2019

THE FUTURE OF BRANDS IN A WOKE WORLD



By Tanvi Shah

Woke

A wonderful term originating from a political African-American movement, refers to an awareness and alertness of social injustices. Popularised by social media in the recent times, the term now encompasses a state of being awakened, being conscious.

Our current socio-political environment coupled with ease of communication has led to a worldwide shift towards people expecting not just communities and governments but also large corporations to take a more active role towards environmental and social issues pertaining to them. For brands, this means aligning the brands’ values to those of the consumers’. Because, a 2018 Edelman survey found that 69% of millennials worldwide are belief-driven buyers. Even though first world countries are leading this wave, it is still significant for India.

Enter the concept of ‘woke brands’.

Brands are increasingly tapping into consumer-held social values to build resonance with consumers and make way into their repertoires. We are seeing a rise of woke branding across categories positioning themselves as ‘woke’ through their stance on social issues, environmental responsibility and sustainable practices.

But it’s not always that simple. Cultures are seeing more extreme divisions today within the socio-political context than ever before and offence taking is rampant. The rise of far-right leadership globally is being attributed to the voice of the mass majority whilst leftist ideologies seem to be concentrated towards the younger, urban elite. So where should brands stand? Does taking a stance on issues pertaining beyond your business put you in a position of risking alienation of a certain audience?


Last year, Nike was at the centre of this division of sentiment when it decided to sign Colin Kaepernick on as a brand ambassador, taking a direct shot at NFL and supporters of its response. However, contrary to predictions, the brand’s stock rose and hit a record high in the aftermath. Essentially, the ‘risk’ paid off.

When choosing sides, it has proven to be wiser for brands to lean towards liberal values simply because it is the side with higher spending capacity and social currency.



Ariel’s #sharetheload campaign about gender roles and Whisper’s #likeagirl are some of the many campaigns that were met with great praise for attempting to change the incumbent discourses in these categories. Tata Tea took it a step further with the Jaago Re campaign by extending it to an initiative that pushes the idea of pre-activism in the age of reactive internet activism.


The fashion industry which is quickly waking up to being seen as one of the biggest environmental villains is seeing an exponential rise of brands supporting organic textiles and reviving waning crafts. Even fast fashion retailer Asos has introduced a sustainability filter for the conscious consumer.

We, at VGC, have had the opportunity to work with a truly ‘woke’ brand, 360Life. In the real estate industry, which suffers from a lack of brand purpose, 360Life breaks the clutter and makes a dent.



Stemming from a foundation of deep knowledge about Vedic practices, natural living, sustainability, and engineering, the intention of the brand is to lead the wave for holistic living. This is provided through curation of vertical forestry to promote living in harmony with nature, architectural planning to harness and optimise the flow of sunlight and wind, access to chemical free organic food, FMCG products and alkalinised water supply as well as employment of ancient Vedic rituals to energise and elevate the physical environment. 360 Life brings to life a proposition of ‘conscious living’.




However, brands need to tread carefully with their attempt to be seen as ‘woke’ as consumers are quick to call out brands seen as gimmicky.



Cadbury’s unity bar was met with mixed responses despite marrying product features with a neat intent. And then there are glaring oversights.



Pepsi was met with great criticism post its ad with Kendall Jenner breaking the tension between protestors and authorities by offering a Pepsi. The brand ultimately took down the ad within 24 hours and issued a public apology for its short-sightedness and commercialization of a serious movement.


Similarly, the successful Gully Boy received slack for trivialising and appropriating the ‘Azadi’ slogan from student protests in Delhi to create a pop culture anthem.



Essentially, ‘woke washing’ does not work. People see through the facade and today, it’s easier to mobilise public disdain than ever before. Between getting it right and trying but missing the mark is a brand’s appetite to take risks.
Authenticity has been a buzzword in the branding world for a few years. But its consideration becomes increasingly important with everyone jumping on the ‘woke branding’ wagon. Brands need to go back to their DNA. Instead of looking outward, it’s the time to look inward and be true to one’s own core. In times of high competition and dropping loyalties, brands need to be willing to take risks and mark allegiance with a value-driven consumer base.
Also, limiting one’s ‘wokeness’ to communication without consideration of actions across business operations is rather unauthentic and brands are liable to get exposed. It is important to walk the walk before you talk the talk. And so, the journey to becoming a woke business is inward really. Whilst most businesses are still on step 1, the future belongs to those who evolve from step 1 to 3.

  1. Take a stance through communication to make a deeper connection with the audience
  2. Integrate responsible actions across your business activities
  3. Develop businesses that stem from a conscious intent – actively play a role in addressing a social or environmental issue

And so, we leave you with 3 questions:
  1. What are issues & social values that your consumers care about?
  2. What are core values that you stand for?
  3. How can you align yourself with your consumers’ values to form lasting relationships?


Thursday, July 25, 2019

How to Profit from Design


 

Being a graduate of National Institute of Design, meant being hard wired to see Design as a journey with a purpose. It was never just an end unto itself. Never just a beautifier, but always a considered thought, translating into a creative idea, manifesting into an outcome which could enhance lives, communicate a message and deliver results.

A few years ago, as a member of the India Design Council; a government body, to help form Design policies, I went to Japan for an induction training to help launch the India Design Mark, based on the
 Good Design Mark, of Japan. This visit served as a huge inspiration for me.

Post Hiroshima Japan’s economy was in shambles. In this scenario, the Japanese government understood that key to their economic revival was becoming internationally competitive and encouraged companies to integrate Design skill-sets into their businesses. The Good Design Mark was instituted in 1957 to encourage great Design. And the rest is history!

Other governments of countries like the Netherlands and UK, themselves are huge consumers of Design ranging from public spaces, to architecture, to country branding.

The key insight is that Design was evangelized not by Designers, but by governments and businesses - For profit. And Designomics, a philosophy and platform is exactly that - to help Indian Companies understand and unleash the power of Design as a management tool.

The country is teeming with entrepreneurs. Indian corporates now have global ambitions and competition abounds. The earlier the value of Design is understood as an integral business process and not just as a downstream
marketing add-on, the more intelligent, efficient and handsome ROI it can accrue. Design is a value creator first and then a beautifier - form follows function.

Internationally, businesses have been evangelical about embracing Design - Disney, Sony, 3M, Lego, Nike, Airbnb, Pepsi, Muji, Decathlon, are just a few names in a long list.

And then there is Apple, the mother of all Design stories. As a business and a brand, so closely is its existence defined by Design that when their Design director Jony Ives, recently quit, its stock actually fell by 0.7%.

The Indian mindset largely continues to see Design as a cost and not an investment. There are encouraging signs though; a few companies have unlocked the value of design and this short list features names like Titan, Pidilite, Mahindra and Mahindra, Future Group, Godrej, RPG Group and 
Aditya Birla Group.

The awareness is shifting glacially, but growing. I was recently invited to be on the board of Century Textiles and Industries Ltd., as an independent director. In India, inviting a person from a creative background is very unusual. I was skeptical about my role but was pleased when Mr. 
Kumar Mangalam Birla made it a special point to explain to the directors, the value a Design professional can bring to a business. It is such an encouraging step for the Design community to be understood and by the people that matter.

Today India has a rich community of Designers spanning the entire gamut of Design specializations; from Design Thinking to Strategic Brand Design, Industrial, Textile, Packaging, Digital and many more.

It’s time we put India on the map. It’s time to embrace Design as a Designomist, as you can only profit from it.

-
Preeti Vyas, Chairwoman and Chief Designomist - Vyas Giannetti Creative








Monday, June 3, 2019

Signs that your Brand needs a makeover

In a highly competitive market place, where trends change almost as frequently as the weather, it is important
for brands to evolve with the times. There comes a time in every brand’s lifecycle where it must adapt
to stay relevant.

This often involves restyling logos, colour palettes, visual language, the photographic style and strategic repositioning, amongst other things. Sometimes even the name of the organization is changed during this process. Although there is usually one leading reason for making the change, the motivation behind a rebranding project is often a combination of various factors.

Deciding whether you should rebrand or not can be difficult. Too often the red flags get lost in the hustle of our day-to-day activities. And when you do notice them, the decision to actually embark on a rebranding initiative is rarely an easy one. So, how do you know when it’s finally time to pick up the phone and call the professionals? (hint: www.vgc.in)

Here are a few signs that your brand is probably ready for an update:

Branding is all about competitive differentiation. One may often feel that their brand is lost in the sea of the marketplace sameness. Repositioning along with rebranding and capitalizing on your USP can make your brand more visible to customers who search for unique solutions.

Once amongst one of Bangalore’s most famous hotels, The Solitaire was in desperate need of a brand makeover. They were now going to be a part of an up and coming hospitality group and were going to be rolling out some never-before-seen features and facilities in the hospitality space in India. They also wanted to move up a couple of stars, as the new offering would now be a ‘4-star’ premium hotel. VGC created an identity & brand language that was refreshingly new for the hospitality space and helped them differentiate themselves from the competition.



It happens when the brand has changed their vision to meet the expectations of the audience. What may have seemed like a great identity 15 years ago, now no longer represents what your brand is all about. Sometimes changes are in a cultural context and can change the meaning of the brand identity.

When SPS Hospitals wanted to break away from their association with the Apollo group, and move in to bigger things (like expansion into new markets and verticals), they came to us to help them convey this change through strategic rebranding and for a campaign that conveyed the change they were going through (as healthcare can be a very sensitive space). We helped them by creating a fresh, new identity that not only reassured their audience of their expertise but also reflected their new vision.

The market price of a brand’s products or services are usually dictated by the way customers perceive a brand.
If the price of your offering seems hopelessly fixed despite the rising costs of materials, then you may want to consider rebranding. By rebranding, you’ll not only be able to reshape the way your customers perceive you, but also increase the price of your offering(s) accordingly.
When Hiranandani Upscale wanted to rebrand, but still retain their luxury status and the legacy & heritage
of the Hiranandani Group, VGC stepped into help them out. First, we suggested renaming the brand to
‘House of Hiranandani’ thereby graduating it to a brand of stature. The evolved identity, well thought-out
brand architecture and launch campaign resulted in the most successful sale period the company had seen in
a long time.
Trends state that over time, brands come across as outdated if they fail to adapt to what may currently be happening in the market & outside world. Your brand identity at time of inception might not necessarily be relevant ten years later. There is a constant need for change in a volatile market scenario and inconsistent consumer needs.


Dimexon takes pride on communicating that they are a contemporary and sophisticated brand that is poised for the future. But with its existing identity and communication, Dimexon was not sending out the right message to its audience. With this in mind, VGC created a new corporate identity that was striking, but also aptly modern in its minimalism and relevant for its audience. Together with the baseline ‘Tomorrow, Today’, it captured the superiority, timelessness and style of Dimexon. The identity helped the brand stand out in a cluttered industry as ‘the final word’ in quality and service.
Signs that it’s about time to rebrand can be just about anywhere. Often the first sign is that you’re wondering if a rebrand is necessary. Whatever eventually compels you to reach out to design professionals like us, you can rest assured you’re making the right decision. With the amount of measurable benefits that come with rebranding, the investment is likely to pay off many times over.





Tuesday, November 27, 2018