A Requiem for a Brand

Just as there are too many brands on the shelves, there are too many books on branding. Pradip Chanda’s ‘A Requiem for a Brand’ comes through like a refreshing aura in this muddle. In a stark contrast to its title, Chanda’s book is not an obituary to branding rather, it’s a straightforward account of how changing times necessitate the need for newer perspectives on branding.

Author kicks off the book with an autobiographical chapter recounting his experiences with the brands in the days of yore. Author’s affirmation of brand loyalty in those days quite clearly emanates from the underdevelopment of media, low per capita incomes, low education levels and paucity of choice people had then. However, with increasing proliferation of brands, chronic fragmentation of media and growing consumer empowerment, the whole concept of brand loyalty is under immense pressure. The author’s hypothesis that the higher the disposable income and the education level of a consumer, the less loyal he/she be to a brand makes a lot of sense in the context of ‘Knowledge Consumer’ (a prop author has used throughout the book to explain his call for a change in approach to branding). I rather agree with author on this since invasion of super-markets and malls have thrown open a plethora of opportunities to the knowledge consumer and his/her sense of loyalty is now only as good as the last purchase.

Chanda’s ‘Knowledge Consumer’ is much like late Peter Drucker’s ‘Knowledge Worker’ in every aspect but one. Knowledge Consumer has a strong individualistic streak which Knowledge worker apparently lacked. According to the author, it’s the aspiration to be different from the masses that impacts the overall consumer behavior patterns. Author delves into some of the long-forgotten brand botch-ups in Indian context to hail the rise of the Knowledge consumer. He cites Lipton’s messed-up entry into the convenience food segment in the early 80s and Singer’s dubious extension into home appliances from sewing machines in the 90s. In both cases, manufacturers underestimated the decision-making prowess of Knowledge consumer only to be snubbed by the latter in favor of less established and higher value-for-money brands.

Author while maintaining the focus on Knowledge consumer moves over to adjacent territories such as the rising influence of private labels and how an information-equipped consumer is helping them fight off the threat posed by bigger labels. In Chanda’s opinion, moderate view of retailers’ on advertising and promotions helps them to save on costs and price their products competitively. However, in the long term, competitive pricing can’t be sustained unless it’s solidly backed up with scale economies (e.g. global sourcing of merchandise). Author implicitly makes a point that trade/retailers because of a being a step closer to the consumers in the value-chain have pipped manufacturers at their own game.

Last five chapters of the book are peppered with various case-studies. Author discusses Marks&Spencer, Google, Coke, Pepsi, Omega, French wines, De Beers, Barack Obama and so on. He also turns the spotlight on various brand valuation methodologies, more emphatically, Millward Brown and Interbrand methodologies. However, there are certain sections of the book that I think author could have done without. For example, Chapter 12 (Building an Icon) has seemingly been shoehorned into the book and so has the last chapter on current US president Barack Obama. You may also be in for a disappointment if you buy this book for its insights on Indian brands. Book has more case-studies on Global brands than Indian brands. Finally, apart from these structural redundancies and shortcomings and a couple of opinionated assertions here and there, I believe ‘A Requiem for a Brand’ is a decent read. It has a substantial bit to add to the existing knowledge base if you are an MBA or if you are into marketing and other such related professions.

My Verdict: Recommended reading