In conversation with G.S.N. Aditya, Brand Manager – Tata Steel
Well to begin with, right from an early age, I have been fascinated by the universe of Brands. I was probably in third grade when I had my first romance with a Brand – Mercedes Benz to be precise. I was smitten and I simply couldn’t understand why a Maruti 800 cost 2 Lakh while a Mercedes Benz E Class was priced at about 30 Lakh rupees. It had to be more than just features!
However, post my schooling; I was led into the beaten path of Engineering. I graduated as a Telecommunication Engineer from R.V.College of Engineering, Bangalore. I performed well during my engineering and even managed to secure a job at CISCO, which is a dream job of sorts for Telecommunication Engineers. However, I knew that engineering is not what I wanted to do and that Marketing was my true calling. I gave CAT a shot and I got an admit into IIM Shillong.
During my MBA, I interned with Tata Steel, where my project was to create a Sub Brand for the borewell irrigation segment under the Tata Pipes brand. This was my first opportunity to work on the Branding front and thus “Amritdhara” was born. Following my internship, I was offered a pre-placement opportunity and today I am currently handling the Tata Pipes Brand which is the largest B2C brand in the Conveyance pipes segment. I am also working on Tata Structura, which deals with Hollow steel sections used for Structural purposes.
What is your favourite advertising campaign in the present scenario?
I have a simple mantra. An AD campaign needs to be engaging and should appeal either on the functional, emotional and/or the entertainment front. I feel the insurance sector, e-commerce sector and the personal hygiene sector have witnessed a few phenomenal ad campaigns off late.
It would be very hard to pick a favourite, but I think the “Lifebuoy helps a child reach 5” campaign is terrific. Also, “Old Spice’s Mantastic” campaign and “Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches” are among my favourites.
How and by what channels do you create an emotional attachment with customers to build brand loyalty?
At Tata Pipes, our consumers belong mostly to rural India and are predominantly farmers, and Individual Home builders. Plumbers and bore well mechanics are our key influencers. Therefore, it becomes very important that we reach out to each of these stakeholders and create value for them by appealing at an emotional and financial front.
We have adopted a host of activities to reach out to our TG. We have a plumber passbook scheme for the plumber community. We also have activities where we impart some of the best practices and safety measures to ensure our influencers are safe. We have programs such as Bandhan and Parivaar, which are focused on creating a strong emotional connect with our stakeholders. We also conduct Customer meets and have campaigns where we reach out to our customers at their work place and understand what their needs are.
It is the little things that matter. What we do is to simply pay attention to what the customers say. Feedback is essential! We are aware of what the customers expect and what the ISI standards expect. However, we go out of our way to deliver more than what they expect because we understand that the customer deserves nothing but the best.
Do you think having a “Brand Character” is an important component of a successful branding strategy? Who is your favourite brand character?
Let me rephrase that. Can a “Brand Character” be used effectively as an important component of a successful branding strategy? Yes. Can we do without “Brand Character” and still have a successful branding strategy? Sure.
I feel a Brand Character could be a great way to connect with your stakeholders. However, there is a tendency to get carried away and use a Brand character for brands that don’t necessarily have the foundation for it. As a result I’ve had a sort of love-hate relationship with Brand characters.
However, my favourite brand character has to be Fido from the 7up ads. At a time, when every other soft drink brand was about Attitude, Energy and “Josh”, we had “Fido” who was this laid back guy. He was cool without even trying. To me that is a winning brand character right there!
What measures do you take to ensure a better brand positioning vis-à-vis your competitors? Cite one such example?
Positioning is a very critical activity that needs constant monitoring. To begin with, we ensure that internally we are clear on the positioning of our product and everybody is on the same page. It would be self-defeating if different team members have different interpretations of the brand positioning. And by team members I mean everybody from the Top management to the lowest tiers of the team.
Once the entire team is clear on the positioning, it becomes essential to communicate the same to our external stakeholders. Care needs to be taken to ensure that this communication is short, crisp and to the point. Leave nothing to people’s interpretation.
We need to constantly monitor what we are doing in the market place. We also need to monitor the activities of our competition. We need to re-evaluate if what we are doing in the market place is indeed in the same direction as the positioning stand we have assumed. And lastly, it is very idealistic to assume that there won’t be deviations. But it is very important that we identify such deviations and ensure timely corrective action.