Monday, 23 September 2013

5 branding lessons from bodybuilders

Gym: A hotbed of branding ideas. (c)
Being a gym freak and a brand enthusiast, I always compare the learning at the gymnasium with the steps of building a brand. Here are some nuggets of knowledge I learnt from gymming.

Try doing opposites
Super sets – doing a mix of exercises without rest especially involving opposite muscles – build muscle faster. Practised by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it helped him win Mr Universe title for five years and Mr Olympia for seven years. In bodybuilding doing opposites at a regular interval enhances your muscles' growth.

However, doing opposites is a totally crazy thought in branding where brand managers strive to create a consistent brand image. Ever thought of Coca-Cola producing a whiskey? Well, sometimes it can work wonders. A tooth paste brand can sell a tooth brush, a shaving cream brand can promote an after-shave and a tea brand can market its own brand of cookies.      

Heard about the Post-it invention? Actually Dr Spencer Silver wanted to develop a super-strong adhesive for 3M. However, he accidentally created a "low-tack", reusable, pressure sensitive adhesive that brought a revolution. It was used to create the ubiquitous sticky notes. And the rest is history.

Tweak your regular regimes
In bodybuilding you need to deviate from your regular workout schedule, at least once a month. If you tweak your regular regimes, the muscles get teased and you grow muscles at a faster pace.

Similarly, innovation doesn't come from regular work. Had Nokia kept on producing galoshes, it would not have delved into cellular phone making business. Again it kept producing the regular cellular phones and had to be left behind in the race of producing smartphones. Eventually, it had to be sold out to Microsoft.

So, the message is – keep on tweaking the original. Never stop thinking outside the box.

Diversify your portfolio
For developing a particular muscle you need to do different sets of exercises impacting different muscle parts. It helps the muscles grow uniformly. Can you grow biceps just doing barbell curls? Never. You need to do preacher curls, concentration curls, dumbbell curls and hammer curls along with the barbell curls for beautiful biceps.  

Likewise, you need to build a portfolio of diverse products to build a stronger brand. Earlier it was thought that indulging in diversification would make you lose focus. But the times they are changing. Take example of Samsung – it not only produces home appliances, TVs, cameras, laptops and tablets, but is a leader in smartphone business.

Diversifying your portfolio decreases the risk of sinking down. It has become a truth in the tumultuous market.   

Warm up is necessary
You might have heard from your trainer, "Don't start lifting weights without proper warm up."  You must do the warm up exercises before the main regime to prevent sprains and strains.

So is the case in branding. Before launching a brand, the most important thing is building a story around the brand. These days, gossiping in Facebook and Twitter is good to create a buzz prior to the launch. Like teaser ads in earlier days, the word of mouth creates excitement among the consumers and your brand gets a warm reception.

Concentration is of the utmost importance
Concentration curls are very effective and peak your biceps, especially the outside part. It's called "concentration" because you need to concentrate on your biceps contraction while doing this exercise. Not only in case of biceps, you need to concentrate on the movements of each muscle while gymming.  

Like in gymming, to create a brand, you need to concentrate equally on each spheres of human experience. Be it the public sphere, where you move from one place or activity to another in the physical and virtual worlds or the social sphere, where you interact with and relate to one another. Be it the tribal sphere, where you affiliate with groups in order to express your identity, or the psychological sphere, where you connect language with specific thoughts and feelings.

So, now don't you feel bodybuilding and branding have lots in common? If you can relate more examples, you are welcome to add to the list. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Ads, Hindu gods, goddesses and controversies

 In advertising, what sells apart from sex? Elegance, charisma and wit.

On the contrary, a recent campaign created by the ad agency Taproot India shows the most revered Hindu goddesses Laxmi, Durga and Saraswati as the victims of domestic violence. Laxmi, the goddess of wealth known for her elegance has a swollen lip and cut on her nose. The goddess of strength Durga's charisma is shadowed by cuts on her forehead and cheek. And the goddess of knowledge Saraswati's wisdom is marred by a bruised eye and blood-dripping lips.

"Pray that we never see this day," the ads read. "Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to." The ads have gone viral and blogs and online portals are awash with news and comments on the ads.

The "Abused Goddesses" campaign images were created by mixing modern-day photography using live models with traditional hand-painted Indian art. They were commissioned by Save the Children India for its Save Our Sisters initiative, which, works to prevent the sex trafficking of young girls and women.

While the campaign aims to shock and horrify the audience with its powerful text and images, a large segment of Hindus still don't want to see their goddesses abused. 

Earlier, Burger King had issued an ad showing Laxmi, along with one of the beef burgers, which are forbidden under Hindu religion. The fast food chain was forced to withdraw the ads from its stores in Spain owing to the hue and cry of Hindus across the world complaining of the denigration of their religion.

In a similar move, the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi used images of Hindu gods in their advertising for a Goa tour operator, Cox & Kings. In the ads, Goddess Laxmi was shown sitting next to a chubby kid eating wafers, and Lord Hanuman was shown taking pictures with a camera. After Hindus ransacked Cox & Kings' office, the company ran a front page apology in a local newspaper apologising for the ads and blamed the agency for publishing the ads without its consent.

Likewise, designer and model Lisa Burke infuriated the Hindus during Australian Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2011/12 in Sydney when she presented a swimsuit featuring Laxmi as a part of the latest collection of her Lisa Blue label. After protests across India she announced a halt in production and vowed that the Laxmi swimsuit would never make it to stores.

In 2012, Burnside Brewing Company, a Portland-based American brewery was to launch "Kali-Ma Beer". Owing to protests from Hindus, the company postponed the limited release of "Kali-Ma Beer". The beer was earlier announced as spiced wheat ale involving cardamom, fenugreek, cumin, India dandicut peppers, etc., and showed the picture of Goddess with six arms and three severed heads.

In William Bernbach's words, "Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art." However, to cut the long journey short, the advertisers are lured to creating controversies to persuade the consumers to buy the products. And what's easier than manipulating imagery of gods and goddesses to hatch a controversy? That's also an art. 

Photo credits:
Abused Goddesses campaign (c)
Burger King ad (c) EUROPICS
Model with Hindu goddess on the swimsuit (c) Mark Nolan/Getty Images