Posts Tagged ‘change of identity’

Marketing lesson in RSS’ move from shorts to trousers

March 21, 2016
Kirit JAsani

Kirit JAsani

In their three-day annual meeting of Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the highest decision-making body of the RSS (The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), decision is taken to phase out their traditional Khakhi shorts. Now, Swayamsevak will wear wood brown/coffee colour trousers. The core reason presented for this change is to remain in tune with the time and trend. This decision also reflects that RSS is very democratic and accepts changes.

RSSWhatever the reason may be, let’s we focus on the marketing aspect of this development. Take a simplest form of exercise, what comes to your mind when you think of RSS? Khakhi Shorts or popularly known ‘Khakhi Chaddi’ would be the answer from most of the people. Whether anyone agrees or not, but these Khakhi Shorts are inseparable visual of RSS. It has stayed with RSS for last 91 years! Till 1940, the uniform of the RSS was all khakhi, both shirt and shorts. The khakhi shirt was replaced with white shirts and then the leather shoes replaced with long boots in 1973. In 2010, RSS replaced the leather belt with ordinary belt. That means the only unchanged element is ‘Khakhi Chaddi’.

Now try to think about other organizations with Khakhi Shorts. Hardly anybody would be able to recall another organization or institute, right? That means Khakhi Shorts are uniquely identified with RSS. It acts as a visual hammer for RSS. From marketing point of view, if the target audience can identify a brand with a particular visual, that brand would enjoy high mindshare and top of the mind recall. If you see someone dressed in White Shirt and Khakhi Short it may induce you to ask, ‘Hey, are you visiting any RSS Shakha? Likewise, this unique association has worked for millions of people in identifying Swayamsevak of RSS.

Now, imagine a scenario down the line six-month hereafter when around 50,000 villages, towns and cities of India have absorbed this change of Khakhi Shorts. Then, a person is passing by you in white shirt and wood brown/coffee colour trouser. Will he or precisely his uniform, inspire you to think of association with RSS? There is hardly any possibility. Because trousers are common in life, shades of wood brown or coffee are equally common. And normally, we do not notice common things. We are attracted to unique. We tend to remember the different one and Khakhi Shorts are different.

Here is the lesson. If your brand is identified with a unique visual or with a particular colour, think hundred times before changing them. The moment you change such unique visual or colour; brand loses its unique identity as well. This loss affects brand recall and ultimately sells register in a long run. Let’s wait and watch what happens with RSS decision?

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How to change your brand identity and when?

January 13, 2010

Kirit Jasani

Article published in Markeing Mastermind, Januay 2010 Issue

Overview
It has been seen that numerous brands, especially those of banks, have undergone major cosmetic changes of look and feel in recent past. Some of them are just imitating the leader and nothing more. But there should be a valid basis for changing one’s brand identity, and it is also quite important as how to you communicate those changes to your target audience. These issues are discussed in this article with the help of an example.
A voice is being heard across the board room – “Your brand identity demands a change”. This is the view that is becoming increasingly common across companies and industries at present. Companies, in the same industry, are often changing their brand identity, one after another. Many of them are just following a leader of that particular category. But, brand identity has to be change only if the existing identity is weak in generating visibility, which is very crucial for better brand recall. Apart from this, one can have number of reasons for having change in their identity, but this one should be the most important.

How to replace the existing identity?

One should not look for a complex piece of artwork to replace the current identity. There are practically a lot of simple choices by way of shapes, designs and orientations, such as square, rectangle, circle, vertical and horizontal, that can be used in the process of creating a new identity. One also has the choice of using a picture or company name or both.

In the first instance, it would be useful to decide on the orientation of the new brand identity – whether it would be horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait). As the world that we see appears to us in landscape format, a horizontal orientation is, in most instances, preferable for better visibility and brand recall.

 EPP Composite Pvt. Ltd., a client of Radiant Media convergence Pvt. Let., is one of the leading players in fibreglass composite products in India, and markets its products to various users segments, such as Infrastructure, Building & Construction, Chemical, Electrical, Railway, Automobile, Marine, Defence, Wind Energy and Offshore applications. Due to such a wise canvas of end-users, the brand ‘EPP’ comes in touch with thousands of people at different levels. The company was using the logo shown on the left side of Exhibitn1 as the identity many years, but the basic problem with it was comparatively poor visibility.
In India, the unorganized sector poses a significant challenge to any established company, and the same is true for the composites industry also. as a result there was a need for change of brand identity. Otherwise, customers may have mistaken EPP for any placer from the unorganized sector using a similar brand name and logo.

Research on the composite products industry brought few significant observations, such as most of the players had more than one colour in their identity and the dominant colours were blue and green. And this information formed the starting point for creating a new brand identity for EPP.

“A leader must be opposite of the followers” is the motto as far as branding is concerned, and the same was followed in the case of EPP. It was made a single colour brand, so as to make it distinctive. Many a time, the CEO of company selects the colour for brand and there are higher chances that the selected colour is similar to the one commonly used in that industry. By doing so, they try to be in harmony with the rest, but compromise on the unique identity of their brand.

As all colours are not created equal in the eyes of beholder, hence one has to be very logical in the selection process for identity. The colours at the red end of the spectrum are focused slightly in front of the retinas in our eyes. As a result, it appears that a red colour object is travelling towards us while we look at it. Red is an attractive colour and therefore suitable for retail outlets (especially those that deal in high-end building materials, such as Doors, Bath Tub, Designer Glass etc). None of the brand competing with EPP was using this colour, and this provided a good opportunity for the company to be unique. Thus, the new identity for EPP was designed in red colour and in a horizontal orientation (right side of Exhibit 1) for better visibility and attractiveness. While both the old and the new logos are shown in the same (1”x2.5”) size, there is a vast difference in terms of their visibility.

  

If one is contemplating changing the logo with a pictorial symbol, it would be advisable to be even more cautious. Many companies have a symbol as part of their brand identity, for instance, the three pointed star of Mercedes, monogram of General Electric, Nike’s swoosh and many more. After spending in millions and more likely in billions over a long time on communications, these companies are now able to establish their identity merely based on these symbols, with our having to use their names.

But when it comes to a brand, which has not been long in the market or a brand that does not have millions to spend, it is generally not advisable to use a pictorial symbol. A word or letter-based logo would work better for such brands. Unless and until the brand name becomes widely recognized and registered in the minds of customers, it is most likely that the symbol will not be recognized too. Thus, opting for a symbol at an early stage could prove to be a wasteful exercise.

 Another causation to be exercised at the time of changing a brand identity is when shifting to a short form or to the initials of the company’s name. a company is always known the way its customers address it. For example, General Electric is referred to as GE, General Motors as GM, International Business Machines is called IBM; but Western Union is never referred to as WU. State Bank of India is commonly referred to as SBI, but Central Bank of India is never called CBI. The same way, if your company is never referred to by a short forms, then do not opt for initials or short forms.

 In the case of EPP, it had mostly been referred to by its customers as EPP, instead of EPP Composites Pvt. Ltd., Hence, it was ideal to create a logo with the letters EPP.  

 How to communicate the change?

It’s very straightforward for a FMCG company to tackle the issue, as it deals and communicates with mass audience. It just needs to launch a campaign in the print, television or outdoor media and the message is delivered, as in the case of Ultra Tech cement and Videocon. Here, the situation was different as one wanted a cost-effective solution, because by going in for mass media, the company would incur huge expenses in communicating to non-customers. Therefore, e-mail was chosen as the medium of communication so that it could be targeted at those for whom the message was relevant. To register the change in the minds of the recipients, the message was repeated thrice.

One has to offer a valid reason for changing the logo design, as otherwise it might appear that the company is going through bad times or and identity crisis or that it is changing its identity because others in the industry are doing so. The moment one communicates a change of brand identity, there will be many questions to answer, as customers and suppliers may think that the company has been taken over by a new management or wonder in what other ways it may have changed. Is it that they now have to deal with a different set of people? Are there new products or services offered by the company? Thus, such questions may unnecessarily worry the customers and suppliers. Those who had received excellent services and products all along will now be bothered by uncertainties, which need to be cleared with a good communication strategy.

 In the present case, EPP was supplying products, such as GRP Pipes, Cable Trays, Pultruded and Moulded Gratings, SMC & RTM Doors, Designer Glass, Fibre Glass Roof Sheet, Chemical Plants and Equipments such as FRP Cooling Towers, FRP Storage Tanks & Vessels, Pickling Tanks, etc., all of which were for industrial applications. As a result, one had to communicate the company was the same, and that only the logo had changed.

 Thus, it was communicate that the change in appearance was an outcome of the passage of time. For example, a baby will have a different look at each stage of its life. Thus, it was decided to present a logical and a simple message that the agent of change was represented by the changing times.

Creative Visuals – The Power of Simplicity

To communicate the change, it is important to have a simple and strong visual presentation. It was felt that a customer or supplier who has been dealing with a particular company for a long time would be concerned about three things – essence, assurance and value delivered by the company till date. It was, therefore, important to come up with a visual which could confirm the stability of these three things very clearly and still communicate the change.

 It is often very difficult to create a simple visual as it is likely to be rejected on the grounds of being too simple and not creative enough. The client’s marketing team looks for an idea that is creative and unique, but often underestimates the power of simplicity.

 After a week’s work, three simple visuals were prepared. The first one presented a bund of rose buds which flower over a period of time, while retaining their fragrance and colour. The second visual was that of a compass that has stood the test of time, though its form had changed. Whether it is the old traditional gadget or the modern one, the thing that remains constant is the assurance that it shows the right direction. These two illustrations were vastly different, but tried to convey more or less the same idea (i.e. Looks change with time, essence remains the same.) The third visual showed two versions of the one rupee coin – old and the new one. Although it has undergone changes in its composition and appearance the value is the same.

  

Thus, a campaign of three visual advertisements (refer Exhibit 2) was rolled out through e-mail, which said – ‘looks change with time, essence remains the same’. it was, thus effectively communicate that assurance and value remain the same. in the email messages, the subject was mentioned as – ‘important for future transaction’ so that no one missed reading it. Some might feel that these visuals are too simple, but the message is clearly communicated.  

Conclusion

Visibility of the brand should be considered the most important criterion for changing a brand’s identity. The new identity should be created in horizontal orientation, but should not be made too oblong. As far as possible, it is preferable to use a single colour, which is different from those of the competitors. It is better to use a letter/word-based logo, rather than a pictorial symbol if the brand is relatively new in the market or if one has a limited budget for communication the brand identity. The change must be communicated with simple visuals, instead of a complex creative artwork so as to be more effective in registering the message in the minds of the target group. A simple idea always delivers the message to the point.


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