Strong Brands Stand for Something

October 6, 2013

Interview with Lulu Raghavan

What differentiates a great brand from a good one? 

Good brands keep their promises. Strong brands stand for something and reinforce what they stand for in everything they do. The communication or brand idea should not change focus. Campaigns may come and go, but the core concept should always stay the same.

What has been your most exciting project? Why?

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces has been very special to me. Usually, brand projects go in and out for 6 months to a year. In case of Taj, it was an 8-9 year project. I had to dig deep to understand branding issues of hospitality organisations and conveying brand messages into service.

However, I am most proud of branding the T3 Airport in Delhi, one of the largest airports in the world. The objective was to give soul to the land. I still recall those days of pitching to GMR Group. Beyond typical brand identity and positioning, I had to convince them of the need for branding and design. I remember the meetings in big boots touring the 5mn square-feet of retail space. We had to commission artists to craft massive sculptures that were conceptualised at our office. Every time I land at T3 Airport, I still get goose bumps.

What are the considerations while designing a logo and carrying it into brand architecture?

It starts at identifying what brands stand for. Once identified, it has to be transferred to how it is to be written, what font to be used, whether to use a typography or a symbol, and the colour to use. Considering all the touch points, the logo must enforce the message and uphold the identity of the brand. Setting the stage, the stand needs to be supported as a brand, where logo is one important element among many others.

How do people connect with a brand in the 21st century? 

Depending on the industry and the target market, touch points vary considerably. In most occasions however, the digital media is the vehicle that connects brands though the web, social networks, blogs, etc. From a shopper’s perspective, it is in the shopping markets, the shelves, or the isles that connect them to a new brand. Then again, brands are increasingly becoming digitised.

How is emotion relayed into brand differentiation?

With so many alternative brands and products having almost identical characteristics, consumer personality and emotion is all that differentiates them. While for most industries, product specifications are regulated, achieving significant differentiation is complicated as copycats and idea thieves roam at large. It has become fundamental for brands to stand for something beyond a product and establish an emotional connection.

What is the impact of interactive print media and information clutter?

Augmented reality provides an opportunity for brands to engage deeply with consumers. It provides access to information about products, which help consumers in making purchase decisions. Interactive print media allows brands to have a more meaningful dialogue with their customers.

We are in an era where consumers are always looking for information. Interactive technologies act as quick clouds of information. A time will come when there will be too much information for people to desire a low diet, or no information at all. However, as long as information is provided in digestible manner, people will always want to know more.

What has been the impact of internet on setting brand strategies?

Being available often poses the threat of “no vacancy” of unique positions. Also,  the internet is a good research tool contributing towards the understanding of consumer’s thoughts, feedbacks and reviews. Using online panels, strategies can be easily tested overnight. Above all, it sets the motion in speed to brand strategy.

How should one establish their brand in South Asia?

It is important to do a market analysis, and at first one needs to understand where there is gap in the market. Understanding the hospitality industry, identifying the target audience, and deciding on service experiences to be provided is to be analysed through the ones which already exist. A lot of upfront thinking and research is required to create differentiation. For South Asia, the ability to provide service, which is highly personalised and of excellence, delivered by highly qualified staffs, is what should be the major considerations.

How do you feel about participating in Commward?

It has been amazing. Truly, a wonderful experience in participating. I feel honoured and humbled to have an invitation to Bangladesh, a country I have never been to before. I believe it’s a very good initiative to have a platform for marketing and communication people coming together to talk and share their knowledge about branding.


This blog was originally published by Dhaka Tribune (October 2013).

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