What Cities & Brands Have in Common

January 10, 2018

by Ronita Mukerjee

I travel a fair bit for work. Despite the countless number of times work takes me around India, I am always struck by Calcutta’s laid-back charm, Bangalore’s cosmopolitan buzz and Delhi’s flamboyance. The city layouts, the people and the overall energy are so distinct. They are thriving agile ecosystems of infrastructure, people, beliefs, behaviors and hopes. They are brands by themselves. And I see three key takeaways for brand professionals.

What Cities & Brands Have in Common

Every city has a story: Walk around Udaipur and you will be walking through time. I was mesmerized by the tale of the Marwar Dynasty. Did you know they are the oldest serving dynasty in the world? Bangalore on the other hand is bright and sparkly, future forward and popularly known as the Silicon Valley of the East. Every city is built on stories that have been passed on through time or created over time. Your brand may be new age or legacy. But there must be a story to tell. What’s the story of your brand?

I love the story of how Kopi Luwak came to being the most expensive coffee in the world. You can read more about it here

You love a city for its experience: Have you ever been to Pondicherry? The French Villas transport you to another land. I feel Zen at Auroville. Moving westwards, the iconic skyline of the Big Apple inspires me to do my best. The pulsating energy makes you believe that nothing is impossible. NY is one of the few places where tradition and innovation co-exist. Brands, similarly must offer an experience that is true to what they stand for. An experience that sets them apart from other brands. Is your brand experience loveable?

Walk into a Nappa Dori store and you will be struck by how they bring design to the fore front of the overall shopping experience. As India’s first “concept” store, the open plans, master artisans within the store and co-creation libraries and café, they have taken experiential retail to a whole different level.

The people are a city’s strongest brand ambassadors: Have you ever been part of a Delhi vs. Mumbai debate? The impassioned discussions make you wonder where the conviction comes from.  It is this very unwavering belief that brands should strive to create amongst their employees and create brand champions. How passionately are your employees championing your brand?

There is a Harvard case study – The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj that underscores the importance of investing in and building an employee culture. Your brand ambassadors are in the company.

As I board my next flight to Chennai, I am reminded of how the city has progressed from being the doorway to South India to the Detroit of India. Which brings me to my very last and most critical takeaway. Chennai never stood still. It grew and developed to leverage new opportunities while staying true to what it stands for. Ancient traditions and heritage are still at the heart of Chennai and it is most evident when you visit the city or meet the people. As a brand you have to evolve. You have to thrive on change while staying true to your brand purpose. We call this the agility paradox

To conclude, travel always inspires me. To experience the new and try something new. I hope the next time you travel, you too will be inspired to look at your brand differently. Happy traveling and happy branding.

This piece was first published on Ronita’s LinkedIn.

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