06 Jul 2021 20:52 IST

Brands need to have a ‘soul’ to connect with lives

Mythili Chandrasekar, former Senior VP and National Planning Director, JWT India

The soul comes from some product truths, and must inspire consumers, says Mythili Chandrasekar, ex JWT

Do brands and the world of women have anything in common? “A lot,” asserts Mythili Chandrasekar, former Senior VP and National Planning Director, JWT India, and a Brand Strategy Enthusiast.

Speaking on the theme of ‘Brands and the World of Women,’ in an event organised by Madras Management Association and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, she spelt out five ways by which ordinary brands can be made inspiring brands. She also gave six tips for women to build their brand and be highly successful in life.






Role and soul

“Brands have a role to play in our lives. But they become big brands only when they connect with consumers and have a little bit of soul that conveys a larger message. The soul comes from some product truth and must touch and inspire us in some ways,” suggested Chandrasekar and added, “Role is what I do and soul is who I am.”

She illustrated it with the Pond's Dreamflower Talc ads with which she was associated. “The talcum powder basically fights odour and gives you freshness. We shaped Pond's Dreamflower Talc girls into becoming an icon of feminine empowerment. What I do is I give you freshness after a bath. But who I am is a symbol of feminine empowerment, confidence and social concepts,” she elaborated.

On putting soul into the brand, Chandrasekar spoke about how Ariel ads of yesteryears provoked gender equality by questioning, “Is laundry only a woman’s job?” and ‘Surf Excel’ ads on the theme ‘Dirt is good,’ promoted reaching out to different sections of society and encouraged responsible parenting.

How can brands build these ideas over a period of time? There are five simple principles of brand building, according to her.

Depict a truth

If you say that you remove stains better, you have to first deliver on that product promise. The ad agent must spend a lot of time investigating the product truth.

Point of view

The brand must add a point of view that is human. You may have a point of view on parenting, women or beauty. It has to do something with your category. If the point of view picks up a trend that is just beginning to evolve, then you are in a good space.

Tone of voice

You can make your point of view without being aggressive but quietly, with grace and dignity.


The brand belongs to a whole ecosystem - not just to the manufacturer and the marketer. There are other brand custodians and a whole lot of external stakeholders. All must buy into your truth.


If you pick a human truth and a point of view and stick to your tone of voice, then you can build the brand with consistency and consumers know what to expect from your brand. Then it all adds up.

Women’s role and soul

Chandrasekar then juxtaposed brands with women. “A woman may play the role of a daughter, girlfriend, wife, mother or grandmother. These roles are very important and they shape women. They enjoy these roles. But they must go beyond these roles, searching for their soul, through life-value-adding propositions — be it a lawyer, astronaut, bus driver or an anganwadi worker,” she suggested.

For women to sail smoothly in their career and beyond, Chandrasekar provided six useful tips, relating them to her own personal journey.

Find your passion

Just like we find the product truth, we have to find our passion. It can be anything like gardening, bird-watching or cooking. “The world of advertising and branding attracted me as communication was my passion,” she acknowledged.

Chase the work

“For 10 years after my child was born, I decided to work part-time. Even if I was tied up in an important official meeting, I would excuse myself to pick up my son from school and leave the meeting. I decided I would chase work,” she said, revealing her philosophy, “If you chase career, you tend to get caught up in the race to designations, promotions and money. But if you chase work, then career will follow automatically.”

Find your balance

Everybody's heart is different; they need to find their balance. It changes over the years. Be proud and confident of the choices that you make and move on with the flow.

Change limitations to advantages

She described how despite being posted in Chennai, she made a match of it in the ad world. “In those days, it was Bombay or Delhi that mattered in marketing. But my organisation helped me turn that limitation into an advantage. I became the leader of innovations, was given opportunities to work with clients from and brands that belonged to other cities.”

Keep growing

One needs to keep learning new things and growing both in personal and official sphere, according to her. “Every year I would ask myself - what next? If the organisation was interested in training, I would offer to do training. One year, I created training content and in another, I taught in an IIM. One year, I became part of a national judging panel and the next year, I tried to be an international jury. This approach applied on my home front too.”

Support groups

Just like brands have ecosystems, women need support groups. In those days, the husband and parents supported working women. Apart from physical support, women also need emotional support and they must have professional sisterhood in office.

In a lighter vein, Chandrasekar quoted Eleanor Roosevelt and said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” She signed off reassuring all the women, “You don't have to be perfect and polite all the time. It’s okay, once in a while to get a little angry, cry a little and throw a little tantrum. Don't be too harsh on yourself.”

(The author is a freelance writer based in Chennai, a corporate trainer, and a visiting faculty for various B-Schools.)