11 Nov 2016 13:25 IST

Is ideology for brands too?

Values are inextricably tied to customers’ sense of culture and identity

Ideologies are about values and how such values influence living. Everyone has ideologies/values about their life priorities and the manner in which these goals are to be achieved.

A young successful executive may believe in the value of showing off his materialism through the purchase and consumption of certain product categories and brands. The enhancement of the self is closely tied to the brands that revolve around one’s status or recognition or group appeal. (Apple, Omega and Allen Solly are examples across categories that are suggestive of such an aspect.)

The concept of values and ideologies need to be considered in the backdrop of self-concepts and values associated with brands. Paper Boat drinks are about nostalgia while Coke is about happiness and Mountain Dew is about adventure.

Apple is about pride and status whereas Lyf mobile is about price-based value-consciousness. The point is that brands also make an attempt to psychologically differentiate themselves across values that are in tune with the target segment’s values and become a part of the ideology associated with the consumer’s mindset.

Scope for values/ideologies

Ideologies and values are reflected and developed from consumers’ lifestyles and aspirations.

Rin’s campaign showing an individual’s self-esteem, one who is trying to make a mark in a competitive world while taking pride in her simple beginnings, is an example of how the ideology had been developed by the brand.

While the value of being associated with a rich background has been a familiar aspect of Indian culture, being proud of not only a professional qualification but also of a father who drives an autorickshaw for a living (as seen in the TV commercial) is the ideology that would appeal to millions of consumers not just using detergents but are conscious of such an ideology.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign launched in social media is another example. For long, the image of beautiful models were the aspirational platform for millions of girls the world over.

Such an idea was strengthened by fashion contests hosted by well-known brands. Consumers wanted to be their best with regard to personal grooming that reflected the styles associated with celebrities. There was a transfer of associations between beautiful celebrities and brands. The brand symbolised beauty and recognition for millions who had suffered from a low self-esteem due to their perceived self-image associated with physical looks.

Patanjali’s recent announcement on Shuddh desi swadeshi jeans is another example of ideology-based branding. The category of jeans has US as the country of origin and symbolises American values of freedom and individuality combined with ruggedness and casualness. When the category was getting diffused during the mid-Eighties in India, Charms, a cigarette brand for youth, became a rage when it had “jeans-like” packaging and positioned itself symbolising individuality and progressive youth values. (“Charms is the way you are “ was one of the ad slogans.)

Patanjali jeans is expected to be made to ethnic comfort and style. Jeans have stood for differing ideologies: Charms used it to usher in Westernisation and almost after three decades Patanjali is ushering the ideology of being very Indian in an environment of Westernisation.

Ariel detergent that had launched the first enzyme-based detergent during the late Eighties had been emphasising an ideology along with its “one wash stain removal “proposition.

Ariel initially started ad campaigns showing satisfied women consumers. Later it came out with gender equality campaigns and “Share the Load” digital campaign. This is an interesting proposition considering there are still quite a few detergent brands that seem to suggest that the housewife has had the satisfaction of making the husband happy by using their product. Power detergent had an ad in which the husband asks the wife if she cannot clean the clothes properly.

Fair & Handsome aimed at men pioneered the fairness cream associated with the belief that men need to be as well- groomed as women in today’s context. Male grooming is a nascent market and the brand had perhaps introduced the brand in an environment where quite a few men were using popular brands of fairness cream meant for women users. A spate of brands had followed Fair & Handsome.

What affects branding

Is there a market that supports an ideology that could be associated with a brand? This is important as the ideology is likely to be the opposite of the values that may be acceptable to the mainstream culture in a specific market.

For instance, permissiveness is a context that may not be acceptable to several consumers even when it relates a topic of discussion. The Fastrack brand of watches from Titan has positioned its brand as a bold offering that appeals to youth (either consumers who are permissive or those who aspire to permissiveness either at a conscious or subconscious level). The ads of the brand are bold as compared to several other ads across categories and would appeal only to a section of consumers.

In some categories cultural mores may be so deeply entrenched that the emerging value may face resistance. Credit card penetration in India is an example. The deeply entrenched values of being thrifty and avoidance of instantaneous gratification has inhibited the penetration and usage of credit cards (the younger generation is not being included in this context) as compared to several other developed nations.

Ideology-based branding is yet another area that may attract a huge following among consumers if pursued with consumer insights.

(S Ramesh Kumar is Professor of Marketing, IIM Bangalore)

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