11 June 2015 11:21:48 IST

Does the boss wear a Titan watch today?

Brands are not timeless as we'd like to believe

Do you wear a Titan watch? I would be surprised if you did, simply because many youngsters do not even wear a watch, much less a Titan. And why is that? The reason is simple. They see the watch as a time-keeping device and not as a fashion accessory as Titan would like to believe it is. And how do they see the time? They see it on their mobile phones, much more integral to their lives than the watch is currently. But why does this piece talk about the boss? Watch this Titan commercial first…

The commercial is set in a restaurant where two former colleagues are meeting – one younger and the other more mature. The older man objects to the younger man referring to him as “sir” time and again. The young man once again thanks the older man for relieving him from his duties earlier, when he had wanted to resign. Clearly, the younger man has gone on to start up successfully. The older man asks him about his plans to hire a CEO. The younger man shyly tells him he does not know how to recruit one. The older man reassures him, and asks him to just identify the person and tell them that they are the right person for the job. The younger man is skeptical. Is that all, he asks, and the older man says he is sure. He looks at his Titan watch for strength and, with his heart in his mouth, tells his former boss that he is the man for the CEO’s job, handing him the letter of appointment. The older man, initially bemused, accepts the offer and the tag line says “your time has come.” In the tradition of Titan commercials, it is a really nice commercial, but this is not as much about communication as it is about the stage in life of brand Titan.

Back to 1987

You were probably not born in 1987, when Titan launched in India. It was an instant success, with over 200 models of Quartz watches. They soon kicked HMT out of business.

Titan changed the way watches were made, looked at and sold. It transformed the market. It has several credits to its name. It was a great workplace, one that most management graduates would give an arm and a leg to work for. In 1987, I was young, successful and upwardly mobile in my profession. I wore a Titan watch with pride as did the Chairman of the advertising agency I worked for. But will today’s bosses wear a Titan, as the commercial depicts? I wonder. My submission, without the benefit of extensive research, is that a CEO today would wear an Omega or a Rolex, but not a Titan. Titan is not the aspirational brand it was three decades ago. I am sure the company is aware of this problem and realises that the answer is not just clever advertising, but a whole host of things.

What is our learning?

Let's leave Titan to handle its ageing problems, and focus on our own learning of brands. Brands are not timeless as we would like to believe they are. While some like Pepsi have managed to remain young, others have not been as successful. With over 50 per cent of the Indian population being young, brands need to be aspirational for young people as well.

Why do I say Titan is not aspirational? I have talked to enough youngsters who say that it is okay to gift a Titan to their parents but not okay to gift it to one’s spouse or girlfriend. These are signs that the brand is ageing. Titan might crack the rejuvenation code. But as students of management, let us be aware of what brands are facing and learn from their challenges.

Can you think of other brands facing this problem?

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