13 Apr 2020 16:07 IST

Truly successful brands think long-term

Consistent in their messaging, they stay relevant by steadily, unobtrusively doing things right

In 1982, when I was a nervous MBA graduate passing out of IIM Bangalore, I must confess that Asian Paints wasn’t my favourite company. After all they hadn’t shortlisted me when they came to the campus! Hardly surprising, given the fact that I had six-and-a-half years of banking experience and wanted a marketing job! Nor did it help that I was in the lower half of the class in academic ranking than some of the IIT types who had cracked the academic code. But soon I knew better, as stories of the company’s quiet partnerships with painters reached us even in those non-internet days.

Of course, like most MBAs, we admired the advertising of Jenson and Nicholson which said “whenever you see colour, think of us”. After all, it had been created by Rediffusion, the hotshot agency of those times run by the MBA types who, after all, were our brethren in jargon and hype.

Asian Paints recognised the Madrasi!

While the brand was steadily and unobtrusively doing many things right from the 1980s, I suddenly sat up and took notice of it, thanks to the Pongal commercial done exclusively for Tamil Nadu with the gifted movie director Rajiv Menon. Here’s a trip down memory lane, for some of you at least. And for young millennials the picture paints a thousand hues:

 

When most marketers in India had conveniently classified all four southern States as one, and called Malayali a language and Malayalam a newspaper, here was a company that recognised Pongal as a festival of the Tamil people, where people actually got money to paint their homes, thanks to the harvest and spoke to them in their own language! I remember showing this commercial proudly at the Ad Club Madras (as though I had created it) and Mr Seshasayee, who was the chief guest, complimented me for featuring the Ashok Leyland bus, which was the part of the commercial he remembered clearly!

So, to me, Asian Paints has always been a company that’s been doing dramatic things in a manner that’s almost unobtrusive, whether it was Gattu, the brand character, or the new corporate logo.

Transformation at home

And even as India’s largest home-grown paint company was transforming itself from a mere paints company, to everything around the home, its advertising continued to make waves. Larger global competitors struggled to keep pace with this professionally-managed Indian company and companies that ruled the roost became as redundant as their imperial name!

The brand created a slew of commercials that won people’s hearts and earned it awards, but the one that comes readily to one’s mind is “HarGharKuchKehta Hai”. Each house becomes a home because it has a touch of the owner’s individuality that sets it apart from the millions of other homes. It could be the colours, the freshness or the very feel that has a recognisable stamp or, better still, an aura about it. And behind all this is Asian Paints, in every frame if you will.

 

 

Cut to COVID-19

It is against this background that one has to look at the current Asian Paints commercial shot in the backdrop of Coronavirus where people willy-nilly have to stay at home, where teenagers have to put up with grumbling parents, and wives have to put up with unwilling husbands in the kitchen.

This commercial, with its non-model looking participants doing slightly quirky things at home, is probably more endearing than the slick executions of yesteryears. Because it features people like you and me doing things that we never dreamt we’d do. We turn weightlifters in the balcony as we struggle with plants, and warriors in the kitchen as we struggle with pans.

We realise perhaps that the maid is the person we miss more than our parents, even as we try to perfect our golf swing with the kitchen mop! But the hero, as always, is the home — as Asian Paints reminds you in every frame. Hardly surprising that so many people proudly share this commercial on social media.

 

 

So what’s the company saying?

As someone who has been in the industry for over three decades, here are a few thoughts about Asian Paints for your consideration, even without owning any stocks in the company, MBA finance notwithstanding.

· The truly successful brands think long-term

· They are consistent in their messaging and work over the long term with their agencies, generally trusting the agency to produce outstanding work

While the commercials seem interesting to the average viewer, they are anchored in a strong strategy.

Asian Paints is no longer a company that merely sells paints but has got everything to do with home and the things inside it; and this has happened with a long-term strategy and vision that other companies can learn from.

As for me, I guess I still won’t get that job in Asian Paints, however much I may admire it!

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