Why our brands do not connect…

23 Jan,2014


By Graham Jones

As the design community of India emerges from its restrained incubation into the next hothouse of creativity, the designers of brands are unprepared for the pace of change with a lack of depth, originality and imagination. Designers panic and borrow from traditional Indian elements. Colours. Patterns. Whatever. Paying scant regard to the cultures that created them. Doomed to fail as the culture of the past runs counter to the new aspirations of a dynamic young India. Leaving their audience just as confused. An audience that is mostly young, who speak 50 different languages, who are from the most ethnically diverse cultures and religions on the planet and who inhabit some of the most poorest areas to the most opulent surroundings, living on top of each other.


In this crazy country, why does everything look the same? We’ve grown up with the same faces. Adorning our TV screens and billboards. The singular image of celebrity endorsement. Only in India can you get away with the same star selling everything from toothpaste to food to furniture. Reinforcing their status of being the world’s biggest stars without denting their reputation. Yet with all this unquestionable talent available to Bollywood maybe their marketing promiscuity is causing them to fail to inform and lead a new culture, instead leaving a creative vacuum. It is Jay Z you hear on the mobiles of slum kids. The simple truth is he has more in common with them.


Is "Big B" promoting his latest TV series or the bag of cement named after him? Every bus stop, same everything, different product. Celebrity dominated advertising has stalled the natural evolution of the design movement in the country. This is lazy advertising


We ask ourselves how else can we create an image that appeals to everyone, everywhere? A single idea that will appeal to 1.1 billion people. Global brands are created with a single belief or idea at their core. Indian brands and their marketeers, being heavily influenced by their western counterparts, have become obsessed with this singular philosophy. We believe in this because that’s what global brands and branding dictates. It should be expected. The younger generations have grown up with the singular creative direction of brands influenced by western cultures. And these western brands were influenced by the iconic decades of fashion and pop culture. Black and white imagery simply misunderstood by an Indian audience by the lack of knowledge of 60s cool. But these brands sell lifestyles. And although unobtainable to most, young India is very seduced by these ideas of freedom and expression. So we continue to talk with a single voice to everyone, sometimes marrying Hindi and English, worrying that our headlines don’t translate when we should be focusing on the very idea translating. The Indian creative industry continues to pay homage to the west, while a rich and textural culture lies on it’s very doorstep. With an audience that’s crying out for new. All for the fame of being world class.


Successful campaigns such as Breakthrough's Bell Bajao show the power of coupling local creativity with local context


While Café Coffee Day has brought humour as well as coffee to India, it also stands proud on the world stage. But there is a new world class about to be born. And it will be remixed by the Indian people. McDonald’s has abandoned it’s singular pursuit and has creatively remixed it’s business model to suit it’s audiences’ taste. Flipkart has remixed a successful global business idea to suit the Indian market. While Micromax the idea of branding by crowd sourcing it’s identity.


The smiling icons at Café Coffee Day break the old rules. Made for young India, it's ready to take on Starbucks


Recently brands have shown they’re ready to change. But they’re only doing what India has always done. India has developed by remixing it cultures and traditions. India has taken the ideas of the west and remixed them to be relevant to the masses. Successful brands will be the ones that constantly remix to India’s people’s needs.


Homegrown brands such as fastrack are symbols of the process of remixing in action


With 4G about to role out across the country, we will not only see entrepreneurs of start ups, engineers, bloggers and coders remixing ideas to create new categories of businesses and ultimately brands, but we will also see our audiences turning from consumers to producers. Creating a culture of everything. A culture of chaos. We need to embrace this chaos, be prepared to make mistakes and be relentlessly optimistic. But above all else, we need to abandon the philosophy of a single idea.


Graham Jones is a creative director at venturethree. He is currently leading the 4G brand project for Reliance. Republished with permission from Kyoorius magazine, where this article was first published.  Kyoorius is a bi-monthly print magazine on visual communications.  For buying a single copy (or any of the previous issues), write to sales@kyoorius.com. You can order the issue from Tadpole, get the digital copy from Magzter and also buy it from bookstores.


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