Siddhartha Mukherjee: What Biking taught me about Brand Communication Management

27 Aug,2015

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


I do not know when and how the virus of Bike Riding infected me. Well, it happened some years ago and it happened for good! I genuinely believe that such developments in your life happen for a purpose.


Bike rides, especially the long ones, have benefitted me in many varied ways – relaxation, regular checks on stamina and sturdiness, ability to adapt, sense of forecasting, get to see the real India, et al. However, off late, given my passion and belief on PR/Earned media as a tool, my mind has been wandering around, trying to explore the learnings from biking and use them for Brand Communication Management. Little did I know that, subconsciously, I would end up learning or realising dynamics which a Business School may not provide very naturally.


Below are some initial thoughts:

1. Research well about the Route you plan to take:  Doesnot matter how much of information you get, but never embark on a journey without Research. Be aware of the weather, terrain, road conditions, miscreants, food and shelter availability etc. Try and LISTEN to as much as possible. Always be ready with as many “what if” situations as possible. You can do this only when you Research/Listen well.

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams: My respect for Brand Communication Heads enhances when I see them start their planning with Listening or Researching the Terrain. Before you push out your Brand Campaign into a market or prospective Target Group, LISTEN to THE MOOD of the market. Leverage the mood and create Campaign talking points. Use the potential tool of PR and Advertising optimally and right amount of mix.


2. Rely on a Good Mechanic:  The mechanic’s diagnosis of your mean machine can make the difference between life and death. Doesnot matter if he charges more, but if he knows the subject and diagnoses well, all the more pick him as an Insurance. He will advise you well on the condition of your machine – change of spares, sturdiness of the machine, engine oil quality, tightening required, etc. Again, listen to him and reconcile it with your Research on the Road Terrain.

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams: Having a good mechanic is like having a good Communications Agency. If they are really good, they will know your brand and its health. They will help you channelise your communications strategy based on the MOOD listened/researched from each market. For example, it is quite a waste of ROI for a Life Insurance ULIP product to be pushed vigorously in Eastern India. Same way, a Term Plan being aggressively marketed in Western India may not be a fruitful effort.


3. Protective Gears, Necessary Accessories and Spares, etc: A successful road journey is a mix of Gut, Luck, Mental and Physical preparation, will power etc. Sometimes, CRISIS hits you from an unexpected corner.  Using the right protective gears, spares, driving skills, driving rules, etc. can give you long term pleasure of the road journey.

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams: Keep a Crisis manual ready. A manual that envisages and  lists down every possible crisis that can come up across stakeholders and custodians – consumers, customers, employees, vendors, investors, government, society, trade, etc. The Manual should list down the names/departments responsible for handling each type of crisis and how.


4. Before you start, set a Target/Benchmark: Driving or any journey is not fun in the absence of targets or benchmarks. Even if it is a leisure or pleasure ride, set a benchmark or a target in terms of distance you want to cover within a stipulated time, things you want to do at destination one, two, three, etc., the kind of mileage you want to achieve and therefore  the speed momentum you want to maintain, so on and so forth. The kind of feeling you want to go through…Actually, it is all about the Input, Output and the Outcome!

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams:  Post listening, before you blindly commence on Planning, Execution and start chasing your agency, Client and Agency can jointly list down the Ingredients of Communications Tool (Input) that will be used, the media exposure (Output) that they seek and finally the kind of Outcome one wants for the Brand – recall, engagement, conversion etc. Each phase of Input & Output can and should be targeted, benchmarked and monitored towards a desired Outcome. Having said this, happy to see Agencies and Clients are warming up to the idea of Benchmarking and Target-setting.


5. Measure your bike’s ongoing performance: What’s my average speed? What’s the mileage that my bike is giving me? Has the engine heated up…time to let it cool down? How are the tyre conditions? Any symptom of oil leakage? Are indicators and headlight dippers working? Is the wind speed, rains or dry mud causing engine inefficiencies? Well, regular (period can be defined) reviews/measurement is a lifesaver. It is a diktat for early cure.

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams: Because benchmarking/target setting is not a common healthy habit, the urge to measure/review frequently is similarly sagging. Benchmarking and Frequent reviews should go hand-in-hand. It is like the temperature gauge of your Brand’s engine. Whether my inputs are giving desired media exposure output, whether I need to adjust the frequency or messaging, whether all the effort is creating the needed Outcome of recall…all these are good to be tracked regularly. Health checks or Measurement & Audit reports play an important role in this area. Brand custodians and agencies can make fabulous use of this service and adjust/adapt for the road ahead.


6. Importance of Road Signs, Driving Skills and Traffic Rules: Being aware of Road Signs, Indications, Traffic rules and more importantly, to follow them, is a matter of scientific habit and discipline. Giving your stakeholders – traffic police, other commuters on the road, your family dependants waiting for you at home, etc. – a noticeable and constant update on your intentions and plans at crossroads, split roads, U turns, heavy traffic signals etc. minimizes or averts crisis.

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams: A brand journey goes through various twists, turns, cross roads, halts, damages and bruises. Keeping your stakeholders – customers, employees, owners, vendors etc – posted with your intentions of the Brand is a safe and required practice.


7. Making full use of Clutch: Misuse or improper use of Clutch is one of the biggest common reasons for engine inefficiency. Carried away with our excitement to speed up, to impress an onlooker, to catch up on lapsed time, whatever the reason might be, we end up misusing or not utilizing the clutch lever properly. Clutch prepares the engine to adjust (reduce/increase) speed and take (more/less) load. If clutch is not used properly, it will create wear and tear to your engine and your health.

:: Learning for Brand, PR & Ad Communication Teams: When it comes to the definition of a clutch for the Brand Machinery (team and agency), it can be some of the following:

i. Regular Measurement and Audit reports to assess if Brand Communications (ATL & BTL) speed is matching up to the Business Speed

ii. Aligning/Adjusting  the Communications Brief with the Business Brief

iii. Corporate Communications and Marketing Communications working together

iv. The CEO giving a standard and clear brief to all CXOs with broken down KRAs for each CXO



Well, learnings can go on and on! It’s such a pleasure to imagine the bike as a brand entering different terrains, adjusting and responding to different clutch, gear, brake and throttle combinations. How proper benchmarking, constant measurement/reviews, following communication signals etc. can make the journey so pleasurable.



No wonder, it is one of the diseases, I will never have regrets getting infected with!


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