Sanjeev Kotnala: Developing Positive Immunity

28 Oct,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Last week, I proposed that brands must check the level of immunity its consumers have developed towards its message. And the brand should aim at developing positive immunity. A stage where consumers become impervious to messages from competing brands. Remaining unmoved by substitute category pokes. Examples: Fevicol, Maggi, Tata …


How does a brand develop such strong immunity? May be the book of ‘Best Practices’ will have the answers.


Be warned, the processes and practices that uniquely work for a brand with a set of target consumers in one category may not work for you. Brand custodians have to do the dirty work to help define the world the brand and consumers operates in.


There are no shortcuts but there are some guiding rules.


The first rule is simple. The brand must deliver the promise it makes. It should be able to surprise the consumer with a bit more than promised. No doubt, none of the telecom service provider have ever developed positive immunity.


Rule Two:  Know your consumer and the brand. Understand brands physical and functional space. Understand both the covert and overt needs, wants and desires the brand fulfils. Understand and evaluate emerging trends and brand’s preparedness to handle it.


Rule Three: Do not let over-the-top analytics and big-data to slowlyskewconsumer understanding towards just right sounding numeric parameters. This overindulgence may break the last and the strongest bridge the brand, marketers and consumers have. The bridge of emotional empathy.


Rule Four: Know precisely where the brand is hitting and resonating with the consumer. It is to know the sweet spot in the unseen perceptual map consumer’s carry in their mind. An emotional understanding of consumer is the basic principle of all advertising. It comes from deeper understanding. It is not a race for the next insight. It is a synopsis of experience, observation and interactions at the point of purchase and consumption. The pre-purchase and post usage anxiety and confidence. It isabout understanding the pain points.


Oncethese are clear and you have been able to productively crystallise it, all you need is to be consistent in message and tonality. It must rejuvenate by at least tweaking or twisting the treatment while keeping the messageconsistent.


Fevicol has always been about the ‘Incomparable strong bond’. For Fevicol, the communication life revolved around this message. Everything else was secondary. In the Fevicol world, a bit of understated surprise and humour worked. No one raised silly questions like  Does Fevicol really work underwater? Can I really catch fish with it? They know, they can’t. No one was surprised when an egg becomes superstrong or when riders were glued during the jerky bus ride. Every one laughed but got the message right while the heroine is still hanging in one TV set and has slipped in the other one. That is the consistent edge and surprise the brand has been delivering, consistently. And when you do this you do not treat consumer as a moron.


Will it work in your brand’s world? You will know.

Maggi 2-Minute Noodles had its own history of resistance before family adapted it. Then it became a regular feature and strongly entrenched in the life of a mother and kid. The mother who was hesitantchanged to one who was proud to serve it to kid’s friends. 2-minute was just a reference to the speed and ease of preparation. The brand rode on the wave of positive immunity. It remained young and relevant with product enhancements, variations, promotions and contemporising its communication. But the centre of kids liking the taste, motherapproving of it and the ease remained centre to the messaging. The playfulness remained. And that is why consumers are eagerly waiting its comeback.


Will it work in your brand’s world? Youshould have the answer.

Ambuja Cement has always been about strength. So have been many othercement brands. The presentation of the message remains ominously similar and consistent it’s a trade trick for the category. From the Boman Irani funny brothers, Muskaan Anathashram, jailbreak and now Khali, the tonality is perfectly in sync with the brand.  Meanwhile, Sehwag and others clutter consumer’s mind by delivering similar messages. That diffuses positive immunity created by  Ambujacement.


Will it work in your brand’s world? You will have to find out.

There are no magical remedies. There are only some directional cues. You have to find which one will help create positive immunity for your brand.


When the product delivers consistently. When the brand is available in all desired SKU’s and distribution points. When it understands the consumer. When it is part of the consumer’s world and speaks his language. When it sees the world from consumer’s point of view. When it remain true to the consumers and consistent to sub-cultures it addresses; the brand take a leap toward creating positive immunity for itself.


Will it work in your brand’s world?  You will have to find out.

But, for your brand’s survival and/ or growth, the brand interaction must vaccinate the consumer’s mindspace and help the brand develop positive immunity.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Founder at Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management UnConsult Advisor. He conducts specialised workshops in the area of IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and INNOVATION (InNoWait). He focuses energy in enhancing client’s team’s potential and capabilities and decreasing their dependence  on external resources. Email  or tweet at s_kotnala visit


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