Dear MxM by Jaisurya Das: I am a visualiser… is it better to work in an ad or design agency?

07 Jul,2016

By Jaisurya Das

Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome back to yet another edition of Dear MxM, India’s premier counselling column for the adverting, media and marketing world.

Thank you readers for your amazing warmth and valuable feedback. This week’s column is dedicated to all my younger readers who are making great careers in branding…

Over the past few months, I noticed the somewhat flippant use of the term “iconic brand’ be it an marketing collaterals or huge billboards. Often for brands that are far from occupying this hallowed space. Maybe it’s time we examine the essence of iconic branding albeit form my own perspective!

So what makes a brand iconic after all?

Let’s examine a few examples(in random order)before we get into the mechanics of ‘iconisation’…
Harley Davidson, Rolex, Amul, Rolls Royce, Zippo, Heinz..

Ever wondered what makes a brand iconic?

Here are some attributes that go into iconisation of a brand:

*  Age and the Test of Time
*  Sales volumes
*  Audience, Psychographic profile of the customer
*   Its intrinsic value to the customer
* Cult image enjoyed
* Status symbol
* Peer pressure
* Quality and physical attributes
* Persona

Interestingly, most of these iconic brands have been around for a while (read three decades or more) and enjoy a global customer base.

One of the significant triggers for iconisation is probably the cult image that these brands occupy in terms of positioning. The aspirational emotion of ‘I want to own and be part of the elite group’ is more than established with most legendary brands.
Having said this, I was particularly curious to study the reasons behind why India is home only to a handful of iconic brands. The Ambassador (Hindustan Motors ) is a great example of how a brand has stood the test of time or the Maruti Gypsy for that matter and yet, we don’t seem to value for reasons best known to us.

I often wonder if this has something to do with our innate desire to gravitate towards international brands more than our home grown ones. Or is it the lack of expertise and marketing talent to build an iconic brand of our own? I guess a lot of these questions will remain unanswered and yet somewhere most of us know it’s nothing more than rhetoric.

I know I would be committing professional harakiri if I were to get into the mechanics of brand ‘iconisation’, however it’s important to you a peep into what this involves. Honestly, it’s no rocket science but just a well-calculated deep understanding of the process of buying. It’s just that the practitioners (me included ) make it sound so confusing…

In my opinion, the starting point is believing in the brand. I say this out of experience. Often one finds brand heads who don’t believe in their own product end to end. Belief is the root of passion bereft of which this relationship is nothing more than an infatuation. I know I may be ruffling many a feather with my candid remarks but this is the truth. If you don’t believe in your brand, you have no damn business to manage it.

Start by believing, and follow this with miles of walking the streets to connect with your consumers, Befriend them, and listen to what they have to say about your brand and its pros and cons. Don’t ever forget that the biggest critics are your catalysts to create the perfection required to become iconic.

Iconic brands are born of a mettle that is difficult to replicate. Quality that is unparalleled, attributes to die for, perception that is higher than its price and the ability to strike a chord with any race, any geography across the globe.

There is a defined process for every facet of marketing, it’s a science after all.

Iconic brands are created, not born. Use the science of effort and deep understanding and soon enough you will be running a winning brand. Once an icon, always an icon.

Ramble done. Here’s our weekly Q&A this week from our readers in the South of India; Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Read on…
Sir, I am a visualiser and have done an advanced course from an art school. Is it better to look for a job in an ad agency or design agency?

Good to hear, my friend! Since you are well-armed with all the creative academics it would be prudent to join a company that will give you enough room and freedom to experiment.

Having said this, I must add that an advertising agency may not be entirely design or art-focussed but they can certainly give more than room for creative freedom!

It’s really greatly dependant on the company and its leaders. You may find a great design agency but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get the room to display your talent.

Tread this path with caution. Speak with people who work there or have dealt with them in some manner. This feedback can really help you take a sensible decision.

Do remember that great work isn’t about big names or positions. Creativity and the ability to adapt to the changing environ is the crux.

Go where your heart takes you. Believe me, most often it’s right.
Sir, you wrote about Mr Samir Jain being a true media pioneer while discussing a question on who would make it as the Father of the Indian media? But hasn’t Mr Jain’s Times of India group also introduced questionable practices such as Medianet?

Absolutely. May I with your permission, reproduce an extract from my column of June 30, 2016…

“This changed the face of Indian Media once for all! No, Samir Jain isn’t the father of Indian Media. No one person is, or will be. But yes, he did what many couldn’t imagine doing, no matter if his moves are debatable, questionable or otherwise.”

I think it’s also important to go into the thinking and basic objective of this move. From what I understood, Medianet came into being in order to legitimise paid content. Hitherto, this was the unstated prerogative of many an unscrupulous journalist in Indian media. Well, you have a rotten egg everywhere.

Machiavellian thinking is at times called for. For me personally, Medianet was a strategic move such. Quite simply, the business of media…!

As a marketing professional, I have tremendous respect for such ideation. Yes, as an individual and a writer of sorts, this seems unethical and highly questionable.

But does it really matter when most content has already been reduced to doctored handouts?

I have learned to live with mediocrity. You must too.
I am looking for placement next year but want to be ready career-wise. I am a journalism student but don’t know which city I should work in? Please help

Great! Welcome to the wonderful world of media and content ! To be honest, a good journalist will find space in any town..

Yet, a few good media markets can help build a good foundation for your career. I would advise you to research the media active markets and then zone on the one that suits you well.

Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune are markets that offer great learning and interesting opportunity for content professionals. However, as I mentioned, scan the environment and take a call.

It would be inappropriate on my part to weigh one against the other when it comes to building your career. I would however be more than help you should the need arise ! All good wishes to you for a great journalistic career!
Sir, I am an MBA student from a top business school in Pune. I am interested in advertising but I was told that ad agencies pay horribly and generally don’t come to B-school campuses? Why so?

Thanks for writing in to Dear MxM!

Let me at first allay your fears on placement opportunities in advertising. Interestingly, most mass communication schools find it easier to place their ‘advertising major’ students over the rest.

Agencies do hire from media schools that are worth their salt. I can say this from experience since my own daughter was hired on campus by an international advertising major.

Ad agencies aren’t great pay masters as you rightly said however this is essentially only at the point of entry. Bright adverting professionals get rewarded well agencies or elsewhere.

Go for it, my friend. Focus on building great craft and the career will follow you no matter what the rest of the world thinks or says!

On that note, Ladies and Gentleman, the time has come for me to say goodbye! Wish you all a very happy Eid and a wonderful weekend. Do keep writing to us on while we prepare to be back next week, same day, same space.

Jaisurya Das, the maverick media-evangelist eats, sleeps and romances brands.. His cerebral consulting interventions are aimed at making brands powerful and sustainable. He is a co-founder of; Need more information on his work? Visit, Jaisurya Das is is also Contributing Editor,  The views expressed in this column are his own.

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