Saturday, April 13, 2013

Made in India

(The views expressed here are completely my own and do not have any connection with my employers)

Working as a Brand Manager, you often get this question - “So, which is your favorite brand?” And before you begin to answer, they will quickly add “of course, apart from the one you handle”.

Today the kind of work you see from brands across categories is both exciting and inspiring for anyone who has anything to do with brands. That doesn’t leave many of us out as all of us interact with them at least as consumers.

So whenever I am asked to choose my favorite- I confess that it is almost impossible to pick one. If this is agreeable to the person asking the question, I give them three of my favorite brands that have really impressed me in the last few years and what makes them even special is that all of them are ‘made in India’

The first one in the list is Indigo Airlines-

In a category, where traditionally all players were talking about various things like in-flight service, food, discounts, luxury, etc. Indigo promised a very fundamental benefit of ‘on-time performance’ that was not explicitly offered by any operator before. Perhaps a benefit thought to be too generic or category hygiene by other biggies in the business but something which the consumer values a lot when he is evaluating the alternatives.

Unlike quality of service, crew, food, etc. which is very subjective and dependent on consumer’s personal tastes and preferences, on – time performance is very specific and measurable. If you have arrived at your destination on time (even before time sometimes) means that you have arrived on time, there is absolutely no room for ambiguity there. When you have a brand promise that is measurable and demonstrable, it is easier for you to own it credibly.

As a passenger, I have experienced Indigo deliver on this promise each time I have traveled with them and add to this their obsessiveness about ‘on- time performance’ (every in-flight announcement stresses the importance of it, their TV commercial talks only about it, they even want their passengers to help their ‘on- time cause’ by helping them tidy the flight before they begin the descent. Going by their announcements- they seem to have got a lot of awards and accolades for keeping ‘on-time’ promise. It’s also the only airlines in the country which uses a boarding ramp instead of stairs to save time while embarking and disembarking. Last but not the least, every time they make an on time arrival, everyone from the pilot to the cabin crew seems to celebrate it with a sense of pride.

Not surprising then that you hear consumers playing back Indigo’s ‘on –time’ promise from various quarters. Conversations at airports, online reviews, Facebook posts and even word of mouth recommendations. I realized the power of this brand on two occasions- one, I was planning a trip home in winters, and my mother who has nothing to do with the world of brands, in all her sincerity advised me “why don’t you fly by Indigo, it’s always on time, even in winters” on another occasion while I was flying Indigo, I was talking to my fellow passenger about why I like flying Indigo, when the guy in turn added to the list saying that IST now has a new meaning, its ‘Indigo Standard Time’ and unlike Indian Standard Time, this one’s always on time, sometimes even before time.

When it comes to building brands, simplicity is the best policy and Indigo is a fine example of that. A simple promise, well kept by the brand is played back by its consumers with as much simplicity. And that’s all that needs to be done.

There are few more things that Indigo got right, things which are small but add up to a lot. The branding- from the crew uniforms, to the aircrafts, to steppers to in- flight magazine, to merchandise they sell on board- the visual look and feel across all touch points in very consistent. Apart from the visual language, the brand has also developed a very witty tone in which it speaks to its passengers. They have taken advantage of an obvious fact that consumers have lot of time to kill when they are traveling and they will read anything they can lay their hands on. So all the food comes in very interesting packaging with copy that will leave a smile on your face, same with their in-flight magazine which is cheekily called 6E (pun on Sexy)

With all of this what Indigo has done successfully is to bring in certain irreverence to the category which was very stiff and took itself too seriously. Thank god someone did that.

Recently they have added a host of value added services that can make your flying experience even better- like pre-selecting seats with better leg space, Fast Forward-an express check-in service, pre-booking your meal, etc. of course all of them come at a cost but doesn’t that makes perfect business and consumer sense. They even seem to have an aggressive policy to lure corporate travelers and going just by the number of working professionals who prefer to fly Indigo, it definitely seems to be working.

So in nutshell, when I choose to fly Indigo, I don’t feel like a low cost traveler and but a smart one who has made a smart choice. It may sound too simplistic, but if a brand is able to make its consumers feel that way it has done its job.

Not surprising then that Indigo tops my list of favorite brands that are ‘made in India’. There are two more brands that I am equally impressed with. I will write about them in next post. Meanwhile do you want to make any guesses?