Monday, September 20, 2010

Rebranding in Real Life

After discussing a few social issues, college experiences and even movies, this time we’ll discuss marketing in real life i.e. not limiting ourselves to consumer products. The topic for this discussion will be 'Rebranding'. First let me define it. Rebranding is the attempt or an exercise, usually by an established brand (which could be a company, a person etc.), to develop a new position in the minds of stakeholders which could include customers, competitors, fans etc. It’s mainly an attempt to keep oneself relevant with changing times.

Let’s now, through some examples, have a look at some of the attempts made at Rebranding.

I’ll start with the automobile industry and to be precise motorbikes. The market was the US and the firm in question was Honda. In the late 1950’s when motorbikes were synonymous with accidents in the US because of rash driving, Honda in order to reach out to a larger mass and dispel the unsavory image of a motorbike rider, used the slogan "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda" for 50cc Honda Cub. Needless to say it was a big hit. Now comes the re-branding part. As the markets changed and the baby boomers aged in the 1990s, Honda returned with a more actioned packed slogan, "Come ride with us". It was done in order to reach out to sports bikes’ enthusiasts.

We have come across statements by numerous actors and actresses that they don’t want to be typecast in a role. Two attempts at Rebranding come to my mind. Aamir Khan with successful movies like Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, Andaaz Apna-Apna etc. under his belt was branded as the chocolaty hero with a great comic sense. Aamir tried to shrug that image off by donning an action oriented avatar in the movie Baazi. And the results were disastrous to say the least. Same goes for Govinda who had a very successful partnership with David Dhawan for comical offerings like Raja Babu, Coolie No. 1 etc. And when he tried to break the shackles by doing an anti hero in the movie Shikari, he was no better than Aamir.

Some of you might disagree with me but even Sachin Tendulkar has rebranded himself especially for the opposition bowlers. Remember the young Sachin in the late 90’s dancing down the track to hit a six even with Warne bowling round the stumps with a leg stump line (the famous Sharjah match). He used to dispatch even the fast bowlers in a similar manner. Now in the 2000s runs continue to flow but the sixes have come down considerably. A look at his records will show that the list of matches with maximum sixes is populated by matches of earlier era whereas the maximum fours list has a more equitable distribution. Even in the recently concluded IPL, he was hardly hitting sixes.

I will select the incumbent Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar for my analysis. In the early 90’s when caste politics started gaining significance in Bihar, Janta Dal with leaders like Mr Laloo Yadav, Mr. Nitish Kumar and Mr. Paswan became a potent political force in Bihar. Mr. Kumar emerged as a leader of backwards in that era. But as times changed and almost all parties did their caste calculations before awarding tickets to candidates, simply the caste plank wasn’t going to work. As a result development has become a major issue in the Bihar elections. And Mr. Kumar with his re-branding as “Vikas Purush” (man for development) has gained positive mileage and no doubt he has been successful.

This was an interesting observation made by a sadhu in Ayodhya (on NDTV) while discussing the Ram janmabhoomi issue (the Babri Masjid dispute judgement is due in a few days time). He said that VHP used the more aggressive portrait of Lord Rama (the one ready to fight) while propagating their agenda. In a way it was re-branding a religious deity. Interesting isn’t it?

When things don’t work out don’t even we as individuals look to attempt different tasks to prove ourselves? It’s akin to re-branding oneself in the eyes of different stakeholders viz. family, friends, employers, competitors. Do share your interesting observations on Rebranding. 


  1. Excellent article Saket.The Honda and Religion examples are specially good.

  2. Thanks Rakhi and Apurva for your comments.

  3. Re-branding is true. Thanks for the informative post.