• G.O.D-Gyaan on Demand

    Gyaan on Demand aims to fulfill every demand you’ve ever had-concerning marketing. Want to know what the burning issues in marketing are? Is there any topic you are interested in, but still dont know much about? Write to us- we’ll find out for you! We have a dedicated team working just to solve the questions you pose & our policy is ‘No question is too small!’.

    Of course, you don’t have to restrict yourselves to queries, we’ll be posting the questions every week, and if you know the answer, just mail it to us-it’ll save us the trouble of doing it ourselves, and earn your name a place in the Hall of Fame. If you rather want to initiate a debate or a discussion, we’re game for it as well. And there’s no need to feel constrained, this place was made for discussions-so yap away to glory! The Colosseum lies at themarketers.iimc@gmail.com

  • Cult Brands in India: A Sociocultural View

    Recently, as part of a second-year marketing elective, I read an article posted by a colleague, which encapsulated a lively discussion between eminent industry personalities on India’s readiness to produce and nurture cult brands. In order to afford this label however, brands must break through the glass ceiling of marketing, so to speak, and acquire an iconic status. These brands must inspire not only customer loyalty, but also customer empathy and connection. It is valuable to note here that this phenomenon must be differentiated from brand evangelism, in which consumers actually become spokespersons for the brand, often advocating its adoption and use to society at large. A cult brand often has a sizeable (but not mass) customer base with certain common characteristics, and significant if not omnipresent popularity and appeal.

    Interestingly, the debate in this article was rather one-sided – most of the experts felt that India is simply incapable of producing a cult brand in the near future. While others did not necessarily disagree with this point of view, they recited a long laundry list of fairly momentous changes in industry composition and structure, as well as in the Indian collective consciousness, that would be required in order to create an environment for the genesis of cult branding in India. I found myself falling in line with A G Krishnamurthy’s views on the matter: We are a very diverse nation. Cult following happens when a country has a large proportion of people following a common lifestyle or group behaviour. He went further to say that India would not have a cult brand for another 50 years. Shripad Nadkarni sought to explain the psychosocial aspects of his argument with the idea that Indians are encouraged since childhood to “fit in” rather than “stand out”, and cult brands draw their consumers with propositions that go against the mainstream.

    In my opinion, these are lucid insights into the cult brand phenomenon – India is fantastically diverse in its linguistic customs and sharply differentiated in its socioeconomic classes. Because of this, it will be invariably difficult to slice across all the jumble of Indian strata and echelons to attract people from each section to form a cohesive, loyal, and reverent pan-nation consumer fan base that can, in turn, go global. In addition, to expand on Nadkarni’s view (disclaimer: generalizations ahead!), Indians as a people tend to be somewhat systematic and follow a fairly institutionalized pattern of thought. They often think within a rigid framework, rather than rebelling in the face of conservatism or convention. In light of this, chances of a counterculture revolution in branding or adulation for a product are unlikely. As a result of further rumination on this issue, two very distinct thoughts emerged in my mind regarding the cult brand phenomenon.

    Subculture Formation: One reason India may not be able to produce cult brands is because of its global status. While India is a growing power with increasing influence, it still has a rather fractious and polarized identity in the world, which lends it a not entirely sure footing in today’s global scenario. Although India has made unimaginable gains since its Hindu rate of growth days, she is yet a mystery to her global counterparts. Today, India is equal parts software-genius and bounding economy, and equal parts snake-charming, elephant-riding turbaned showman – she lacks a cemented, demystified image in the eyes of the world. Until the societal churn settles within the country and unless its perception is solidified, there are going to be no real, enduring counterculture movements.

    The mod subculture originated in England in the late 1950s, inspired by modernist jazz, Sartre, and existentialism

    Cult brands are essentially driven by niche segmentation, and big and/or profitable niches do not exist in India. Further, they will not exist until there is a stable, settled, societal landscape. It is a rebellion against this very unruffled, staid, sterile state of affairs that will result in a screaming need for subcultures amongst the youth, that is, for different groups of people to self-determine and identify themselves as a subculture – for example, goths, punks, indie kids, mods, hipsters, and many more. An example of a brand that became a cult favourite is Fred Perry apparel, typified by the classic Fred Perry polo shirt. This clothing is a massive hit with ‘skinheads’ and ‘mods’. Similiarly, Vespa scooters have found a loyal fanbase overseas with young, alternative, upwardly mobile hispters living in inner city suburbs. However, right now, India is far too chaotic, far too interesting, and not nearly as sterile as it needs to be to engender intense and belligerent subculture movements.

    The Fred Perry polo shirt was adopted by the mods. These days the apparel – polo shirts, hats, canvas shoes – typifies the fashion of mods, skinheads, and Northern Soul enthusiasts

    Indian Cinema: One industry that naysayers of the Indian cult brand ignore, but that does indeed have the apparatus ready for cult branding is cinema. Cinema in India cuts across myriad divides. There are already contemporary Indian cult favourites like Dev D, Black Friday, Gunda, and many more. One of the pioneers of cult cinema these days is Anurag Kashyap – although technically an auteur, he is in my opinion just as much a prescient and savvy marketer – and has an uncanny knack of tapping into and hijacking the educated Indian youth’s psyche. His movies have a distinct cult feel to them, and strongly appeal to a fairly specific set of people who may have many characteristics in common – the makings of a mini target segment or cult, as it were! Kashyap’s usage of Western pop culture pastiches, as well as distinctly un-Indian characters or concepts, juxtaposed in an uniquely Indian setting is not only a departure from the McBollywood norm, but has created a new and appealing aesthetic framework. His films are packaged in an offbeat and uber-cool way, with embedded references to Scorcese’s films, filming techniques from Trainspotting, and inclusion of characters such as Patna ke Elvis. These films have really touched a nerve for a large section of the Indian cinema-going youth – earning him a not insignificant legion of fans, and making his movies a very viable cult brand in modern-day India.



    Mansha graduated with a degree in Economics and French and worked in client service at BBDO Sydney’s PR and Digital & Direct agencies. Her projects include image management and experiential events for Starbucks, Etihad Airways’ launch in Australia, and BTL activity for pharma majors Novartis and AstraZeneca. She subsists on cult and arthouse cinema, indie music, and postmodern fiction.

  • Cohort Marketing – Old wine in a new bottle?

    Most of us are familiar with the concept of segmenting, one of the most important tools for a marketer when targeting prospective buyers. One of the most common ways of segmenting is by age – generational marketing. Generational marketing assumes that one individual belongs to a generation if he or she is born in a given period of time. Thus, it aims to market to a consumer based on their age. Cohort marketing goes one step further. A cohort is defined as a group of individuals experiencing the same significant events during the same time interval, undergoing a sequence of roles from birth to death, and exhibiting common characteristics due to accumulated knowledge and shared experiences.

    Although the difference between the two may be a fine one, it is nonetheless very crucial. Since the year of birth alone is insufficient to form a well-defined group, a cohort’s time interval can be longer or shorter than a generation. Cohort marketing assumes that cohorts are greatly influenced by certain events taking place in their generation. For example, for those born between 1928 and 1945 in USA, the second world war would have been a very significant event. They would have grown up in an era of social tranquility, with the menace of the Cold War, and thus would strongly conform to values such as conservatism. The baby boomers, on the other hand, born between 1946 and 1954, would have witnessed a very different age, when anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, civil rights movement came to the forefront, and thus would correspondingly be more free spirited and oriented towards social causes. A marketer who can recognise this difference and use it to market his product can reap rich dividends.

    Once a brand manager selects a generation, the work then becomes managing the brand in such a way that it matures with the cohort. One of the most prominent examples of this in recent times is brand Harry Potter. Just as harry gets older and matures in the story, the audience also goes through the same experience. The world of FMCG is no stranger to this either. Inneov, a line of nutricosmetics jointly owned by L’Oreal and Nestle, is a product which develops as its customers get older. One of the reasons for this is to ensure that older users of this product do not put off younger users. Having the older women weaned off one product and onto another solves this problem.

    As many advantages as it may give, there are dangers in marketing to generational cohorts. The most prominent one is that of oversimplificartion of the richness and variety of attitudes, motivations and behaviors. People think cohorts are rigid, and never mature, but nothing could be farther from the truth. A generation which was labelled as ‘slackers’ 10 years ago will not necessarily be the same now. Aslo, there is no necessity that there will be a great deal of homogeneity between memebrs of the same cohort; differences are bound to be there. There will be many factors defining members of the same cohort, and it would be wrong to overlook them. Thus, we can say that while genrational cohorts may be a very powerful tool, it is one which must be exercised with caution.