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Leveraging Brand Legacy: Is residual equity all that your Brand needs to sustain?

A late entrant into the tourism Branding scenario the state of Gujarat had already lost out on its first mover advantage to belligerent domestic competition from other Indian states.  The state was replete with almost every ingredient well in sync for becoming a major tourist hub. Yet what was probably missing, was the most coveted discerning tourist.
I was very keen to know as to why the state of Gujarat was not recognised as a tourist destination in all these years despite such a strong Brand legacy. I got the solution to my problem during my interaction with the architect of the KGK campaign and one of the most revered and globally acclaimed ad man Mr Piyush Pande,  executive chairman and National Creative Director Ogilvy & Mathers.

This was how he diagnosed it – “Creating a market for things that already exist but no one has any knowledge of is always a challenge”.
What an effective way to put it across. Truly your brand may have a strong legacy and hence a residual equity, but that in no way can be the sole driver of your future prospects.  Gujrat had to break the visibility barrier aggressively along with the perceptual barrier to be a brand in the reckoning among tourist destinations. This is exactly what the ambitious KGK campaign did for the state.

This applies to all the established brands. Many people think that my Brand has a strong legacy it has been there in the market as a pioneer for decades. Agreed your brand has a strong recall by virtue of its attributes, longevity and past glory. But how long can a Brand Piggyback on its past laurels or for that matter legacy?  Especially because markets today are extremely impulsive and unpredictable. Here the demographics change, competition and technology evolves even before you have battled your eyelids. Therefore, as a brand you need to be malleable and ductile to all these volatile fluctuations.  Moreover you need to keep your consumer and brand both updated.  Else BSNL was always the foundation of telecom service in India, but it has kind of sunk into oblivion despite its legacy and residual power.

Well, that brings me to a trending topic in the market today Residual equity. The term has a financial feel to it. Whatever good remains in the consumer memory after the brand goes into hibernation is the real worth and that keeps it connected to the TG.

This in turn reminds me of a vintage Brand which is a classic case study in most of the B schools for gathering insights on Marketing Myopia. Guessed it right- Ambassador!!!

I always thought that it’s a very Royal brand. All that British legacy with design and technology derived from Oxford Morrison and moreover the Target segment comprising of bureaucrats and Indian PM’s, bestowed it with a lot of snob value and prestige. The Brand literally swayed the Indian market between 1958- to the early 1980’s. The only competitor that challenged it back then was Premier Padmini. That’s where complacency crept in and then from there it was only –I me and myself.

Ambassador in my opinion was too engrossed riding on its past residues totally oblivious of the daunting challenges ahead.  That’s exactly my Point. With the advent of the millennium the consumer was spoilt for choice and looked at different parameters, also competition started looking up. The biggest setback came when one of the PM’s – the most glorified TG of the Brand, replaced it with a BMW Limo in 2002.  Gone was the royalty and the loyalty as well.  The consumer rejected variant Avigo launched in 2004 despite a breakthrough disruptive design and technology. Where was all that legacy and residual equity?

Fortunately Brand Maruti realized this in the nick of time, that if they had to sustain, as leaders in the 4 wheeler segment in India they cannot just piggyback on the residues of their Glorious Past. They had to break the perceptual barrier & mass market Tag. NEXA was the right and timely strategic move at meeting the rising aspirations of emerging Indians by selling only high-end models in a first-of-its-kind exclusive outlet with a set-up of revolutionary high-tech automotive showrooms across the country.  Today The Baleno sold under NEXA is a best seller and others like IGNIS and CIAZ are fast catching up.

I see a similar situation for one of the leading Cell phone Brands, Nokia- the Finnish pioneer that was loved and admired by Consumers, Brandsters and Marketers alike. Mid 2006 the brand truly justified its positioning “Connecting people” to perfection. No wonder it had a massive 60% market share in the features phone category.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Much to Nokia’s dismay and descending fortunes, 2007 ushered in a phenomenon in the form of a coveted and much awaited Apple iphone and the rest is history. Though out of place here this invariably reminds me of forbidden apple that kind of was the genesis of mankind.

Nokia has confirmed its foray into the already cluttered smartphone market in India. It is sitting on the brinks of the launch of three new android smartphones, Nokia 3, 5 and 6.  Once a forerunner, Nokia will now have to compete with breezy, affordable brands like Oppo and vivo on one side and luxury techno savvy and premium brands like one plus and Samsung on the other. Not to Forget the Xiaomi’s, Gionees and Lenovo’s eating out into the Pie.

The biggest question at this point in time is, Will the strong residues be enough for brand Nokia to recapture its lost top spot?

The quick answer to this question is “NO” if you take your Brand residues or legacy for granted the market will rebel and throw you out. We are all well versed with Newton’s 3rd law of motion that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The Consumer today has undergone a mutation, they look at innovation relevance and more than ever before a unique soulful purpose in their Brands. The moment you betray their trust and deceive them in the garb of legacy and residual fame, consumers will betray your brand and switch over to other options vying for building their equity in the market. SIMPLE!


-Dr. Tripti Dhote

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  1. Nokia with its relaunch in china has got a record breaking 2.5 lakhs preorder in less than a day. This in itself signifies the residual brand equity nokia still holds in the market cluttered smartphone players

  2. Excellent article. Re branding , top of mind awareness and uniqueness is the need of the hour in impulsive and unpredictable market ..

    In the last part of the article the question regarding the lost glory of Nokia is interesting.

    Nokia has always been a source of promise and trust for the customers. It was due to it’s affordable price, easy to use feature and durability that had excited the major portion of indian market. If they come out with similar line adding the technical upgradation and feature then I think it can again do wonder. But what it will require is proper response branding and positioning.

  3. In today’s dynamic world, if you are taking your brand equity for granted definitely you will be thrown out of the business. An amazing article with so many examples which helped me relate to the concept of leveraging brand. Insightful and interesting one 👍

    • Thanks Shalini. I am really glad that you found the piece interesting. Its opinions like these from her own students that’s very important and crucial for me as a faculty. Happy reading in the future

  4. Well written

  5. Let me start the comment with congratulating Dr.Tripti Dhote for an in-depth realistic comparison with so called established brands . Consumer is the King and Brands or Products who change according to the needs will survive , rightly said by Dr Dhote . Market is a ruthless war field only the fittest ( product ) will survive in long run.

    • Hi Moni. Thanks for your valuable feedback. I’m sure you will read my future posts with an equal interest and share your views. that will keep me motivated.

  6. Superb analysis Tripti ! The most amazing insight into Branding. Keep writing !!

  7. Tripti,

    Excellent blog Tripti! Another example is AT&T. One time this was a huge brand but not anymore. Since the technological changes are happening rapidly, if tge company misses a cycle then catching up becomes an uphill task….There are many examples from Xerox to Kodak…

  8. True sense of Brand in terms of sustainability has been explained. Nice Blog..

  9. Very nicely put ma’am. Some great examples, especially the Nokia one. Just to add to it, Nokia’s downfall was both related to its own Marketing Myopia as well as the rapid surge of the competitors especially Samsung, which has mounted its device on a newer but fresher platform in Android. So for any brand to have some sort of residual equity, it is really essential that it adds value to people’s life, rather only focusing on establishing an emotional connectivity with the TG, because emotions can always be directed from one brand to the other.

  10. Girish Patwardhan

    Amazing article with so many examples which helped me relate to the concept of leveraging brand. Insightful and interesting one .

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