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Killing a brand, building a brand

  • Published at 06:20 pm February 18th, 2015

It was possibly the early 90s. Fisons Bangladesh introduced their Peps Gel toothpaste in the market. It was a big hit, and almost pushed out Lever Brothers’ Pepsodent to a corner. Being the first “gel toothpaste” in the market, coupled with the “a breath of fresh air” model of advertising Peps Gel, Lever Brothers was a bit confused about their next move.

Interestingly, it was not too late for them – they approached my colleague at ANZ Grindlays Bank David Standish, telling him that they had decided to buy Peps Gel at an attractive price. Knowing Lever Brothers, the deal was closed in no time. They bought the “brand” and immediately killed it to pave the way for their esteemed brand Pepsodent.

In 2009, my Indian FMCG client wanted to buy Square’s Jui brand of coconut oil, and had offered a fantastic price, as well as commission, for us for getting this done. It took me a few days to understand that they only wanted to buy the name “Jui,” not the factory or the entire toiletries company.

They had offered $5m. Square Toiletries MD was of course allured, and smilingly asked for a possible higher amount. We conveyed the message to our Indian client. They came back with the increased offer of $10m. Ultimately, the deal didn’t pan out, since Square group’s chairman became very emotional as Jui was the name of his granddaughter.

It was possible that he had also gotten suspicious with the high amount offered for a name only. I was apprehensive, if the deal would have gone through, the story of Peps Gel would have been repeated.

Jamuna group’s “Aromatic” halal soap was almost stamped out by Unilever’s Lux from the market, even with allegations of Unilever using animal fat in their soaps against Jamuna using vegetable fat in Aromatic.

Unilever was forced to import Lux from their other offshore plants, and thus bled in their balance sheets. However, like any other brand parent, Unilever didn’t budge from investing in the brand. Ultimately, Lux came back to public perception as a super brand, representing the ultimate commitment to quality and client solution building.

Though deemed winner for the time being, Jamuna eventually stopped investing in the Aromatic brand, which died a premature death. The entire company was sold to the Indian company mentioned above, at a throwaway price.

Pepsi is a globally-respected brand, but its initial bottler in Bangladesh could not do enough justice to their name. So, we at ANZ Grindlays introduced them to a new bottler. The new bottler worked hard with the brand owner, improved distribution network, market communication, and injected better cost discipline.

Today, Pepsi occupies the most esteemed position in the local carbonated drink market, and they have also launched the highly coveted brand of mineral water Aquafina in the local market.

Gacotouch, when it was initially launched in the market, made a big splash, but it is no more. Lalbag Chemical and Perfumery Works were very happy with their brand “Hash Marka Gondhoraj Kesh Toil” in the coconut oil market.

It reigned supreme for several decades, occupying the mind-spaces of our mothers and grandmothers. However, with changing hair styles, increasingly convenient packaging, and more ladies getting into the workplace, Marico’s “Parachute” and Square’s Jui made women forget everything about “Hash Marka” coconut oil.

Many brands lost out because of their parent company or sponsors not investing enough in building the brand or a lack of maintaining dignity or identity of the brand. Brand personality builds over time, and brand equity-building depends not on “occupying shelf space” but more importantly, “mind-space.”

A brand gets recalled not because of the advertisements, but because of how the brand is harnessed, or how it carries itself in the market. Far from creating any controversy, corporate citizenship as well as ultimate efficacy worked a lot towards brand building.

Hajeer Biriyani, Aarong, Prothom Alo, Ispahani, Rahim Afrooz, Square – these are the leaders in their respective market segments; who have thus emerged as brands through their tireless efforts over the years.

We are also seeing a few other brands emerge with their product development, client solution building, social presence, and commitment to doing things right.

I am sure that as our country progresses, and people become more “quality sensitive,” more brands will come up, and at the same time some will die sooner or later. With the rise in per capita income, to be more precise, “disposable income,” there has got to be a shift in quality, which will create further brand loyalty.