Thursday, May 22, 2014

A BRANDING LESSON FROM MAHABHARATA

The world is moving at a very fast pace and everybody is working hard to get ahead in as short a time as possible. As a result, people are cramming up their calendars with more and more. Their ‘to-do’ list just never seems to end. The ability to multitask seems to be the most essential requirement in the work environment. However, the fact is that no one has ever been able to achieve much this way.

To be successful in life – Focus on one thing!
Research has shown time and again that the human mind is not meant to multitask. Not just that, research now even proves how long-term multitasking is actually harmful for the brain. A study done in 2009 by Stanford proved that frequent multitaskers were not able to use their brain as efficiently as non-multitaskers. The scary part is that frequent multitaskers were less effective even when asked to focus on one activity. Trying to get too much done in one go is not a good idea. It will not get you quick success; rather, focusing on one thing at a time, nurturing it and developing it slowly is the key to success.

The bottom line is – multitasking is out. It’s a myth that people who can do multiple tasks simultaneously are more effective and efficient. Rather, the ones who keep their focus on one thing and give it their undivided attention are the ones who over time develop focused expertise and eventually take the lead. If one were to have a heart problem, one would prefer to go to a heart specialist rather than a general physician. Well, the same rule applies to business. Everyone likes to work with a specialist. So if you really want to achieve a lot, go one step at a time. Plan well and focus on one thing at a time. You will become a specialist in that one area. And very soon, your productivity too will skyrocket.

Multitasking is for losers. Brands that try to promise too many things or people who try to do too many things finally lose out to the more focused ones. Look around and you will find that all successful entrepreneurs have found the one thing they are best at and have really focused on doing just that. Be it entertainers, rockstars, film stars, or artists – the successful ones have focused on what they are best at. SRK has been best at playing the lover boy; Air Supply the best at singing love songs; the legendary M.F. Hussain was best at painting horses; and the list goes on. Each found a niche and mastered it.

You too should look at your to-do list carefully and find out the one thing that means the most to you and work on that, day in and day out, ignoring all the other tasks that steal your precious time and are a waste eventually. Watch how quickly you will be able to reach your goal as compared to others who are too busy doing too many things, which add up to nothing in the end.

To be successful in brand building – Focus on one message!
All great brands have one thing in common and that is that they live up to the promise they make and keep you as a customer satisfied. However, there is one more important factor and that is, all great brands make only ‘one’ promise. It has a dual advantage. Firstly, the brand does not need to work so hard to fulfill too many promises (and in the process do a mediocre job); secondly, the consumer is clear about exactly what to expect from the brand.

A new brand Chobani started business in 2005 and today owns nearly 20% of the market share for ‘Greek’ yoghurt in USA. It built its brand so fast by keeping the focus on one aspect and that is ‘real yoghurt’. For years, a few players who pumped out products that had high calorie content and preservatives had dominated the yoghurt market. Now with Chobani, people had the option of a Greek yoghurt, which is plain yoghurt with very high protein and very low sugar content.

However, the secret to success for this brand was also its focus on manufacturing. It had to carpet-bomb the aisles of all possible department stores with its products before the biggies woke up and gobbled up this small startup. So Mr. Chobani focused on increasing his production capacity really fast and changed the whole market dynamics. He was absolutely sure about his product, and now just needed to focus on the right business strategy of expanding fast and making his presence felt before the biggies started imitating him and using their mass production capacities to dominate the market. When he started off, the demand for Greek yoghurt was only 0.2%; today, it commands around 50% of the yoghurt market, all thanks to one startup and its focus. Chobani is today the number one yoghurt brand of USA.

Look at the recent success story of another brand called Lululemon. From just one store in 1998 to almost 200 stores now, it has been Canada’s fastest growing brand. The story becomes even more interesting when you look carefully and realize that the brand primarily sells yoga-wear. Add to this another interesting fact that the brand hardly believes in fancy advertising, or in paying celebrities to endorse its products. Its prime focus has been word-of-mouth. Every place that it opens a store in, it builds a strong relationship with the yoga instructors of that community by giving them Lululemon merchandise (worth $1000) to wear and give feedback, and also to recommend it to their students. It even promotes them by calling them for free workshops in its store where it puts up large posters of the trainers. This gives them free publicity and helps them get more students, and it helps Lululemon sell more.

The focus on ‘word-of-mouth’ does not change inside the store either, where staff is trained to eavesdrop on the conversations that the customers have to understand what they liked and did not like about the merchandise. It does so by placing the clothes-folding table on the sales floor near the fitting rooms so that the staff can hear the complaints and comments. This feedback is then used to rework and improve the designs. By just focusing on word-of-mouth, the company has achieved a market value of $10.4 billion. As one employee quoted recently to media, “We have the third highest productivity per square foot after Apple and Tiffany, which is pretty powerful considering they sell computers and diamonds and we sell yoga pants”. In spite of the fact that there are numerous other brands selling yoga pants for much cheaper, the brand has beaten all and managed to carve a niche for itself. Yoga may have started in India, but Canadian brand Lululemon took it to NYSE! Not bad, considering that one of the main teachings of yoga is to learn to ‘focus’ on your mind and body. Focus, as you see, benefits not just the mind and the body, but also the balance sheets.

On the other hand, take the case of Rediff, which is India’s first internet company to get listed in the US stock markets, but has failed to impress investors. The main problem is its lack of focus. It has been trying to do too many things and hence has not been able to impress many. It is into spaces like e-mail, search engine, travel, news portal, e-commerce and more. In none has it been able to become a leader. When you think of search, you think Google; when you think of e-commerce, you think of Flipkart or eBay. Where does Rediff fit in? To survive, it needs to work out its one focus area and develop it pretty soon.

A new drink named Paper Boat has been slowly but steadily dominating the beverage market in India. Its focus has been offering unique Indian flavours, which is helping it take on the big multinationals head-on. Flavours true to the Indian palate – like aam ras, jal jeera, jamun kala khatta, golgappe ka pani etcetera – along with its unique packaging, have made the brand stand out. It has now even managed to get funding from Infosys founder Narayana Murthy’s firm. The brand and its clear focus on traditional Indian tastes has won it many loyal customers.

Focus works everywhere. Look at the election campaigns in India. One man with only one focus (growth), with only one success story (Gujarat), with only one plan (good governance), is slated to be India’s new Prime Minister. Yes, you guessed it – Narendra Modi, the first Indian leader who will rule with a majority in Parliament. BJP changed its fortunes by putting all its focus on one man, Modi, who showed India what presidential-style campaigning is and what leadership is. In 2009, BJP had won only 160 seats, while Congress had got 260. Look at how focused efforts changed the whole equation in 2014.

The oft-repeated story of ‘Arjuna and the eye of the fish’ proves the point of importance of focus in success and in life. During one hunting training exercise of the Pandavas, on being asked by Dronacharya what they could see while attempting to focus on the intended target, all the four Pandavas and Karna said they could see the sky, the trees and much more... all except Arjuna, who said he could only see the eye of the fish. Modi could only see the PM’s seat and all his efforts were directed towards it. He wanted to be PM and he made no bones about it. No cheap tricks of AAP or accusations by Congress were able to shift his focus. Like any successful brand, he made sure the customer was sure about what they would get if they chose him. He made sure he stood for one thing, which is growth, and people loved him and trusted him and voted for him.

You too should learn to focus on one aspect of your brand or one aspect of work and build up your capacities just like Arjuna, who focused on becoming a master archer and never wavered off. It’s the best branding and success lesson that the Mahabharata has taught us.

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