What Branding Was & What Branding Will Never be
Mridul Sawhney in TalkD with Abhishek Deb
TalkD | 18/04/2021 03:00 PM
The concept of Branding is fairly old – we all know that. But do we know it is older than the concept of ‘selling goods’? The word Brand literally means To Burn. In the 15th century when ranches wanted to distinguish their cattle, they burned their unique mark on the animals to identify them in a herd. Over time, the symbol not just signified the ranch it belonged to, but also the qualities it stood for.
How do the stalwarts see it?
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos
“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz
“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” – Warren Buffett
“Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.” – Elon Musk
Ok, So what do you see when you look at this image?
The name of the brand
Its characteristic colour
Its characteristic fonts
The primary uses that you have associated it with for decades now.
What did you feel when you looked at the image?
Trusted Skin Care.
Did the brand marketer do his job right?
Did they do it in a day?
As John Heywood once said “Rome wasn’t built in a day” — brand building is no different!
The Brand Marketer often begins his job studying the ethos of what the subject at hand (the brand) stands for; does a SWOT to understand where the brand stands at the moment — how much of the brand’s image Is built already (as part of its natural makeup) and how much needs to be worked upon; devises his own strategy to accomplish the goal he has set for the Brand (this strategy involves building or enhancing the public emotion associated with the brand-
Is there enough loyalty amongst its users?
Is there a sense of Trust and Belief in the user’s mind for the Brand’s product/services?
Do stakeholders — employees, customers, shareholders, creditors — have confidence in the Brand?
Does it carry the kind of reputation the Brand Marketer is aiming for?
And once he knows what he needs to know — it’s a constant implement-and-recalibrate process as the Brand begins to take the intended shape.
What does a Brand stand for?
It is almost as if the Brand is being rebuilt from the ground up — this time with absolutely no scars, no learning curves, no flaws whatsoever. Just plain, pristine, beautiful!
When Abhishek Deb, Editor-in-Chief & Founder, Dais World engaged into an insightful conversation with Mridul Sawhney, Chief Creator and Co-Founder, AM Branding Co. in the Latest Version of TALKD— there came around talks about the Art of Branding — How some Brands get it right for decades and some never do and why a Brand Marketer can never rest on past laurels to keep her Brand’s image intact and growing, even when they’ve achieved the pinnacle.
Deb: A little about our well-acclaimed co-conversationalist here before we move on to the excerpts of our discussion as promised
It was 2017 when Mridul and her husband, Aviral Rungta decided to launch AM Branding Co. (a combination of the first letters of their names) in New Delhi — the Aesthetic Capital of India — taking forward their years of learning and experiences with building brands to a brick-and-mortar studio.
Ever since, AM Branding Co. has become the designated voice behind some of the leading Indian fashion brands like NIKASHA, Jayanti Reddy, Anushree Reddy, Arpita Mehta, Kunal Rawal, and the likes. Their single-minded mission is to redefine India visually as they work with these dreamweavers to showcase their exquisite work to their Fashionistic audiences.
From art direction, graphic design, social media management, web design to brand consultancy, AM Branding Co. tells the story of brands in a way that is power-packed, inspiring, and effective.
This is an exciting conversation — Read on…
Deb: Mridul, we keep hearing fancy words like Sustainable Branding, Purpose-led Branding … Are these practicable in reality and do Brands actually work towards this?
Mridul: A sustainable brand is one that has understood and consciously re-calibrates its daily life and operations around three major concern areas — Environmental Impact, Economic Impact, and Social Impact. Sustainable branding and purpose-led branding is something we all have in our subconscious minds, but it is still a long way to go before Brands actually execute what they promise in their marketing and communication campaigns.
Most CEOs and Business Heads today accept and admit that sustainability is the key fundamental to the long-term success of their brands — they are conscious that it definitely is the need of the hour as the world becomes more aware of its rapidly changing reality and the scarcity of its increasingly-depleting resources.
It is a balancing act to satisfy brands and meet them at an intersection of purpose, innovation, and possibilities. Still, a long way to go but the journey has definitely begun.
Deb: Branding is a difficult job, it is ever-evolving … How do you keep up with the changes every day?
Mridul: Practice, Deb… Practice… and experience. It is now almost instinctive for us. Although it is ever-evolving like you said, our core job remains the same through the ages — To highlight and create a unique DNA for each brand. And that being the constant, everything else is built upon that solid plinth.
And of course, there is one more thing — Honesty. Every business starts out with an honest purpose in mind and has a natural demeanour to its true self. Like every human being, every brand has its own aura — As Brand creators, we understand and absorb that aura and help reflect in the most authentic way across all tangents.
Since the core remains the same, our final touch is to help create a brand that is agile — that can move swiftly with the times and still stand firm.
Deb: When you throw technology into the picture — does it begin to look different?
Mridul: Of course, it does. And what better than the last year to show us how technology could be an opportunity and a disruptor in the same breath? What we saw last year was the explosion of the power of technology — that was thus far simmering underneath the surface. It was all expedited with a huge shift to digital dominance as we all practically lived online absorbing content in 2020.
Branding became more important than ever; shaking up the best and the most traditional old-school players when they realized the role digital visibility had suddenly begun to play in our lives.
What technology enabled was the seamlessness of the process and the increase in the outreach of a single effort manifold. What came as a challenge alongside, was the increasing impatience in the consumer and the need for a brand marketer to create new immersive experiences every day to keep the brand relevant and in vogue.
Deb: You have chosen your niche and it has worked well for you. Your showcase has every label worth its salt — Arpita Mehta, Kunal Rawal, Neeta Lulla, and many more. What made you choose this niche and how has been your experience with these dream-seamsters?
Mridul: Deb, I firmly believe that one doesn’t choose one’s niche by default. Destiny has a definite role to play in it. We would say we were destined to have come across these immensely talented individuals on a recurrent basis and that’s how we realized our own potential.
Our method of working was also refined along the way — we realized, it was extremely important for us to first understand the person representing the brand and their ethos before we even tap into their work. Because, as a team, once we get involved, we work at a very emotional and personal level — we literally live and breathe each brand every single day. The visuals created to project the brand, are finetuned to reflect the personality of the creator- the designer behind the brand & its tones are synthesized to create an instant connect with the audience.
I remember, when we started working with Arpita, I and my team were drawing clear cues from how she is as an individual & how focused she is around her work, how she loves a clutter-free aesthetic & that’s exactly what we created for her — her brand symbolized her. For Kunal — We experimented & had fun with the graphic language because that aptly reflected his persona — playful, luxe & unique!
Deb: Is minimalism the new thing for many brands today? What’s your reading on this?
Mridul: Because less is more! The amount of digital clutter we took through 2020 and 2021, is unprecedented — I don’t think any generation has ever experienced such digital bombardment. How do you expect anyone to retain that much information? You can’t blame the drop in patience levels of your audience and hence it is becoming more and more imperative to speak your story in as few yet impactful words or images as possible.
You don’t want your viewer to be exhausted looking at your content or switch off smack in the middle of it — the purpose is defeated!
A shape, a colour, even a straight line can convey your message or connect itself to the brand’s personality in an instant — so why bother with reams of sentences or dozens of artwork? Minimal is the way to go if you want to be loved longer as a brand and we as brand strategists understand that.
Deb: Are there occasional differences between what the brands think they are looking for versus what you tell them they need — How do you tend to balance out such situations?
Mridul: To be honest, Deb, I have never come across a client who wants us to work to please them — they are all such fantastic professionals and they are well-accepting of the fact that they know what they do best and they have chosen us because we know what we do best too. I have never had to make do with underwhelming work — that is just not how we function and that has earned us our clients’ respect and continuity.
Of course, there are creative differences — but then as someone who is heading the business, I take it as my job to find a common ground and move forward. Most days are easy where the differences are simpler — fonts, layouts, visuals, editing, technical aspects, etc. but there are difficult days undoubtedly and they are both in our stride. Creating a brand is a tough job you know… (laughs)
Deb: There are so many fresh young souls I come across every day who are absolutely smitten and would love to work in the field of PR, Branding, Marketing Communications — What advice do you want to impart to these future brand experts?
Mridul: Well, I can relate to them. I dreamt of painting the world with my aesthetic ever since I was a toddler — stars in my eyes through my NIFT Bangalore days and then JJ Valaya and Nikasha to where I am today — Not one day went by when I wasn’t smitten by this field.
To my mind, it is probably one of those ever-green-never-dull vocations with immense potential — And there will always be enough work for everyone here. My sole piece of advice to every newcomer is perhaps — always back your actions up with proper knowledge & be original — plagiarism is hurtful.
It is tough to set a business up and we know that. But it is tougher to imbibe another person’s vision and help them create a story out of it. Mridul, Aviral and their team at AM Branding Co. are living their clients’ dreams every day — transforming them into tangible realities — while keeping the initial romance and fluff of the concept intact.
A B H I S H E K D E B is the Founder & The Editor-in-Chief of Dais World.
The Armed forces Veteran and a DigiTech Pro, he conceptualized and is now instrumental in making Dais World the fastest becoming influential voice in the Media Tech Industry. His conversations with Industry heads and Thought Leaders bring an interesting perspective to the Dais readers and help propel novel ideas forward in this change-by-the-minute information space.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for thoughts, feedback, and suggestions.