Manoj Berry on brand positioning

Posted by Manoj Berry at 04:14 am on Saturday November 03, 2012

A recent survey in The Guardian, titled Top five regrets of the dying found men in particular said, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.  People want to work to live. Not live to work.

Apple knew this since inception, and therefore put fun (ergonomics, design aesthetics and a seamless OS-Hardware connect) into work, first with its computers, then into every Apple product that followed. It ranks among the most powerful brands in the world today.

And the brand is the business – a fact endorsed by Wall Street. The connect with automobiles? This excerpt from a recent article in a US Magazine…

Brannan Mason should be into cars. The 19-year-old student at the University of San Diego, is a huge fan of the LA Lakers. He also has an active dating life and owns at least one of everything Apple makes. But, like a lot of other young men and women today, he doesn’t have a car. Or even a driver’s license. That’s all right with Mason, but it could be a problem for the auto industry.

“I’ve been busy with other things,” Mason says. “It’s not that I don’t want to drive, but other things are more important.”

Lee Iacocca, Willie G Davidson, Bob Lutz, Ferdinand Piech are proof that a passion for driving or riding at the very top influences not only the “fun quotient” of an automobile company’s products, but also its business success.

To reverse his company’s recent reversals in the US, all strapped up now in Dubai’s favourite taxi, comes Mr. Akio Toyoda to the racetrack!

But why is he racing a Camry? Because, to quote another article (, “… it’s a car that’s been the very icon of what the chief is trying to change. It’s popular – best-selling car in America for 15 years – but pretty boring.”

What about India? During product development research we did for an Indian tractor maker in 1996, Punjab farmers complained their sons would rather become DJs in Southall than till the family land in its tractors. We came back with two same-price concepts: a tractor with higher bhp v/s another with lower bhp but with an air-conditioned cabin, and power-assisted steering and brakes. The latter was a unanimous choice. Why? “Now that’s something we can drive ourselves!”

Back to ‘real’ fun – motorcycles. June 2004. Bikers surveyed for a Japanese brand said that after the brand had stopped making ‘fun’ bikes, their only choice was to buy the brand’s older, used two-stroke products and restore them with parts from Thailand. Or buy a Bajaj Pulsar.

So we conceived of two new “mojo” concepts – 4-stroke, therefore without the distinctive 2-stroke moan of the originals, but their spiritual successors in every key area – specific output, acceleration, max speed, handling and styling. Pricing – over Rs 1 lakh for one, and about Rs 70,000 for the other.

“Can Indians afford it?” we were asked. “No”, I said, “But many will find the money. Somehow.” As I did in 1983. Shamelessly exploiting my role as the brand’s account executive at its ad agency to become the first owner of the most outrageous motorcycle India had ever seen. Priced at Rs 27,500, not far from what cars then cost, and with no vehicle finance, the client was happy to achieve 5000 bookings.

The result at launch – 18,000 bookings.  Annual car sales then – 40,000 units.

Our case: 700+ million Indians then, and less affluent than the billion-odd in 2004. Add easy vehicle finance. Enough would find the money to, in fact, sustain the brand in the business it had created in India – sport. And away from a business it was now floundering in – transport.

In 2007, the brand launched three bikes – a 1000cc CBU, and two Made for, and in, India “chhota packets” of it. I hear the brand’s market share is up from 5 per cent back then to almost twice as much now.

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