The brand fixation

Written by Ravi Bajaj | Updated: Jul 20 2008, 09:35am hrs

Brand loyalty is not a term that should be alien to us in India considering, for generations we thought of Cadbury when we thought chocolate, or Johnson & Johnson when we thought talc powder. Or was this because there was not any other brand to choose from, therefore forcing us to stick with the few that were there In fact, can we Indians be loyal to brands

Sample a typical upper middle class home: from gadgets to clothes, it would have all sorts of brands. But while Indians today are far more brand conscious than they were earlier, they are still not loyal to any brand. And in this area women are less loyal than men! While a man sticks to a particular brand of shirts or shampoo (even though most of this is because of sheer laziness) women love to try out new brands. They get bored with a brand quite easily.

So while fashionistas abroad can be real loyalists; a Dior woman is a Dior woman, in India no single designer can boast of such clients who only patronise their products. This also might have something to do with the fact that besides having an inherent sense of curiousity to try out different things, Indian consumers are price ticket driven, and would switch loyalties in a heart beat for a good bargain. Or could it be because Indian designers dont really have a look that is entirely unique to them alone Or, are Indian designers unable to build a loyal clientele because they dont offer, as the Italians say, the tutto look (complete range)

With half of the worlds top brands shoring up in India, it would be wise to ask ourselves some hard questions: can Indians ever be made slaves to a brand Would the attraction for foreign brands always outshine the homegrown ones What would it take for Indian fashion designers to become brands of worth

I feel that Indians cant really be loyal to brands, but are susceptible to going weak-kneed over ego pampering, especially the newly arrived ones! This set likes recognition, which they can get easier at stores of Indian designers than international brands. While the foreign designers boutiques would undoubtedly attract the best retail/PR talent, it would still not be the same as talking to the designer himself/herself This is definitely something that could work for our domestic designers.

The retail experience would also matter, especially now, with bigger brands having stores that are well appointed to international standards. So Indian designers are under pressure to come close, if not match up to the ambience they create for their stores. Be it visual merchandising or lighting, every aspect would have to be looked into.

Pricing would be another factor that could ensure loyalty. While foreign brands may have to stick with international business models, there is nothing stopping us local designers to be price competitive. Quality would have to be unwavering. Even if it does not match the quality of foreign brands (which, believe me, it shant) we could try and remain in the ballpark at least. Brand loyalty has also been associated with repeat purchases, but these repeat purchases could just be the result of lack of choice. Today, brands seeking true loyalty will need to provide a lot more than just a good product. Many a time my clients come back with a garment they bought a few seasons back, asking that it be opened in or out, or a stained sari that needs to be carefully refurbished. It becomes imperative on our part to take care of it, and that could go a long way in ensuring that the client thinks of us while shopping the next time.