The Challenges Of Building Retail Brand

Updated: Sep 20 2003, 05:30am hrs
Brands are built in different ways. Through cult following like the one associated with Harley Davidson or through the Keep Walking catchline by Johhny Walker. True, in all the cases, the product and its utility is important. But the way the product is cultivated in the minds of the consumers is also equally important. Harley Davidson is entrenched in the minds of generation not because the bikes they manufacture is the best in the world, but because of the aura that has been built around it, which millions look up to. Johhny Walkers Keep Walking has Roberto Baggio demolishing the cobwebs in his mind by scoring in the penalty shootout. The scene exudes the determination and the passion to succeed despite all odds.

Brand Building
So what will it take to build a brand in retail in India May sound futuristic given the nascency of organised retail. But if players have to stay and progress, a brand needs to be built. Therefore, the attempt to build brands is already on and the move is to capture top of the mind recall in the minds of consumers through the products, service, promotions or marketing.

Aniruddha Deshmukh, executive director - retail, Raymond Limited said that in retail, brand perceptions like the one associated with Nike or Harley Davidson cannot really be built. They are individual brands or single products and therefore these brands have the cult following and are able to build the perception of the brand faster. In retail, its not only the product but the entire retail environment along with its peripherals, which go to build a brand, said Mr Deshmukh. He said that Raymonds through its 168 Raymonds showrooms across India are portraying the brand which comes across in the communication. The catch line of The Complete Man is according to Mr Deshmukh reflected in the products on offer and the environment in which it is offered.

Raymonds is the brand but there are also brands like Parx, Park Avenue and Manzoni. So while a customer enters the Raymonds shop, the atmosphere is in tune with the brands in terms of the look and the feel of the outlet. However, there are other brands also which the customers gets introduced to in the outlet, said Mr Deshmukh.

Branding for Raymonds therefore means that Raymonds sits at a higher level but at the same time ample space has to be created for other brands in its portfolio.

B S Nagesh, CEO, Shoppers Stop has an interesting anecdote to share which according to him delves on the perception of Shoppers Stop as a brand in the minds of the consumers. He said that at the Andheri Shoppers Stop outlet, he met a friend who had come down with his family to shop. When asked why he and his family liked to shop at Shoppers Stop. The man answered that apart from the products on offer, the man liked it because he could sit and relax on the stairs leading to the stores. Shoppers Stop offers him the stairs where he can relax and look at world go by, apart from the shopping experience. Thats one angle of the perception of the brand in the mind of the consumer, said Mr Nagesh.

While the environment, the ambience and the feel of the retail outlet helps in building the brand, the players were unanimous in their opinion that product or the product mix remains the mainstay of the brand building exercise. Be it Raymonds or Shoppers Stop, Food World or Big Bazaar, the products on offer definitely attract the crowd. So therefore, one can see the mushrooming of the private label programmes in apparels and food and groceries because the players want to increase the depth of the offering at the respective outlets.

Professor V. Gibson, associate dean and head Welingkar school of retailing said that private brand definitely helps the retailer to carve out a niche in the crowded market place. The Merchandise mix will be an important differentiator along with marketing, standardisation of processes and services. So therefore, one can see players getting into private labels so it not only gives them a distinct identity but also increases their margins, said Professor Gibson.

Below The Line Marketing
The most important factor for brand building in retail is the below the line marketing activity. The marketing efforts which happens at the store level and then at the brand level plays an important role in building the curiosity factor amongst the consumers. In lifestyle retail, especially with formats like Shoppers Stop, Piramyd and Lifestyle, the focus is on promotions and marketing effort pertaining to occasions, events or festivals. Players opined that while having endorsements by celebrities work with single brand, retail formats with multiple brands stick to occasion specific promotions to entice the crowds.

K N Iyer, chief executive officer - retail, Crossroads was of the opinion that advertising or brand endorsements in retail formats doesnt go a long way in building the brands reputation. Advertising is more event based or occasion specific and therein it has celebrities or personalities, who add a special feel to the occasion. Thats how communication is conducted, said Mr Iyer.

R Jayakumar, director, ratings, Fitch Ratings further added given the diverse cultural fabric of the country, a pan national communication also will have to weave in the events and occasion which are specific to that region. The biggest advertisement for the retailers is attracting the maximum footfalls at their stores and therefore all communication and marketing efforts, be it discounts or offers or celebrity endorsements are focussed on that, explained Mr Jayakumar.

So if one sums up the concoction needed to build a brand, it will be the product mix, marketing and communication, standardisation of process which includes both front and back end. But as Mr Jayakumar put it, Brand are a long time effort and to have recall, one needs visibility. And visibility will be through the ingredients, said Mr Jayakumar.