For brands, to err is human, but to confess a priority

Tags: Commodities
All of us are aware of what happened to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolates, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and Unit Trust of India’s Unit-64 — four of India’s most popular brands — at the turn of the millennium. Worms in chocolates, pesticides in colas and crisis in the country’s favoured mutual fund. This was a time when consumers cried in anger while brand managers and their public relations consultants went into a tizzy. Brand experts Ivan Arthur and Kurien Mathews, along with late K Kurian of the Subhas Ghosal Foundation, however, saw this as an opportunity for learning. “The brands we selected were those that used communication to address a serious crisis,” said Arthur.

In their conversations with advertising and marketing professionals, the authors realised that there would be much richer learning if more people were involved. It was then that Anant Rangaswami, now editor of Campaign India, an advertising and marketing magazine, suggested the idea of the 48-hour write-in. In fact, this was almost at the same time when journalist and author Jeffe Howe coined the term ‘crowdsourcing’, meaning the process by which the power of many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialised few.

The idea was to invite India’s most respected minds from the fields of marketing, communication, academics and social science to explore the meaning of a brand in the new global environment. “The book is more than just brands under fire. It is perhaps the brand as social animal,” Arthur said. Therefore, what we get in Brands Under Fire is fresh insights into brands. Rama Bijapurkar, Gerson da Cunha, Kiran Khalap and Gita Piramal are some writers who participated in discussing the case studies.

If Arthur and Mathews were to write the book now or a few months down the line, would Satyam be the fifth case study? “What we have done in the book is how communication has been put to use to salvage the brand in crisis. Therefore, there is very little that we can discuss and analyse about Satyam,” said Mathews. Arthur finds the Satyam story really big. “I think, we could not leave it out. I have not seen any large-scale advertising or communication campaign, but the wheels of public relations are certainly turning,” he said.

According to the authors, what will save Satyam is some kind of restitution and reassurance to is employees, investors and the public that Satyam will climb back to its original strength or at least somewhere close to it. “Only after this, overt communication such as advertising will help,” said Arthur. One of the issues discussed is how new media and social activism influence brand creation and promotion. Mathews believes that these will demand more accountability. “Social activism will play a major role in making the brand more self-conscious of its role as social animal,” says Arthur. “Surely the responsibility of an organisation is to its customer,” wrote Gita Piramal, business historian and author. “Brand loyalty is mistaken for loyalty of consumer to brand. Well, before this happens, the brand needs to be loyal to itself,” wrote Kiran Khalap, founder of brand consultancy firm Chlorophyll. While there is a concern and decline in brand loyalty, the authors see a greater danger in declining brand personality. “Everything seems to be designed for short-term results… The approach makes for dynamism and excitement in the market place, but it tends to blur the contours of a brand’s personality,” said Arthur.


  • Government must consider Sitharaman’s move to revisit Apple’s application for retail

    Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s decision to revisit the Apple application for waiver of mandatory local sourcing, if taken serio


Stay informed on our latest news!


Arun Nigavekar

Can Hefa actually become a reality?

The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) is actively wo­rking ...

Zehra Naqvi

Man proved to be a tyrant and a fool

Reading the history of different species is, perhaps, the most ...

Dharmendra Khandal

No one's getting rich overnight by poaching

We often read in newspapers that tiger skin worth Rs ...


William D. Green

Chairman & CEO, Accenture