Interview with Business Growth Consultant – Heemanshu Ashar

HSA

Heemanshu Ashar is a Business Growth Consultant with 2 decades of experience across FMCG, Industrial and Service Industries spanning geographical boundary. At present Heemanshu consults companies in their 2X, 3X.. growth strategies starting from concept to implementation translating the next Big Idea into profitability. He accomplishes this using Branding, Marketing and Design disciplines extensively.

1. What does branding mean to you?

A Brand is a thought. When we think of a brand, we have a flash in our mind about the brand. This is a neurological response to the brand which is a summation of all experiences, perceptions and non-experiences about the brand. For example, we would have experienced Amul as a brand but may or may not experience any of the following – BASF, Siemens, Bosch, Zeiss directly but would have some idea of the presence etc. For some brands we would have experienced them daily like elevators in a building and would not care much whether they were from Otis or thyssenkrupp but would have an opinion about watches say from an HMT, Casio, Timex, Fastrack, Tanishq, Omega and a Rolex even if we own all or none of them (like me).

2. Why did you choose to focus on branding as a career?

People want to belong to something. A lot is written about how people buy things to make meaning about themselves. Things we buy are not merely serving the functional, but also the emotional and aspirational (needs). The colour of the car depicts what kind of a person I am as much as the model and make of the car. This is a wide opportunity to understand Branding as science, art, psychology, mathematics and economics built in one discipline. As pure marketing offers more than a lifetime of opportunities of learning and practising this craft of satisfying consumer needs – it is a rewarding career to devote a lifetime to.

3. Branding experts toss around terms like Brand identity, Brand image, Brand strategy etc. Can you connect these into a meaningful narrative (to the layman)?

Branding is part of Marketing and a social science and not a precise science like geometry, physics or mathematics. Hence, adding to the numerous definition of the above would be adding to the confusion. Hence definitions change to context, industry and maturity of the audience. So here is adding to the confusion.

Brand Identity – It is the composition of the graphic, numerical and text of a product (read as goods, services and experiences). For example the Brand Identity of Audi with 3 circles is clear and distinct to the 5 circles Identity of Olympics. The distinctiveness of these circles leaves no doubt in mind on which brand we are referring to.

Brand Image – is a composition of the tone of image, voice, text and narratives that define the Brand Identity. For example, Baskin and Robins ice cream is a family ice-cream with a 31 flavours range. Haagen Daz is an ice cream for adults and do not feature family imagery in their communication; yes they also have many flavours but the image of these ice-creams are distinct to each other. To draw a parallel Amul, Vadilal, Kwality and Arun Ice Creams have an image which is distinct. A brand image is not only what the brand is but also what it is not.

Brand Strategy – Strategy is a tool on how to deliver the Brand across its stakeholders not only its consumers, but suppliers, investors, employees and shareholders.

4. What does it take to build a brand? In the past it took years to establish a brand – Amul, Britannia etc., now we see the new age companies like swiggy, Flipkart, Paytm etc. which are already popular brands? What has changed?

At a dinner table last year, someone did ask me how much time it takes to build a global brand. I replied as soon he finished his question – A lifetime! This has not changed, as brands have to get continuous attention, nourishment and care from the marketeer to remain connected to its audience. There are now more tools of amplification through social media, marketing analytics and viral techniques but the principles remain the same only the methods of engagement changes.

Amuls and Britannias of India have survived because of their constant attention and nourishment of the brand, in their league, there were HMT, Parle, Garden Sarees, Hakoba, etc. have not remained contemporary to their audience and hence have suffered or phased from the public memory.

5. What are the aspects that make a brand memorable?

Feeling. It is the ‘Feeling’ of the brand that makes it memorable. As often heard, ‘Form’ follows ‘Function’. What follows ‘Form’?. ‘Feeling’ follows ‘Form’. Marketeers have to deliver ‘Feeling’ through Brand Experience in their product, messaging, purchasing and consumption. Only when marketeers focus on ‘Feeling’ they can achieve customer satisfaction, delight, joy which are all ‘Feelings’!

6.Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, in their book Groundswell, state “your brand is whatever your customers say it is…”, so what can marketers do to influence customer opinion?

The above sentence is incomplete. The brand is not only what the consumers says. Look at Kingfisher Airlines, when it was in operation, the flyers spoke highly about the flying experience, its check-in experience, in-flight entertainment and cuisine. But today lenders have a larger share of voice on their debt recoveries that has tarnished the brand image irreparably. Even if Kingfisher airline was bought over by a different airline it would be an uphill task to win back the same flyers.

Today the marketeer has to include all stakeholders of the brand and not only the customer.

7. What’s your advice to an entrepreneur regarding the best and surest brand building approach?

There is no standard mantra for brand building:

The first aspect is to believe that Brand Building is much needed, as any other function of Finance, HR, Sales and Operation. This is first and foremost for an entrepreneur.

The second is to plan a budget regardless of any product, business or geography for Brand Building without this it is an expense of whim and fancy by the entrepreneur. 

The third is to allocate and commit to the budget across the mediums of print, social, events etc. This is thought just a start of the journey. Last but not least, is to hire an expert deploying the marketing budget – as it is not only the expense account but responsible for sales.

Last but not least, is to hire an expert to deploy the marketing budget – as it is not only the expense account but is also responsible for sales.

8. Anything else you want to say to marketeers and business owners about branding.

Branding is about investment, of as much importance as investment in plant and machinery. Branding when converges with accounts and finance on the balance sheet translates to goodwill. Investing in Branding is investing in the value of the Business.

 

One Response to “Interview with Business Growth Consultant – Heemanshu Ashar

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