One of the principles of yoga may well be to stretch but does that apply equally to the practice of branding ? Baba Ramdev might be a brand that has reached the end of its elasticity. After all, brands are not infinitely elastic.
Patanjali’s core competence of being Indian and ayurvedic augurs quite well for the their current repertoire of brands like ghee, shampoo, soaps, noodles and other fmcg, which fit the mould of a ayurvedic healthcare brand. But what relevance does fashion, have to the Patanjali core of health and ayurveda? The Indian, Ayurvedic, health position works quite well for packaged goods ably supported by the yogic credentials of Ramdev which goes hand in hand with strengthening the core promise of Patanjali. But what does that have to do with fashion and particularly an essentially Western form of clothing like jeans and other clothes is particularly confusing.
How much can a Brand Stretch?
The debate on brand extensions and whether it will be a failure or success has engaged marketers and academics alike for the last many decades. Having lived and worked in North East Asia, the traditional Western model of brand extension theory we all know does not hold. After all which theorist would have said that a shipbuilding brand would produce the one of world’s most popular car brands in Hyundai. Not forgetting that if we assume that Hyundai’s main competence is engineering, the extension from ships to cars seem less unusual. Or that a well known consumer durables like LG could also produce a shampoo successfully? But having said that there are limits to a brand stretching beyond its core competence.
Harley Davidson Over-Extended
While motorbike apparel and ornaments probably matched the Harley Davidson cult heritage brand, the company had lost focus. In the 1990s, it extended the brand too far. It introduced products like wine coolers, aftershave and perfumes. I guess its important to understand that every brand has its stretch limit, even a great cult brand like Harley. For example Harley Davidson found its stretch limit when it introduced a perfume. For most people the only smells associated with the Harley brand were sweat and petrol, so I am not surprised the Harley perfume failed.
Jeans for example are an enviable cocktail of style and culture. As the Levis Aspiration statement says :
We are honored to have clothed generations of individuals, leaders, thinkers and doers. Here at Levi Strauss & Co., we’re guided by our values: empathy, originality, integrity and courage. With them in mind, we constantly strive to build a culture just as inspiring as the people who wear our jeans.
Joey Ng VP of Marketing for Output says “Branding in fashion is key to helping the customer solve the problem of expressing their individuality within the context of assumed dress codes. If you can’t communicate who you are as a brand and the type of person who would identify with your core values and aesthetic, then you won’t be able to sell it to them.”
The real question is whether wearing a brand called Paridhan is something people would like to show off as a label. For a fashion brand to succeed, the wearer must feel that the brand is an extension of himself or herself. Naturally given the nature of the brand it would focus on the middle class and the price range is Rs 669-Rs 1499 comparable with other middle class brands. Their position Taan Maan Dhan Indiapan, re-iterates Indianness and the wave of nationalism in the country in recent times. But whether it can become a fashion trend needs to be seen.
While the aspiration to be swadeshi is admirable, one is not sure whether swadeshi is a position of bravado of being anti-multinational or it is an actual target segment with its own beliefs in India. If it is bravado, Patanjali is unlikely to succeed. If swadeshi is a movement that also includes fashion, which is a representation of style and culture which has not outlived its time, and represents a large part of India’s population, it’s possible that Patanjali Paridhan could be a great success.
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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.