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Brands and Bad Times

Ramesh Jude Thomas,
President & CKO EQUiTOR Management Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

The biggest analysts and pundits could not see a 20k market could go into free fall. No one imagined that some of the most revered names in the financial world would disappear overnight. And then I saw the darnedest sight: An ad for Merrill Lynch in The Economist. Were these guys completely cuckoo? Consider this. The Bank of America paid $ 50 bn for this company with one leg in the grave. What were they thinking? To answer that we need to ask why the really smart guys retain their marketing budgets in bad times? 1. In a downturn most companies will slash their marketing spends. The entire expenditure in the category falls. Guess what? The guy who retains his marketing spends suddenly has a much higher share of voice. When there is less noise in the market, you can only sound louder. 2. When the media market shrinks, deals abound. You end up getting much better value for the same budgets. 3. Your confidence infects the entire eco system. The trade pushes your product harder. 4. Finally, when things turn around, folks will always remember the good stuff that they used in bad times. When 9.11 happened, most airlines were dead certain that the world will stop flying from 12th September. In the face of this gloom, a certain Mr. Ahmed Makhtoom ordered $ 26bn worth of aircrafts and kept advertising. Emirates haven’t seen a drop of red ink since then. How many airlines can claim a similar record. Apple has not cut back a penny from their original plans or got rid of a single person in an economy that shed over a million jobs by the close of last year. In November this year, Bharti unveiled a 15 crore logo to reflect its $10bn ambitions. Are these guys gamblers? Or just fool-hardy fruitcakes with king-sized egos? If you go a little below the surface some interesting threads begin to show up: Great confidence in their reading of the market, a very well thought out, distinctive offering and an almost arrogant sense of conviction. But what really separates the men from the boys is a management which seriously believes that their brands are real business assets. If you were certain that over half the value of your business exists only because own the word COKE or INTEL or DISNEY, would you starve it? The moral of the story is that sound offerings with quality leadership will always back themselves to win under any conditions. At the worst of times, enough people have to fly, borrow capital, stay in hotels, and buy a meal. The million dollar question is will it be your meal or capital that these folks will buy.


Frankie said...

I agree with your view point that in a quiet market,those with the confidence in their brands and in themselves will make the most noise and get away too.
But they are also open to a greater scrutiny in detail about the sounds they are making ,and also are rowing against the wave of popular sentiment.
They also tend to get a bigger piece of the pie and mindspace for a long time to come.