Our guest author Madhumita Mukherjee says consumers are not always looking for a familiar brand, sometimes they are open to taking risks and trying something new.

The recent furore about Ranveer Singh’s controversial photoshoot has become a national obsession, with passionate feuds between his advocates and critics on news channels, an overload of memes and an overdose of Twitter chatter.  I could not see what the fuss was all about because models/actors going au naturel for aesthetic expression or cheap publicity (depending on your political views or moral bias ) is yesterday’s news even in our Sanskari Bharat.  (Remember Milind Soman/Madhu Sapre baring it all with their reptile friend for that ad for Tuff shoes and the sundry Indian spinoffs of the legendary Playboy centrespread?). But what is interesting is that the current furore sums up an approach to risk-taking in life.

It’s an approach which is  aptly summed up by that now ancient brand slogan that’s become part of our cultural lexicon: Nike’s ‘Just do it.’ For, in the words of another business behemoth of our times, Mark Zuckerberg ‘The biggest risk is really not taking any risks at all in a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.’ 

Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor are both powerhouses of talent, each with a huge fan following. But what is interesting is that the public persona of these celebrities is symbolic of a larger reality of the marketplace, the reality of the classical and the challenger school of brand building. In general, the classical school is the natural outcome of a solid reputation of excellence and customer satisfaction that comes with venerable companies like HUL, Procter & Gamble or Dabur. 

So we as customers pick up a brand like Surf or Lux or Pepsodent with our eyes closed. But consider this, for every one of these classical brands there are new names that have no heritage of owning the shop shelves as much as customers’ minds but they often end up giving the classical brands a run for their money. That’s because consumers are not always going for an established brand with their eyes closed. Sometimes they are opening their eyes and looking out for something new and different, in the total product offering, something that stimulates them to experiment and re-look at their choices while browsing through the brick and mortar store or an online shopping platform. After all, it is the age of choices and the consumer never had it so good with their shopping cart.

In my years as an advertising professional of mega network agencies, I had the opportunity to manage accounts of some of the best-known classical brands across product categories, simply because these brands were traditionally aligned with the global headquarters of my organization. But today, after several decades of working with established marketing strategies preferred by these undoubtedly very successful brands, I have joined the fast emerging tribe of entrepreneurs dedicated to brand building of a different kind.

I have come to lean on the sort of brand-building philosophy that draws inspiration from organisations daring to do things differently, to create a brand essence that powers intrinsic quality and exciting innovations with the guts to step out of the beaten track, take risks, create disruptions and most importantly, start a conversation among its primary target audiences. 

Today more than any time before, the consumer is ready to be surprised. The point is that there is a fine line between the emotion of surprise and shock. And we don’t know what it’s going to be till we take the risk. Not an easy decision for emerging brands straddled with market uncertainties, a fickle customer base and budget constraints. But then taking risks and being ready for any fallout is what makes brand building exciting in these fiercely competitive times. Ask Ranveer Singh!

Madhumita Mukherjee is managing director and partner at THE CO., a creative agency based out of Mumbai. THE CO. is a member agency of afaqs! marketplace.