Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cracking the ‘umbrella brand marketing’ conundrum

The riddle

Marketing is never a static field. There are always newer challenges, to take on. One of the greatest challenges in recent times of globalization is umbrella branding and driving the sales of individual products coming under the umbrella brand.

Let us say, the umbrella brand (like ‘Nirma’ or ‘Himalaya’ has in its portfolio a whole range of FMCG, cleaning products, wellness products, cosmetics and other products and services. Further, let us reiterate that this umbrella brand does not have sub-brands under it. So one can imagine that it can be quite a challenge to market and ramp up the sales of the individual products coming under the umbrella brand that too when they are of wide functional diversity.

So the conundrum: How does one strengthen the sales of individual products under an umbrella brand? It can be quite a marketing problem. Is there a solution for such a type of umbrella brand marketing? Let us try to crack this problem…

Umbrella branding

The concept of umbrella branding (or also called family branding) is common in the Far Eastern countries. For eg. LG is in to a wide array of white goods, electronic products and even healthcare products. Sony the Japanese master company has many products and so is Matshushita the huge conglomerate of electric and electronic products. Samsung is another ‘chaebol’ that is in to mobile, CDs etc. In recent times, we have seen how Bharti Telecom in India is slowly phasing out the Beetel brand name and investing heavily in to developing a single powerful family brand name - AIRTEL - for its wide range of telcom products and solutions.

Many entrepreneurs prefer family branding as it helps reduce advertising and marketing costs. The idea is that more products can be promoted efficiently with a single campaign. Further, it aids in markets that are in a constant state of flux due to changing technologies, product obsolescence, short product life cycles and fast new product launches. It is easier to convert prospects to customers, who trust and are familiar with an umbrella brand name.

The above points were in fact emphasized in the 2nd National FMCG conclave held in Nov 2003 at Mumbai. The high cost of advertising, the media fragmentation, and ad clutter makes umbrella branding a commonsensical approach. The best aspect of umbrella branding is that the ‘touch-points’ between the brand and customers increases. As the number of interactions between the brand and customers increases, one can reinforce brand values and transfer the goodwill to other products and categories.

One more brand name, in the Indian context, is in to this exciting umbrella branding concept. This brand extends from fluid power, soaps, baby care products, lighting, laptops, computers, software services, BPO, KPO...and no marks for guessing; you just have to ‘apply your mind’ (!) yes – the brand name is WIPRO (

One more Indian brand name has undertaken an exciting journey in to the complex world of umbrella branding; and it is doing this in bold red (!) – can I hear you say Cheers?! Yes, it is Kingfisher (o-la-la-o-le-lo) from a beer brand to a service brand – Mr. Mallya has undertaken a brave risk with his famous Kingfisher brand, which has now started flying high!

One more classical example of a globally successful umbrella brand is - Nike. The word NIKE conjures up a whole lot of images of a trendy and successful personality.

Kellogs from America is another umbrella brand that is battling its way in the marketplace with a range of food products. Maggi in India follows suit.

One of the greatest brand makeovers and umbrella brand marketing exercises undertaken in contemporary times, in India, is by the TATAs. Today Bombay House the famous HQ of the conglomerate TATA (that has 96 group companies in seven business sectors and contributes 2.8% of India’s GDP) is in the grip of intense corporate exercises to build the TATA umbrella or corporate brand ).

What has it got to do with the Indian pharma scene?

Oh! Plenty!! Indian companies with its unique blend of products and services in the healthcare sector get an enviable opportunity to bring in umbrella marketing strategies and thereby deliver better value to customers and to themselves.

For Indian wellness companies, LIFESTYLE MARKETING is the way for umbrella brands

A great way of strengthening umbrella brands is through LIFESTYLE MARKETING. Simply put, lifestyle marketing is having a promotional approach centered on the interests, values, attitudes and way of life of consumers/target group. The key words here are 'WAY OF LIFE' of prospects and customers. This would mean that the umbrella brand connects with the customers and the prospects ‘way-of-life’ and the products are promoted to fit in to the target market’s way of life. So the product(s) becomes a way of life.

In lifestyle marketing one categorizes customers based on their interests, activities and opinions. A classic example of lifestyle marketing is the HARLEY-DAVIDSON bike that has morphed in to cult marketing. Similarly Shahnaz Hussain and her array of beauty products are a way-of-life!

In fact, it was Alvin Toffler the thoughtleader and futurologist who had predicted way back in 1939 that there would be burst of ‘lifestyles’ and savvy marketers have latched on to this trend and piggybacked their products to major market successes.

Today some Indian pharma and wellness companies are on the doorstep of having a successful run in LIFESTYLE MARKETING. Wockhardt is one such company with its bouquet of pharma products & corporate hospitals that can with the help of a healthcare ecosystem create a WOCKHARDT LIFESTYLE MARKETING APPROACH. This would mean an exponential increase in the value of the brand – WOCKHARDT. Ozone is another company that can adopt such a path of 'lifestyle marketing.' The other companies that can tap in to lifestyle marketing for better business results include: Dabur, Baidyanath, Himalaya...

(Note the URL for the picture:

- Sunil S Chiplunkar, Marketing Manager, Zindel div. of Himalaya Drug Company, Bangalore. ph. 9980800023
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