1. In your own words, how do you describe a `hot’ brand?

I’d say a hot brand understands the difference between a fad and being a part of culture, and makes itself relevant in the Here and Now, as well as a part of people’s lives in a meaningful way. Meaningful doesn’t mean serious—could be entertaining, like Brand Kapil Sharma, could be a stead beacon, a democratiser like Micromax, a game-changer like Flipkart, and so on.

2. What can be few steps taken by brand owners to keep their brand stay top in their customers’ mind?

I think that’s the wrong way to approach it. Consumers don’t think of themselves as consumers. They are people, with lives to live and things to get done, and dreams to realise, and emotions to live through. And brands are not anywhere the top of their mind most of the time. Except perhaps if you’re a Google in a connected world, or an India Post, in a world that still connects the old way. Then you’re the go-to brand that’s top of mind because they have everyday, every-moment relevance in living life and getting things done. That’s the long and short of it—create relevance in the Here and Now, on an ongoing basis. It’s always been the best way to keep brands top of their customers’ minds.

3. How do you suggest that one can maintain a balance between planning for the future of your brand and investing for today?

There is a remote tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico called the Raramuri. And they play a game that involves running long distances (upto 100 miles in a day), kicking and passing a ball between their teammates. It’s kind of like football meeting ultra marathons, and the game is called Rarajipara, or the Game of Life. They call it that because they believe it’s just like life: you can’t control it, but you can adjust to it. I bring that up to drive home the point about trying to attain this balance between the future and the present for brands. You can plan for the future, but you will have to adjust for the Here and Now.

4. New Rules of Engagement: Changing Expectations of Brand+Customer Interactions, your view?

For a world that is constantly networked, and is always on, brands have to be always on, and always on song. Choice, heightened expectations and what I call the Infidelity Infection has crossed the inflection point. As a species, humans were not created to be monogamous / monoandrous. To expect fidelity to brands is to live in a fool’s paradise. As John Steinbeck once wrote, the surest way to be wrong in marriage is to believe you control it. Similarly with brands, the surest way to build the brand is to continue to believe that marketing can control the contours of the brand. Consumers always have, and now do so even more assuredly. Yielding to this reality and enabling rich and mutually beneficial interactions is the best way to engage with people.

5. Any brand experience recently that wowed you?

I’ve just returned from a week in the Andamans on a holiday organised by a company I’d never heard of called Barefoot Holidays. The consistency and excellence of the brand experience from booking to transit to hospitality truly wowed me. Every single person connected with it reinforced and heightened the wow factor throughout.

Profile: Narayan Devanathan is Executive Vice President / National Planning Director at Dentsu India Group. Based out of the Group’s Headquarters in Gurgaon, he is a key member of the leadership team at Dentsu India Group. His primary responsibilities involve leading strategic planning for current and prospective clients across Dentsu’s offices in India, and driving a unique integrated offering across the group’s companies including Taproot and Webchutney.

Prior to Dentsu, Narayan was Chief Strategy Officer, Euro RSCG (now Havas Worldwide) India. Prior to Euro, Narayan was Senior Planning Director at Ogilvy & Mather India. He has also worked with US based Cramer-Krasselt and Admerasia, New York.

A graduate in Biology, this seasoned but eternally curious strategic planner and ex-copywriter has, over the years, earned three Master’s degrees – in marketing, mass communications and advertising.

Narayan Devanathan is also a part of the jury at the Delhi Brand Summit.


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