Branding Lessons from Indian Mythology

Branding in post-modern parlance is perhaps even more about the image and public perception of products or services or personalities than the inherent quality of those products or services or personalities. Brands promise uniform and consistent quality and should ideally exude a certain degree of credibility and influence, especially among its consumers and potential consumers (in the case of personalities read fans and admirers), over a certain area of geography (the influence of a brand can be at global, national and local level).

One of the important essential features of branding of a product, service or personality is its positioning in the market, which is often based on its unique selling proposition. Branding may seem to be a modern marketing exercise invented and sharpened in the last century, but it is not so. With some careful observation, we can derive some interesting branding lessons from our ancient mythologies, many of whose universal appeal have transcended millennia. 

In Indian mythology we have seen that many Gods and Goddess have their unique strengths which are being highlighted in texts. Like unique selling propositions in modern day branding, we can say that many of our Gods and Goddesses in our mythology have unique attribute/s; their unique strength/s which is/are the pivotal part of their appeal among their devotees. 

For example, Laxmi is the Goddess of wealth who bring us prosperity and Lord Ganesha is supposed to remove all obstacles from our path. We do not pray Ganesha for rain, for that we take refuge in Varuna. This branding makes the deities in our mythologies more relatable to us; more comfortable to our limited sensibilities which like to put everything in boxes.

Merging of identities to cater to a more specific market is also part of modern day branding exercise. For example, Apple’s iPod and iPhone cover the markets of music and telephony with merging of identities. 

A similar parallel can be seen in our mythology where Vishnu took the avatar of Narasimha (his fourth incarnation) of half man half lion to slay the demon King Hiranyakashipu, who otherwise would not have been defeated as he was shielded by the boon that no man or animal could kill him; he could not die in daytime or night; he could not die in ground or sky or inside or outside a residence. 

Thus Vishnu had to merge the identity of man and animal and killed him in twilight at the threshold of Hiranyakashipu’s house by putting him on his lap and tearing him apart. The modern-day marketing gurus should take inspiration from this mythological tale and if need be create an innovative branding exercise by merging different product attributes to crack a seemingly impossible market.

 The timing and place were very important in Narsimha’s case regarding which marketing personnel thinking of launching a brand should take inspiration. The timing of the launch of the brand also often contributes to its success (for example launching of a top-class cold beverage in chilly December would not have the same effect as it would have if is being launched in the midst of scorching summer) as does its place(no fun launching of a high-end fashion brand in a small town with modest incomes) and like Narasimha, brands must make entry at the right time and right place to have the maximum impact in its desired market niche.

Besides brand positioning brand identity is also very important for developing an instant connect with the audience. Name, logo, colour and tagline are the most important features of brand identity. From our Gods and Goddesses from mythology we can see how many of them have a particular identity in the form of given weapon or vahana (for example owl is the vahana of Laxmi, hamsa is the vahana of Saraswati, Shiva is identified with his trident and snake encircling his neck, etc.), which contributes to our instant recognition of them.

From the tale of Samudra Manthan an integral part of Indian mythology, we can gauge that just like there was no amrit (the sweet nectar of immortality) without the massive exercise of churning of ocean of milk we cannot arrive at the enduring popularity of the brand without the churning of our established notions and ideas from time to time. 

In an evolving universe, being static would not give your brand its desired enduring appeal. Change is the amrit that gives brand a long life and true change in most cases comes through churning of the established notions with the new ones.

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