Campaign India's Arati Rao caught up with Craig Branigan, chairman of Landor Associates and chair and chief executive officer of the B to D Group, during his trip to Mumbai on January 17, 2011. As per Branigan, the purpose of the trip wasn’t for any key announcements, but to catch up with the agency’s clients in what he termed “a key growth market”, as well as to gain a better understanding of the market. He explained how important India was to Landor globally, and spoke about trends in the branding space that he looks forward to in 2011.
Where does India fit into the Landor scenario?
I think you have to look at it in two ways. In terms of size, it’s not that important yet; in terms of potential, it’s very important. We have a team of 10 on ground in India; I think globally we have close to a thousand people. However, we’re looking to potentially double the business here this year, and we’re going to grow in single digits globally. So, that just shows you, Landor India is small at the moment but it’s going to be more and more a part of the overall Landor volumes.
What is exciting about the Indian opportunity?
First of all, more and more clients are understanding the value of what we do. I think they have some pretty audacious plans for growth, and so I think they’re willing to bring in companies like Landor to come and execute those plans. A lot of these brands have been pretty basic, if you will, and they aren’t as sophisticated as they could be. But now, working with companies like ourselves, they’re looking at it not just from a local market basis, but from a global one. For us, the impact of what we do on our clients’ business is very powerful. We’ve talked about “business transformation” for a long time. To be honest, some projects aren’t really about that, because they’re not big things, they may be smaller. But then, you have a Taj where you work with them on their brand architecture, you segment the hotels into four different categories, and you work with the client to get them to agree on that, and all of a sudden you have a huge impact on their strategy going forward. That kind of project or assignment is transformational for them and us.
I came across an old interview of yours regarding Chinese companies, where you said that they should portray an image based on what makes them successful in their own market. What’s your perspective on Indian companies retaining their ‘Indian-ness’ in terms of branding, particularly when they go global?
My sense (and this isn't a fact) is that the Indian companies have and probably will retain their heritage more than perhaps in China. I think for both markets it’s early days, but I think the culture and traditions here and the essence of what companies have done here is strong, and still resonates globally. So, there will be a lot of carry-over; while they will be trying to strike a balance between Westernising and retaining their heritage. That doesn’t mean Chinese companies won’t do the same, but I feel Indian companies may rely more on their heritage than they do.
What about the flip side, when international brands (like a Starbucks) plan to come to India? Should they Indian-ise a bit?
The answer is Yes and No. Companies coming into India are going to do their homework, they’re going to make sure they know who they’re trying to reach and what the message is going to be. When clients look at India, they look at a certain segment of the population, and if you compare that segment to what they’re like in the USA or Europe, there are huge similarities. They pick and choose their target, they’ll obviously choose one that has the spending power to buy the products and services they’re trying to sell, and that is going to be receptive to what they stand for; they’re not going to change what they stand for on a global basis to go into a specific market. They could tweak it, but they’re not going to change it.
What were the highlights of 2010 for you, across offices?
The Taj work comes to mind as one of the major projects that was good. We do a lot of work with P&G, so there was a lot of good work across their different product lines. We did work with Verizon out of New York, which was in the whole sustainability area – trying to redesign their packaging, so they use less materials and are more environmentally friendly, which is a trend I think we’ll see more of.
Besides sustainability, what else excites you about 2011 for Landor globally and in branding and design as well?
I think getting the economy back on track globally is exciting. The last couple of years have been pretty tough. India only hiccupped a little bit, but the rest of the world really had a pause. We’re seeing some signs that clients are looking to get back on track, and re-invest in the assignments and projects that perhaps they put on hold. I think that innovation is another area that they’re going to focus on and we do a fair amount of work in that area. Another area we’re doing more work on is brand engagement, which is where we do a branding project which has to be carried down to the employee level, otherwise a lot of the work that you did is for naught. That’s very different from the old days where you used to have a branding project, and you’d have a big launch party and that was it. Today, the launch party is just the beginning, and what you need to do is make sure that six months later, everyone at the launch party not only knows the slides, but feels it in their hearts and minds.
Another area is of course digital. It’s there anyway, but it will go more and more into all the different media opportunities and media types. In the old days, the business card was the brand, and it’s a lot more than that today - it’s a dynamic and scary space, but it’s exciting too.