Great brands sell and sell, and win: Vinita Bali

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Vinita Bali

Vinita Bali, Managing Director, Britannia Industries Limited

In a talk with Srabana Lahiri of Impact magazine, a weekly media, marketing & advertising magazine from the exchange4media Group, which celebrated its 8th aniversary issue lately, Vinita Bali, Managing Director, Britannia Industries Limited, tells what it takes to make great brands.

“I’ve had wonderful experiences with all brands – Coke, Cadbury, Britannia – they’ve all been great and I’ve been fortunate to work on some of the greatest brands in the world. I learnt a lot about business from these brands. My fundamental premise is that you can have a brand without a profitable business, but you cannot have a profitable business without a brand.

“This January, two events – one, Kodak filing for bankruptcy protection and two, Apple overtaking Exxon as the most valuable brand in the world – got me thinking about brand valuation. What makes a great brand? Great brands simply sell and sell repeatedly and win all the time. Towards that end, a marketing person’s job is to build value for the brand. If the brand is visible but not building a sustainable business, not supported by profits, then it is no use, as in the case of Kingfisher.

“It is essential to spot the opportunity and take advantage of it to build a great, profitable brand. Ever since the Wright brothers flew a plane, no airline company had made a profit. The way South-West Airlines differentiated itself and the business model it built made it the first big brand among airlines. Howard Schultz spotted an opportunity in the decline of home coffee consumption in America. He turned it on its head by creating a ‘coffee experience’ – coffee at a third place, Starbucks, beyond the coffee everyone usually had at home or at work. He charged $3 for a cup, but people didn’t mind the pricing, and lined up even before the stores opened, building a successful brand. Great brands end up becoming icons as brands as well as great businesses.

“While the task of marketing earlier was to build brand equity, today it is all about converting it to sale. Marketing is how you manage the marketplace, how you build the business for a brand.”

(More inputs from Vinita Bali’s presentation at the 12th CII Marketing Summit, Mumbai)

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Neeta Nair

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