The 'parent' takes over at Mahindra Group

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 28, 2013 05:31 hrs

Namita plans to stop by for a business meeting at Tech Mahindra, but not before a detour to check out Quanto, the new car at the Mahindra car showroom, on her way to work. Both belong to the same parent group of companies, the Mahindra Group (Mahindra), but until now there were no overt reminders when she visited Mahindra's various outfits.

They sported different logos,for example, much like different brand languages. But now she will run into common themes whenever she steps into a Mahindra-related customer outlet. Complete with visual cues and paring down of brand-names, Mahindra has enunciated a brand architecture that was initiated in 2011.

In the wake of its many launches and acquisitions with which the group had painted the town red, unifying its companies was high on the priority list. It first went to work on its employees, espousing three tenets as Rise', geared to egg them on for ethical growth. With 18 businesses and over 120 subsidiaries, it needed more than just the India-growth story to motivate its 155,000-strong workforce, comprising thousands of expats and foreigners, apart from Indians.

While Rise was to unite the internal audience, Mahindra's external identity had to be made scale-and future-proof. The mark of a successful global brand has often been a consistent portrayal of its brand and in a way that is relevant to the audience.

The start was the visual wordmark of the name Mahindra, which is the parent, corporate brand. There were intrinsic heritage values that the group was unwilling to let go off, yet wanted a modern take.

S P Shukla, President, group strategy and chief brand officer, Mahindra Group and member of the group executive board, says, "It was time to capture the evolving nature of the group in the visual identity. The heritage attributes of the brand according to research were found as reliable, trustworthy, warm, caring and solid which we wanted to retain. But entry into new sectors meant that the look connote global, modern and technology-oriented too. The attributes of the Rise philosophy were further additions." The options from Landor, which helped it with its brand architecture, were debated and surveys by Millward Brown done on the attributes.

The new wordmark to declare the group's name, which is in a darker shade of the earlier Mahindra red, has a sans serif font and smart, slanted lines. The erstwhile millennium mark will now be used only as a mobility product badge, because it is most often associated with automobiles. For every other business, there is a new symbol in the form of a ridge' or a slanted slab of colour below the wordmark to signify aspirations and growth.

From stationary, photographs, ads to retail outlets - they will all reflect the change. It will bring in a sense of familiarity and recognition. B Karthik, senior general manager, corporate brand management says, "Rise was about harmonising our approach to work, this is to create an experience for our customer whether they are buying a car, striking a business deal, shopping or going on a holiday, that they can own." Consumers might also be able to associate common qualities when they move across different Mahindra offerings.

Mahindra is especially hoping the premiumisation of some of its brands' portfolio such as in automobiles (with the Rexton) will receive a boost.

However, guiding the use of the corporate brand across the 18 sectors and over 50 brands, will be the brand architecture. The businesses have been classified as mobility, non-mobility customer businesses and B2B companies. A thinner line on top of the ridge will be of a particular colour, depending upon which business is in focus. For example, the blue of the oceans and the sky will signify Holidays, the green of eco-friendliness will signify Lifespaces.

Shukla says, "Brand architecture helps in adding new brands and businesses in the future in an efficient way." For Mahindra the acquisitions, organic growth and geographic expansions in the last 10 years had led to a federal structure, with empowered vertical heads and boards of listed entities, but with many legacy brands.

As a corporate brand, the word Mahindra can be used across businessesto ensure consistency.

The mobility business, from two-wheelers to aeroplanes, will use Mahindra as a product brand, such as a Mahindra Quanto. Most others would be standalone product brands which may or may not be endorsed by the holding company (that will be bearing the Mahindra name). Club Mahindra, remains a non-mobility product (from Mahindra Holiday and Resorts) that still uses the Mahindra name, which is being debated. Mahindra's two IT services companies will have eponymous service products. Mom&Me will be endorsed by Mahindra Retail, as it has to create its own emotional recall among an audience who are different from that of most of Mahindra's businesses - women.

Lulu Raghavan who heads the India office of Landor had pointed out earlier, "At the end of the day, resources will be limited so the brand has to be used without stretching it too thin. Because the relationship of the brand with the business will ultimately create the perception the consumer has of the product." Not just resources such as advertising moneys which can now be better assigned, but brand architecture can also help pinpoint opportunities and risks in investing in the different sub-brands.

But unifying brand interactions could run the risk of a bad experience rubbing off on the others. Raghavan says the benefits outweigh the pitfalls: "The identity of a strong brand is in how its characteristics are reflected in every aspect. Even FMCG companies are now underlining the parent brand more strongly than banking on just product brands as earlier. At the most, the different Mahindra companies will now have to be careful in their shared brand responsibilities."

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