Recently we saw the launch of Republic TV in India. A powerful media brand, crafted with passion by a media maverick Arnab Goswami and his team of true believers. Brand Republic TV has a strong Point of View. Mr Goswami believes in a new style of journalism- that of reflecting opinions of a young nation that wants to express itself like never before. His venture is also in a way challenging the status quo of the hegemony of Western World media behemoths like BBC and CNN. His vision is to see Republic TV as India's first truly global media network.
A media brand with a clear point of view will ensure that it is never ignored. Journalism used to be all about facts. But then facts become a commodity, a hygiene factor. Republic is a brand that goes beyond by providing a perspective to mere facts.
Republic TV is not disconnected to a world that is increasingly turning opinionated. A world where we see a new breed of revered opinion leaders rising. Yes, we are living in a highly opinionated world, that too a polarizing one. The world is facing an unprecedented level of dichotomy. People are clearly taking sides. Modern twitter wars capture this succinctly.
I will leave the whyness of all that is happening to the sociologists, psychologists and philosophers or to my future blog posts.
But given the state of the world, what does it imply for your brand ? For the sake of binary, I will offer you two perspectives. See if one of these fit-in with your worldview:
One is that of chaos. Agitated opinions lead to revolutions. Since a lot of change is happening around us for the good or the bad, people will look forward to seeking what they don't have- a coveted sense of certainty, a sense of neutrality and predictability and the bliss of not being judged.
Everyone around us has a strong opinion. Not necessarily a unique one, but almost always certainly a binary one. When everybody and his uncle is full of opinions, the last thing we need is our brands holding strong opinions, judging us, asking us to choose sides, preaching us or questioning the status quo.
In such a scenario, we'd imagine politically correct brands that stand on a firm ground, anchored in deep rooted values, not pivoting at the drop of a hat will hold in good stead. With too much change around, we would rather seek trust, familiarity, predictability and comfort zones.
And so the Big Brothers - these neutral, well oiled mega institutions and predictable brands should do better in an agitated unpredictable world. The belief that products should do the talking and a larger share of voice in promoting functionality and sheer size and strength of the company will do the trick. Microsoft, IBM, Reliance, Colgate Palmolive are just some of the names of large companies doing well.
The Bold, the Edgy and the Crazy ones (those round pegs in square holes) run the risk of freaking out people in an already chaotic world. Many new brands with a unique Point of View and highly opinionated stance have failed to find traction. Maybe it was about the products not living upto the brand philosophy or non branding related factors or culture not in sync with brand creed. Perhaps consumers are rewarding predictability in a world of chaos.
Perhaps, it is a case of too much of a thing.
Perhaps, Republic TV should also fail in this context.
The other perspective is that of Boredom. Brands with no opinion are bland and an instant turn off for a generation that feeds on opinions. So if they are not big enough to start with, they run the risk of not getting noticed. At all. Paradoxically, the safety net itself becomes the risk because don't we all know that 'Change is the only constant'.
Brands should merely reflect the world reality. A brand is nothing but a haiku of the world we live in. A snapshot that captures the essence of who we really are as a consuming society.And the world we live in is a highly opinionated one.
Brands with strong opinions merely reflect this reality.
We chose brands like we chose people. We seek authenticity even if it is lopsided with imperfections and bias. We generally dislike people who are plastic or too diplomatic. And we love to take sides. Even if it is polarizing. There are a lot of examples of highly opinionated brands doing remarkably well in the past - Virgin, Apple, Benneton, Harley Davidson, Red Bull, Old Navy, Tata Tea, Tesla, Dove, RyanAir and many more. Most of them never budged from the belief of having a unique Point of View and taking a stance. These brands were consistently built over a period of time and not an overnight success. Good branding requires unshakeable belief, consistent action, organisational alignment around that idea and dogged coherence. Branding is unapologetically and consistently speaking out your Point Of View.
A brand without opinions is a commodity. Because a 'brand' by definition itself is to be different and to have a unique Point Of View. A plain vapid brand that has no opinion is like your new smartphone's keyboard, but with no emoticons. Über uncool in a socially expressive era !
So to be or not to be?
Choose either of the two perspectives and you can still build a powerful and a winning brand if you truly believe in it. And if you disagree with both, I am happy. Your disagreement simply represents the light at the end of this dichotomous tunnel- 'the third path'. Nothing is lost.
In fact, like Mr Arnab Goswami likes to say- the game begins now.