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Floating your (Paper) Boat

Kite-flying, like brand management, is exhilarating. Few remember the battles lost and won after a point; only how it feels when your kite is up in the clouds, among many others, adding colour to the skies, and you are the pilot on the ground, floating your (paper)boat

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Brand management can take inspiration from slices of a wide array of life. One of the home-grown childhood activities we may have indulged in — kite-flying — offers abundant metaphoric perspectives for brand-warfare.

Startup planning, working capital and inventory management: Before contemplating on a kite-flying session in days of yore, we first need to figure out our pocket money balances, or emotionally entice a favourite grandmother or a loaded uncle to fund some ‘manjha (string)-and-kite’ money for a good cause. We then trek to the nearest kite shop to procure the sharpest or strongest string that ever was wound around a ‘latai’ (spindle), and an opening stock of kites of preferred colour, design and quality. The number of kites one invested in depended on one’s degree of optimism ... the approach of a confident marauder dictates lesser number of kites and more focus on the string’s competitive edge.

Choice of partners in your eco-system: Who would be partnering, advising or encouraging you in your adventure? Who could provide the lift? Who would steadfastly anchor the spindle beside you? Who would sound the cry of victory: “bhokatta!” — when you slice through competition’s lifeline? The anticipated enjoyment of the entire experience is determined by this.

Choosing the battleground: The terrain on which you choose to do battle with other kite-flyers determine who you were willing to compete with. Traditional rivals mean higher stakes. In your own familiar home turf, you select a perch you know works for you. You predict the usual direction of the wind, the likely obstacles or impediments to a smooth and steady flight path.  But in an ‘away match’, the variables are less under control, and quick learnings need to be translated into tactics.

Harnessing winning strategies: The key expertise of a kite-flyer is the ability to fly against the wind, and to use tugs, pulls and loosening of strings to allow the kite to access height and direction. Rough and ready flyers tend to engage and pull from below and challenge leaders hoisted above. Such challengers underestimate the tensile strength of a leader. No “Ulta-pull-ta” is able to cut its cord.

Finding the chink: Sometimes, a leader reveals his Achilles’ heel. Buried in a high-flyer’s usually well-heeled spindle is a segment of decadent string that may, when entangled with an adversary’s extra edge, succumb to attack. This is what every challenger hopes for and a leader must be aware of.

Bearing the pain: Any kite-flyer who calls himself a ‘pro’ knows that if you use the edgiest of strings you have also to be ready to have the glass pierce through the skin of your finger. One must prepare to be hurt when planning on inflicting pain on others.

Letting go: When you have the elevation and are feeling strong, there are a dozen others seeking to pull you down. When they cross your path, believe in your own strength and steadfast resolve... engage with their string and let yourself go. You don’t need to pull any strings ... “Jaane do man!”

Experiencing  joy: Kite-flying, like brand management, is exhilarating. Few remember the battles lost and won after a point; only how it feels when your kite is up in the clouds, among many others, adding colour to the skies, and you are the pilot on the ground, floating your (paper)boat.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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magazine 11 November 2017 branding brand management

Indranil Gupta

The author is Founder Director & Chief Executive Officer of BrandNEW Associates Private Limited

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