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A driving force:
The future of branding in India

Anthony Lopez shares his views on the expansive role of identity & branding and the greater onus on the Indian designer. 

SSK: Do you see a change in branding with the incentive for ‘Make in India’?

AL: There has been a constant shift in how companies brand in context to their audience. Today, brands are increasingly looking to be truthful to who they are by being authentic. This attitude will result in a stronger bond with their audience. On the consumer front, it is the age of ‘YOU’, where everything is about personalised products and services. Brands today track data and through intelligence pick up information about their consumer behaviour at a faster rate and channel targeted communication, constantly learning on the go. It is like one big loop from the good old days of the pre-industrial era where customization was the norm – to the present age where technology is enabling a similar service on a mass scale.

 

SSK: Is there a perceptible shift in the way consumers look at branding – are people becoming more conscious of branding as a way of taking forward an idea in many spheres – politics and social causes other than for commercial brands?

AL: If we dissect branding into basic parts – the strategic and the tactical, our observations tell us, in most cases there is a mismatch between who brands truly are and how they project themselves. Like in every field, there are people who seek to be honest while others will use branding for tactical purpose. The mammoth exercise of eradicating Polio was successful on many fronts – it drove away polio from India. Government of India, UNICEF, and WHO were the main three arms. This was a huge exercise with many agencies and field workers working in tandem on the ground. It was also a long-term activity, through the campaign was marvelously consistent. Branding creates the aura and a purpose to do but it has to go hand in hand with many other parameters like language, cultural & religious diversity and reach. Everything has to be in place. Of course, a lot of credit needs to be given to good branding as this brought out the campaign to the forefront. The entire team worked in tandem over many years, like soldiers at war with a single purpose.


Do Boondh Zindagi Ki – Pulse Polio campaign
(Source image from “India’s story of triumph over Polio” book designed by Lopez Design)

 

SSK: It is apparent that branding has actually seen a shift in expectancy in what it can achieve. As a firm, how do you see new opportunities in branding and its extended requirements?

AL: The expectancy is constantly rising along with mechanisms to deliver the same; there is probably going to be no ceiling on expectancy and service to match it.

As design is mostly about long term investments, we see tremendous opportunities to come in as strategic thinkers and also as agents in a transformative process continuing as partners in the ever-evolving market. We currently see a lot of attention being given by large corporations and institutions towards non-traditional and non proven ways to connect with their people like targeted social media, environment branding and personalised experiences. While in the mid and small scale sector, we find businesses are concentrating on how to focus on their market, customize and build on reputation.

We also see better integration between long term strategic goals of a brand and that of short term tactical action. These will largely get resolved by brand managers playing a significant role along with the marketing wing.

 

SSK: If Lopez Design looks at their own growth, do you find that earlier you were less conscious about cultural context and more interested in delivering ‘good’ design while today, the need to identify ‘being Indian’ with Indian brands is imperative?

AL: The statement we now believe at Lopez Design is “The why of what we do is more important than what we do.” We were always big on the quality and craft of our delivery and known for unique and beautiful things. This made a tangible difference for the client. Soon, we realized that along with making something beautiful, we also needed to make meaningful solutions that resonate with people and their culture. We found a deep need to relate to who we are as people: Indians – each aspiring and confident of their identity.

And the moment we started studying culture, it opened up a whole new world for us. It’s now almost four years since and this understanding has enriched us, helping us create more credible communication and branding programs for our clients.  

 

SSK: Do you see a more responsible branding coming out in the future, to be truthful to the product or can branding continue to be the driver of fortunes without this accountability?

AL: The notion of brand building is akin to this kind of slogan chanting with tag lines for many years. Nothing is going to materialize unless the commissioner is equipped to engage with a more responsible outlook. With the growing economy, we see rapid changes in the way our clients want to grow their business – the aspects of being right and being accountable is paramount for most businesses – a paradigm shift from yester years.

For a long time in India, after 200 years of British rule, the only thing we could think of us was looking to the west, influenced by the US and UK. The huge influence of the west continues to subliminally influence us in design as in everything else. On the other hand, India’s growth story is now giving us the impetus to say “I am who I am”. We need to take account of all this with mature perspectives. Going back 2000 years is not going to help for today. It is important for us to talk about what we have become and what it is we need to create our authentic identity. With what is happening now in India and the opportunities it unfolds, we as designers are currently in positioned in taking this in the right direction benefiting, nation, commerce and the people.

 

SSK: How do you see Lopez Design as a firm finding its place in the current scenario ?

AL: Very little has been done in India in context to branding in its true sense. We see that as tremendous opportunity and through research, we are constantly creating platforms to rise to these challenges. The fact is – we are voicing it today along with many others. As a forward looking body for design in India, there is no bench mark; it will create its own mark. At the beginning of any movement, there is nothing from before to tell us that this is the right way to do it.  As a studio we are really excited as there is a opportunistic world opening up to ‘design for India’.

Interview by Sujatha Shankar Kumar
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