Bhagavad-Gita : A Spiritual Source to Brand Developing

Dr. Sanjay Singh Baghel*

The main motive of advertising any product and company is to develop brand and its brand equity. Building a brand about any product is a lifelong commitment and continuous performance to change the mindset of consumer. It takes time, preparation and determination to produce intangible outputs which includes greater customer satisfaction to develop a kind of loyalty by which you can win in the consumer market. This loyalty comes from sensitivity and selfness. Devdutt Patnaik narrates a story from the Bhagvat-Gita: “The Kaurava’s leader Dhuryodana went to the city of Dwarka for taking Krishna’s support in the battle that was to be fought against the Pandava’s. But he found Krishna asleep. So, he sat close to the head of Krishna’s bed, waiting for Krishna to wake up. Arjuna, the Pandava’s, also arrived there soon after, and finding Krishna’s asleep, he too waited for Krishna to wake up. But he chose to sit at the feet of Krishna’s bed. When he woke up he saw Arjuna and asked “What do you want”? “Hold on”, thundered Dhuryodhana, fearing that Arjuna would ask for what he had come to Dwarka for. “I came here before Arjuna, so you must ask me that question first. “Maybe you did”, Krishna said sweetly. “Nevertheless, I will ask Arjuna the question, because when I woke up I first opened my eyes on him. You should have had the humility or the intelligence to sit at my feet if you sought favors from me. But do not fear, you too shall leave with what you desire”. Then turning to Arjuna, Krishna asked “What do you want, my army or me?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Arjuna replied “you Krishna, only you”. Duryodhana heaved an audible sigh of relief for he had come to Dwarka wanting Krishna’s army and as Krishna promised, he got what he desired (Devdutt Patnaik, CD, ET, 2008).

As everybody knows, in the end Duryodhana lost the battle even though he had eleven armies on his side. The Pandava’s only had seven, but with Krishna on their side, they also had intellectual capital that allowed them to skillfully maneuver their limited material resources, so as to obtain maximum and definitive results (Devdutt Patnaik, CD, ET, 2008).

What is Brand

A brand is a distinguishing name and/or symbol (such as logo, trademark, or package design) intended to identify the goods or services of either one seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those goods or services from those of competitors. A brand thus signals to the customer the source of the product, and protects both the customer and the producer from competitors who would attempt to provide products that appear to be identical (Aaker, 1991). Brands provide the basis upon which consumers can identify and bond with a product and service or a group of products or services (Weilbacher, 1995). From the customer’s point of view, a brand can be defined as the total accumulation of all his/her experiences, and is built at all points of contact with the customer (Kapferer, 2004).

Each product, service or company with a recognized brand name stands for something slightly different from anything else in the same product category. If the difference is desirable and is known and understood by consumers, the brand will be the category leader. Today more than ever before the perception of a quality difference is essential for survival in the marketplace (David Martin, 1989).

A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business (Ludia Guadalupe Campuzano, 2001).  The word brand began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. A legally protected brand name is called a trademark. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.

An important factor influencing the selection of a brand concept is consumer needs. According to Park et al (1986), many brands offer a mixture of symbolic, functional, and experimental benefits. Functional needs are defined as those that motivate the search for products that solve consumption-related problems (e.g. solve the current problem, resolve conflict, and restructure a frustrating situation). A brand with a functional concept is defined as one designed to solve externally generated consumption needs.  Symbolic needs are defined as desires for products that fulfill internally generated needs for self-enhancement, role position, group membership, or ego identification. A brand with a symbolic concept is one designed to associate the individual with a desired group, role, or self-image. Experimental needs are defined as desires for products that provide sensory pleasure, variety, and/or cognitive stimulation. A brand with an experimental concept is designed to fulfill these internally generated needs for stimulation and/or variety.

Brands evolve over time. The first level pertains to the identity of the producer (i.e. label). The second level is known as functional superiority (perceived by customer as differentiation). While the third level is referred to as emotional touch, fourth level pertains to the power of self-expression. At the top of the pyramid, the highest level (i.e. fifth level) is known as cult.

Brand elements

The brand elements come in different forms. For example, consider the variety of brand name strategies that exit. In some cases, the company name is essentially used for all products–General Electric, Hewlett Packard, TATA, Godrej, Vodafone. In other cases, manufactures assign individual brand names to new products that are unrelated to the company name (e. g. with Hindustan Lever- Lifeboy, Surf, Lux etc, Procter & Gamble – Vicks, Tide etc.) Retailers create their own brand based on their store name or other factors (e.g. Food Bazaar, Vishal Mega Mart, Spenser, etc.)

The names given to products also come in many different forms. Brand names can be based on people, place and things, abstract images and so on in different ways. In sum, creating a brand, marketers have many choices in the number and nature of the brand elements to identify their products. Brand elements can be chosen to both enhance brand awareness and facilitate the formation of strong, favorable and unique brand association like Krishna in the Mahabharata.

Brand versus Product

The product is defined as a “thing produced by labor or effort” (Random House Dictionary, 1975) or the result of an act or a process and stems from the verb produce, from the Latin produce (re) ‘to lead or bring forth’. Since 1575, the word “product” has referred to anything produced. (Etymology of product,1975). Since 1695, the word has referred to “thing or things produced”. The economic or commercial meaning of product was first used by political economist Adam Smith.

In marketing, a product is anything that can be offered to a market that might satisfy a want or need. (Kottler P., Armstrong G. Brown L. and S. Burton, 2007) In retailing, products are called merchandise. In manufacturing, products are purchased as raw materials and sold as finished goods. Commodities are usually raw materials such as metals and agricultural products, but a commodity can also be anything widely available in the open market. In project management, products are the formal definition of the project deliverables that make up or contribute to delivering the objectives of the project.

Thus, a product is anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use or consumption that might satisfy a need or want. Thus, a product may be a physical good (e.g. detergent, soap, cosmetics etc), a service (e.g. an airlines, bank, or insurance company), a person (e.g. a political figure, entertainer or professional athlete).

Extending an example from the above, a branded product may be physical good (e.g.-Kellog cornflake, Surf detergent, Lux soap, Fair & Lovely), a service (e.g. Jet Airways, LIC, SBI), a person (e.g. Amitabh Bacchhan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Gandhi).

Loyalty based brand

By creating perceived differences among products through branding, developing loyal consumer franchises, marketers create value which can translate to financial profit for the firm or organization and win the battle in the financial fields.

Spirituality

Spirituality means “something concerning the intellect or what is thought of as the better or the higher part of mind or the moral aspect of life”. Perhaps it may even mean the state of being incorporeal. Simply stated spirituality is one’s character or quality that makes one transcend the barriers of worldliness, caste, creed, and sensuality and realize one’s connection with the truth. Spirituality, as defined by Mitroff and Denton (1999) is the basic feeling of being connected with one’s complete self, others and the entire universe. As Galen and West noted (Galen 1995), “A growing number of companies are setting off on spiritual journeys. It’s not about bringing religion into the office or requiring that employees chant mantras at their workstations. Rather the spirituality movement in the corporation is an attempt to create a sense of meaning and purpose at work and a connection between the company and its people.”

Directly, spirituality is defined as:

  1. Simultaneously improving one’s wisdom and willpower.
  2. Achieving a closer connection to deity.
  3. Developing connection between one’s self and the natural world.
  4. Removing illusion or “false ideas” of the sensory feeling and thinking aspects of a person.

Symbols of spiritual brands

Similarity between Brand & spirituality:

  1. Brand believes in constantly developing new ideas, innovation, think out of the box strategy like spirituality believes in improving wisdom and willpower.
  2. Brand believes in achieving closer connection with customer like spirituality believes in deity.
  3. While developing brand the quality of the brand visibility of the product among customers is very important, the same in spirituality between oneself and the natural world.
  4. Brand equity is based on fact and aqua racy, while spirituality is removing “illusions or false ideas”
  5. Brand theory is based on particular name, logo, symbol, term, design, etc. While spirituality is based on supreme personality of God Head.
  6. Brand provides customer satisfaction like the same spirituality provides self satisfaction.

Laurance Vincent (2002) derived brand and spirituality in a different manner.

(I)     Brand mythology acts upon the cognitive orientation centers of the brain in much the same way that religion and other deeply held philosophical belief do.

(II)    Legendary brands like most religions gain their strength through narrative.

Laurance designed brand mythology system as below:

From the above differentiation, we can easily identify Krishna’s role in the Mahabharata as the Brand Ambassador who has all brand values, such as:

I. Truth: “Jahan Satya hoga, Vijay uski hogi” (Where there is truth, success will be there).

II. Symbol/Logo: Sudarshan chakra: we can define is it as chakra of Brand Identity.

III. Idea/Slogans: “Ashvathama Hato Hataah” – We can pick this idea as brand slogan.

IV. Brand Ambassador: In the Bhagvad-Gita Krishna’s personality states as a supreme personality of God Head/Perfect Man.

Let us clarify the same with consumer product. I have picked up “BSNL”.

In the “BSNL Land Line” advertisement Preity Zinta (Hindi movie actress) is the brand ambassador. The advertisement shows that the groom’s family has come to see the bride’s family and the groom’s family boasts about their wealth and all. A simple question of the prospective bride (Preity Zinta) raises so many questions about their family. “You don’t have BSNL Land Line Phone?” (Apke paas ghar ki pahchan nahi hai). With that she rejects the marriage proposal. A simple question can create maximum impact on the advertisement like Preity Zinta has done in this ad. (Ko Floor 2006) admitted the same value of social concern: “The growing influence of ethical values is related to the growing cynicism about the way companies do business.” Social issues are gaining more influence in customer’s perception of a brand. Honesty and integrity are playing a more important role in their choice of store, big retail companies are especially being challenged about their social responsibility. So a retail brand that truly stands for a certain social ideology can create a competitive advantage for itself over stores that merely exist.

The above example suggests that four important dimensions are involved in working on effective branding, where social and spiritual dimensions play a key role in brand developing and its values.

The Functional Dimension

The functional measurement concerns the perception of advantage of the product or service linked with the brand e.g. Airtel. The function of the technology is to make things easier for the consumers. Airtel has been very successful in simplifying the use of mobile services by modifying the technology to suit the common users. Even the simplest of the consumers can use the products and services. Airtel says, “Your world of communication just got simpler.”

The Social Dimension

The social dimension concerns the capability to produce classification with the group. Airtel is a renowned brand to be associated with. It is linked with high level of social value.

The Spiritual Dimension

The spiritual dimension is the perception of global or local accountability. “Building telecom, building relationships.” It is important to be in touch with the family and dear ones which is possible today through the mobile communication. Airtel encourages everyone to be more concerned in building relations and spread the contentment.

The Mental Dimension

The mental dimension is the capability to support the individual mentally (Thomas Grad, 2001). Airtel gives us the chance to “Express Myself.” The message is very clear, open and daring.  It gives us a lot of satisfaction and an opportunity to think that we have the right to communicate and express ourselves.

A brand is a place in the heart where employees, investors, suppliers and conscious consumers meet to tell a company’s story. Says Brand Guru Elsie Maio, “When a brand reveals authenticity, values and humanity’s drive towards consciousness, it’s a powerful strategic advantage”. While master-designer Dilip Chhabria (ET, 2009) reckons “branding is all important. It is the only way to distinguish oneself from competitors because the brand contains all market perceptions about quality, style and reliability, etc. It brings in customers and high-quality employees as well.”

Kauravas versus Pandavas

In the Mahabharata the Kauravas lost the battle even though they had eleven armies on there side, whereas the Pandavas won the battle as Krishna was on their side.

The same story applies to any organization, company and their products. If you have good brand visibility about your product then surely you will win the market battle. Brand/Brand ambassador of an organization or company stands far ahead of their competitors in the market fields or battle fields. The significance of brand understanding stated by Kishore Biyani (with Dipayan Baishya 2007), CEO of Future group, in the book “It happened in India” is that “an advertisement captures the people behind the brand, their way of thinking and what has gone into the making of the brand. I wanted to position our company as a fashion and we spent heavily in creating a major communication campaign for our brand.” .The views about brand were further explained: “For the next few years, we continued to invest disproportionately large sums of money into building our brand, even when it hurt our bottom line. The branded apparel segment was extremely fragmented and I think with the help of our ad agency we did a fairly good job of establishing our trouser brand, Pantaloon.”

A similar view was coined by Ad/ Image Guru Alaque Padamasee (ET, 2008): “It is only intellectual capital in a globalized market, or the new ideas to sustain and develop organization and it is the only mind which can convert any organization profitability into money.” In a marketing word we can call that (Swami Prabhupada,1997) “Krishna’s wisdom/intellectual capital”. As sadi the Bhagvad-Gita:

yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana
sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah,
harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna
mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih.

“One who has unflinching devotion for the personality of Godhead has all the good qualities of the demigods. But one who is not a devotee of the Lord has only material qualifications that are of little value. This is because he is hovering on the mental plane and is certain to be attracted by the glaring material energy.” (Bhag.5.18.12).

The strategy to build a sustainable Indian brand is to work on the minds of people and help them answer the question (Gregory S. Carpenter, Rashi Glazer and Kent Nakamoto 1994).”What is there in it for me?” Every time a customer invests in a product he does so hoping that the product will meet his expectation. This investment constitutes a risk. The idea of a value-based brand is to ensure that the brand minimizes the customer’s perception of risk. A simple strategy to ensure this is to minimize the expectations created through promising less and delivering more. A more comprehensive way of achieving this is by creating a faith in the brand that is on the same lines as that of social organizations. The goal of a brand should be to build a trust that the customer’s satisfaction is the top priority.

Henceforth, we must understand brand developing is not a one-time task; it is an eternal process to restore trust and beliefs about the product to customers. Whenever a product is going to decline their requirements in the consumer market, a company must have to analyze the reasons. According to the marketing theory every brand goes through four stages, intro stage, growing stage, saturation stage and declining stage. It means every product has a life cycle as stated in the Bhagvad-Gita.

Lord Krishna has stated in the Bhagwad-Gita about human value and its life cycle, (chapter 2, shloka 22.)

Vasansi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grihnati naro aparnai,
thata sarirani vihaya jirnanyanyani sanyati navani dehi.

The soul is eternal. Our survival is timeless; we have been here before in the past and will come in the future too. The actions of body, our words, and our thoughts leave stream on our realization. The mind stores stream in the form of Samskaras or impressions. These impressions remain latent in the consciousness for a while before emerging as mental waves, which produce desires, fears and other emotions. Our past impressions carry weight and determine how well we can face the present moment and how well we can live life to its full capacity, free from fears and negative emotions.

According to this shloka human life is eternal. Only the looks and the body changes like a product and brand keep changing with richer performance. Bhagvad- Gita gives us a lesson that a brand and product can also be timeless by retaining their identity with greater brand value and take rebirth with a new look, new design, new logo, new slogan etc. We can retain consumer faith like TATA has built its brand identity with social commitment. It was used by our father, forefathers and now we are using it. The same thing is explained in another chapter:

Yada Yada hi dharmasya, glanir bhavati bharata,
Abhyuttanam adharmasya, tadatmanam srjamy aham.

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend myself.

Hence, it is important to appreciate the need for participation by the customers at an intermediary stage of developing the product for him. This way the company is making sure that the product succeeds in the future. The customer is not the receiver of the product but the creator of the product with the company; he is very much involved in the design, development and delivery of the product. The interaction between the consumer and the company is more regular and strong leading to a better relationship.

BRAND is a promise made to the consumers by the company. Brand, not only has functional and mental dimensions but also social and spiritual dimensions. The challenge before Indian organizations today is to first recognize and then assure the needs of the customers. The need of the customers today is the experience and not just the product. The Indian organizations have to contemplate on delivering the experiences to the customers leading to satisfaction and association with all the dimensions of the brand. These experiences can be delivered by linking the customer in the supply chain which demands perfection from the organization in terms of training the employees and aligning the culture to delivering value to the customers. The contribution of the customers can be ensured by using novel methods of statement and branding.

Arjuna is one who realizes the value of intellectual capital. He does not ignore material capital. He gets together his seven armies, but he knows that with Krishna and his knowledge he can make those seven armies bigger than the Kauravas eleven.

Finally, this paper discusses the brand based on the Bhagavad-Gita. The Gita is not only an outstanding mythology book which offers the way of life for human being. It is a kind of exemplar from where citizens can make himself look as the ideal Krishna.

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