The Ghost Prevails
... I consider Mahindra in Mahindra Satyam also a mistake, not quite damaging like Satyam though. Contrary to the unflinching old school branding wisdom, group brand in a brand robs it of a certain independence which cuts its chances of gaining brand value beyond its worth as an enterprise, unnecessarily and without any real advantage.
Read these recent headlines on Satyam - err - Mahindra Satyam; 'Satyam margin still wallows just over 3%' (27/10 DNA Money), 'Satyam aims to put in place robust corporate governance system: CEO' (27/10 ET), 'Satyam to recruit again, even seniors' (10/10 BS), 'Satyam Australia appoints Indian as new business development chief' (21/10 ET), 'Satyam in talks with world bank to revoke ban, adds 32 new clients' (16/9 FE), Do they tell you something is amiss? I wonder if Group Mahindra has disowned its worthy buy!
Satyam, the brand that died suddenly 10 months ago teasing itself by turning untrue seems to be haunting the new brand which took over its business. Mahindra group which bought out the business, quite rightly named it anew though a little later than they should ideally have, but quite surprisingly chose to have the outlawed brand name Satyam as part of it. The fault in the name Mahindra Satyam is indeed glaring and operationally negative that everyone driving the business at the company ought to be finding the job harder and may, by now, even know that their brand name is actually turning it tough for them. Satyam in Mahindra Satyam will not let the name to become a useful brand for long. Not a pun, as I read the headlines on Satyam - err - Mahindra Satyam I am reminded of the saying; "spirits seek (haunt) those who seek them". The intent in wanting Satyam in the name is understandable but the belief that it would serve to convey its positive elements in the new name is clearly misplaced. The truth is that a brand that's hit by a lethal negative attribute loses its ability to signify any of its positive attributes however much valuable - irrespective of size and stature of the brand. In fact, this phenomenon of vanishing brand equity happens particularly with large brands and happens with just one powerful blow.
I believe the PR guys for Mahindra Satyam must be trying all the tactics in the trade in getting the media write the brand name right. Can they fix it? Can the media be blamed? I believe, even the staff of Satyam - err - Mahindra Satyam may not be saying it right. The new name seems to be promoting the old. The brand name is not always carried wrong, but it is also not always carried right. That's as bad as not having a brand. But, would ensuring proper usage of the name help?
With Satyam being part of the name, no amount of deliberate branding effort even associated with exemplary performance all round can make Mahindra Satyam a name that can absorb values in a way to be able to drive the business with a brand advantage. Certainly not, in the short to medium term, the time that's critical for the group to quickly evolve the brand and also to leverage on that in aggressively driving the business. A brand name's potential to resonate values is limited by the normal mental limits of the people. The name Satyam would practically fail to relate any more than the false accounts, the investigations, and the cases - - the reports on which will keep the brand alive on only these tags for at least 3 years. Consider this headline; 'Nine months on, Satyam fraud still a riddle' (7/9 FE). And, these; 'Mystery surrounds Satyam grant by victoria government' (15/9 ET), 'Ban on Satyam continues, says World Bank' (18/9 Mint).
Mahindra Satyam only appears to be a masterly stroke of primary branding that meets the conventional thinking on branding just right. But, I guess, branding tops among the management sciences in influencing flawed decisions with conventional beliefs - probably because of being a subject which is vastly misunderstood, in spite of the huge hype it sucks. Strange as it surely sounds, I consider Mahindra in Mahindra Satyam also a mistake, not quite damaging like Satyam though. Contrary to the unflinching old school branding wisdom, group brand in a brand robs it of a certain independence which cuts its chances of gaining brand value beyond its worth as an enterprise, unnecessarily and without any real advantage.
Time would only prove that group Mahindra got the business for much less - provided that it makes its marketing moves all right. Even when all else are extremely good, a bad brand name can take the steam off the marketing works and set the company with a steep disadvantage. The inapt brand name and its ineffective usage can't be considered non-detrimental on the clutch of the prospect of merger with Tech Mahindra which can possibly happen much later than sooner. But, with a business that's large, competing hard and bought-out - effectiveness in branding becomes highly critical right in the short to medium term.
Group Mahindra has an urgent primary branding task on hand. It needs to check the brand-ability quotient of the brand Tech Mahindra as well, to know if it can take-in the big and broad-spread business it has bought. And, that gives it a huge branding opportunity. A flawless work with that would simply upturn the logic on the merger that's in the agenda.
In the set of the names, all inconsistently used, I see huge potential in one. It isn't hard to tell that out. It calls for professional design stipulations and of course effective execution - in stark contrast to how the misfit name Mahindra Satyam was handled.
31 October 2009
Copyright: Adve Srinivasa Bhat, India.