Of Patanjali, strong brand equity and design

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Great design is often the only moat against competition. It allows for a brand to command loyalty and price premium. Apple is often cited as a great example of this. Recently it was argued that regional publications in India ought to invest in good design in order to command a premium from advertisers. In the same article it was mentioned that ‘even if Patanjali’s noodles are as good as Maggi, superior packaging design will help Maggi command a premium price‘. All valid arguments and got me thinking about my recent experiences with Patanjali and other brands with regard to design. In my view, we choose a brand even if the design experience (graphics, interactions) is unsatisfactory if we have no choice or when other powerful elements are at play in the mix.

Patanjali has been in the news for months now and almost always in the context of its success – giving the leading brands in a category a run for their money. Even though I am not a yoga practitioner, in my mind the residual imagery of yoga and Baba Ramdev is one of ‘wellness’ and health. Patanajli’s range – be it noodles or shampoo have been anchored on natural ingredients, wellness, quality and affordability. But all this didn’t make me switch from my regular brand of shampoo or actively seek out only Patanjali’s brands in a category. I then happened to visit an organic store in Mandya one day which stocked an extensive range of Patanjali products and local produce. I am also at a stage in life when I am actively seeking out the positive, thanks to the overwhelmingly negative nature of news in media and the cesspool that social media has become. It manifests in consciously opting for a digital detox for prolonged periods of time, attempting to ‘cut off’ from the world listening to music or reading a printed book, curtailing of mindless web browsing and so on. I am also more health conscious now driven by medical reasons and age. So exercise and diet control too are top of mind. These are powerful triggers and emotions which one cares about deeply. In this context, buying into the Patanjali concept is a dominant motivator than how it doesn’t compare favourably on packaging design compared to say, Head & Shoulders (which has been my brand for years) on a retail shelf. One is willing to overlook those design ‘drawbacks’ and make the purchase. Of course brands are built on creating loyalty – so the ultimate test is repeat purchase which depends on product quality & delivering delight there. On those parameters, I have no issues with the Patanjali products I’ve bought. In fact, I was willing to overlook some design flaws – the shampoo bottle’s lid does not ‘click-close’ as smoothly as those of brands I have used earlier. I also noticed that the washing powder being used at home was from Patanjali – I’ve had no issues with the washed clothes in terms of cleanliness or fragrance. However, the actual design of the Patanjali washing powder box (pale blue if I remember) would not have won any awards.

The point of all this: when the core promise of the brand has a strong appeal and finds relevance in the consumer’s life stage, minor design flaws or drawback can be overlooked – if (and that’s a big if) the product delivers too. A product description in Patanjali’s website has this copy: ‘this gives beauty to the hairs, treating dryness and dandruffs…Aloe vera, `hola` and `mesh kanti` stops hair loss and hair turning grey and keeps up shinning’. Comical? Yes. Will it bother the core audience of the brand? Unlikely. Does it bother me? Yes, but not to the extent of thinking ‘this is not a brand for people like me and I will never buy it’. Maybe I would have said that if the Patanjali brand did not have all that aura around it and an appeal which is relevant to my current mindset.

What say? Do comment in.

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