Do Tata and Reliance, two of India's most powerful corporate names, have a branding problem? One of the world's most influential figures in marketing, Al Ries, says they do.
"If in the real estate business, the three more important things are location, location and location, in brands it is focus, focus and focus," Ries, who is credited with placing the "positioning" of brands in the global marketing and advertising community, told Hindustan Times in an interview on Tuesday.
The 83-year-old veteran, who with his daughter Laura runs Atlanta-based strategy consulting firm Ries & Ries, said Tata and Reliance are identified with too many product categories, whereas brands that excel lead a category and dominate it with focus.
"They seem to have a long-term problem," he said.
The father-daughter duo are in India to address seminars organised by event management firm Curtains Up in partnership with Bloomberg UTV.
Ries believes both Indian and Chinese companies need to build brands if they have to get out of the trap of being considered cheap destinations for manufacturing or IT services. "The definition of a brand is that it is something that people will pay more than they do for a commodity," he said.
The marketing guru believes India has a sweet spot thanks to its British colonial legacy that makes its brands linked to the English language easier to spread.
"India has a big advantage because English has become a second language," he said.
"A global brand needs to be not an English word but needs to be understood in the English language," Ries said. "Look at Polish. You can't read it, you can't spell it, you can't pronounce it."
He said brands such as Toyota and Sony, though Japanese, could progress in the American market, but Mitsubishi despite being the "Tata of Japan" could not do well because of the inherent branding difficulties associated with its name.