Friday, June 12, 2015

Does the boss wear a Titan watch today?

Brands are not timeless as we'd like to believe

Do you wear a Titan watch? I would be surprised if you did, simply because many youngsters do not even wear a watch much less a Titan. And why is that? The reason is simple. They see the watch as a time keeping device and not as a fashion accessory as Titan would like to believe it is. And how do they see the time? They see it on the mobile which seems a much more integral part of their life than the watch is currently. But why are we digressing and why did the piece talk about the boss. Watch this commercial of Titan first….

Okay I am sure you understand it even better than I did. But here goes. The commercial is set in a restaurant where two former colleagues are meeting - one younger and the other more mature. The older man objects to the younger man referring to him as “sir” time and again. The young man once again thanks the older man for relieving him from his duties earlier on when he had wanted to resign and his blessing to him that “it’s the best decision he has taken”. Clearly the younger man has gone on to promote a very successful start up. The older man asks him what happened to his plans to get a CEO. The younger man shyly tells him that he does not know to recruit a CEO. The older man reassures him by telling him that just identify the person and tell him that he is the right person for the job. The younger man is skeptical. Is that all he asks and the older man says he is sure. He looks at his Titan watch for strength and then taking his heart into his mouth tells his former boss that he is the man for the CEO’s job and hands him the letter of appointment. The older man initially bemused accepts the offer and the tag line says “your time has come”. In the tradition of Titan commercials it is a really nice commercial, but this is not so much about the communication as it is about the stage in life of the Titan brand.
Back to 1987
I am sure you probably were not born in 1987 when Titan was launched in India. Titan was an instant success when it was launched with over 200 models of Quartz watches and soon ensured that HMT who proudly called themselves “timekeepers to the nation” would go out of business.

Titan changed the way the product was made, looked at and sold. It transformed the watch market. It has several credits to its name. It is one of the most admired marketing companies, a great place to work for and a company which most management graduates like you would give an arm and a leg to work for. In 1987 when Titan was launched, I was young (those were the days) successful and upwardly mobile in my profession. I wore a Titan watch with pride as did the Chairman of the advertising agency I worked for. But will today’s bosses wear a Titan as the commercial so cleverly depicts? I wonder. My submission without the benefit of extensive research is that today’s CEO wears an Omega or even a Rolex but not a Titan. Titan is not the aspirational brand it was three decades ago. I am sure the company is aware of this problem and realizes that the answer is not just clever advertising but a whole host of things.

What is our learning?
Let us not worry unduly about Titan’s ability to handle the problem of the brand’s ageing as they know more marketing than all of us put together but focus on our own learning of brands. The first brands are not timeless as we would like them to believe. While some brands like Pepsi have managed to remain eternally young and for the young at heart others have not been as successful. With over 50 per cent of the Indian population being young, brands need to be aspirational for young people as well. Why do I say Titan is not aspirational? I have talked to enough youngsters who say that it is ok to gift a Titan to their parents but not ok to gift it to one’s spouse or girlfriend. All of these are signs that the brand is ageing. I am sure Titan has the capability to understand this and crack the rejuvenation code. But as students of management let us constantly be aware of what brands are facing and learn from their challenges.
And finally can you think of any other brand which is facing this problem?

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