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Deep Branding: The Playbook for the extreme Generation

Over 150 years of its existence, Tata has been able to position itself as a brand with the community at the centre stage of the brand’s value proposition, and trust being the undercurrent of its businesses. It has successfully set a narrative that its products and services stand for performance and trust. It has been able to create a connection with customers that transcend commerce, with the belief, ‘I am getting a good deal for what I am paying because it is a Tata product’.

Deep branding is beyond a logo, interior design or other audio-visual triggers and amplifications. Rather, it is a holistic experience reaching beyond the surface. This is how a customer perceives when s/he hears or thinks of a company name, service or product. As Jack Trout and Al Reis rightly said branding grabbed a rung on the invisible mental ladder for each product category inside consumers’ minds.

Added to it, consumers want to be part of a clique and a perceived attainable niche that allows them to stand out from the crowd.

Thus, finding ‘meaning in the changing world’ and ‘relevance for the new extreme generation’ should be the priority of smart brands.



Deep branding is all about defining a brand’s core opulently and then becoming radical about it. Technology, consumer behaviour, free exchange of views, and real-time feedback have made the old-world playbook of branding less relevant. It is no longer just dominant recall and repeated positioning; it’s about value system.

A deep brand core allows a brand (organization, notion or icon) to explore its possibilities (and opportunities) to stretch and express freely, even radically. This usually helps brands blur its categories lines to find new business opportunities.

According to a study by WGSN, consumers in the UK say that authenticity (73 per cent) and innovation (76 per cent) are most important for them. In other words, innovation is crucial and so also remaining true to one’s brand DNA.

If a store or a firm manages to achieve this deep brand perception, it is free to offer a variety of products and services as well as go for collaborations that are not necessarily within its core competencies. The only precondition is that the offering should match the lifestyle of its community.



Apple has built on the power of consistency to become synonymous with simplicity and class. The products are status symbols based more on emotion rather than on necessity.

Emotional branding strategy tagged along with customer experience has been the foundation of its unrelenting success. It has been able to create deep and lasting bonds with its customers with careful attention to product aesthetics, linking the brand with luxury in the eyes of its customers, who truly believe that the company products make their life better and that is exactly what many of its users are paying a premium for.

For example, advertisements for iMac say it isn’t just “a computer”, it helps make your computing experience exciting and pleasurable or the iPhone isn’t just “a smartphone”, it lets you put the power of an Apple computer in your phone.

Similarly, Tesla has used the hype-style marketing approach of Apple to create an intense desire for its electric vehicles, while capitalizing on the environmental trend.

The launch of the Tesla 3 was filled with hype. Several high-profile Indian entrepreneurs pre-ordered the pioneering electric car company’s most affordable model and the first to be available in India. All these while the production was more than a year away, and delivery could take two years or more.

Tesla started at the high-end and then moved down to open up to the masses, albeit the elite, making it the most beloved brand through simplified products and stylish designs while creating a movement with consumer’s readiness to do something for the environment, that too with almost non-existent marketing budget.

Tesla chief executive officer, Elon Musk once tweeted, “Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements. Instead, we use that money to make the product great.” It ‘does not buy advertising’, rather earn it and that’s how Tesla became the biggest electric vehicle brand in the world.

According to Daniel Binns, chief executive officer of Interbrand, Tesla is the poster child of a perfect purpose-led business.

He adds: “There is no defacto ‘marketing person’ at Tesla – it all comes from Musk, the same way that Steve Jobs drove much of the marketing thinking with Apple.”

Elon Musk himself is a walking advertisement for Tesla.



Religion and superheroes serve well as an inspiration for deep branding in a society overrun by commercial clutter. Built on rich and elaborate tenets, they have an all-powerful influence on many generations.

In Branded Nation, James Twitchell suggests that religion and marketing are virtually one and the same thing as they both sell stories and “magical thinking is at the heart of religion and branding”.

The process begins with creating brand awareness and the next step is to make sure the product becomes part of the consideration set. This is followed by ‘conversion’ when a shopper has become a full-fledged customer.

Similarly, the Spiderman sequels have been a lesson in great marketing over the last 20 years with the superhero seeing something of a renaissance. When Peter Parker thought up what Spiderman’s brand promise is, he realised that it should not be about actions at all but of character and the value that it carries for all “stakeholders”. The tone of voice crafted for the “friendly” and “neighbourhood” Spiderman was so done to match his brand values succinctly.

Most importantly, he struck an emotional chord with the story of a poor, sick orphan, who dealt with problems financial issues, family losses, and relationship woes like most of us. The audience related to his troubles and cheered for his subsequent success. This relatability is what made the character popular and lovable.

Acknowledgement and empathy help build trust, creating an authority which turns potential customers into die-hard fans.



Deep branding, therefore, is about taking away the ‘rigidity of identity’ into the ‘flexibility of experience’. It includes an ecosystem of environmental issues, cultural beliefs and habits, and even historical perspectives.

It’s about setting the brand itself to be set free so as to transcend the ordinary into the iconic. Playful, inspiring and free from ‘brand police’ is how we can describe the several iterations of the MTV logo in keeping with the tides of pop culture or Google Doodles’ celebration of historical figures, global holidays, and important current events.

So, adding value to business has gone well beyond its physical assets, propelling retailers towards experience-driven concepts. Some of them have gone so far as to become entertainment centres instead of just distribution hubs.

This deep dive is for emancipation with brands becoming more and more rooted in their cultural environments, both internal and external.


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