Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bajaj - Brand Identity Evolution



AVINASH SHARMA, MEDHAVI SINGH | NMIMS

Bajaj owes its birth, beginning in 1945-59 as M/s Bachraj Trading Corporation, to importing two and three wheelers and reselling them in India. It was in early 1970s when Bajaj Chetak was introduced, which until 1998-99 was literally THE mode of private transport, especially for the middle and the upper middle class segments of India.

Everything was fine until the Indian market was flooded with Hero Honda Splendor motorcycles. It stemmed from a changing business environment with increased consumer focus on fuel efficiency, comfort, purchasing power and lifestyle. Hence by the time Bajaj realized Splendor had eaten into its market share. Bajaj did introduce bikes like Boxer, Kawasaki Bajaj 4S champion, Caliber etc but none of these could add to the distinct Brand Identity that could “define” Bajaj as did the Chetak.

It was then in 2001 when Bajaj introduced the Pulsar bike. This was in direct competition to Hero Honda’s CBZ (both in 150cc segment). The introduction of Pulsar was executed with a completely different approach with the “Definitely Male” positioning. The Pulsar worked wonders for Bajaj and created a super dent in Hero Honda’s market.

Yet there was something lagging in their strategy. Until Chetak ruled, Bajaj had a clearly identifiable Brand Recall of being “Humara Bajaj”. This was not carried forward with every new variant since each was being introduced with a different positioning. True, that each product has its own merits and should have its own positioning. But it should have also added or supplemented to the overall Bajaj’s position statement. Until Chetak, Bajaj had various brands under its umbrella like Bajaj M-80, Bajaj Sunny etc and yet the “Brand Identity” remained “Humara Bajaj”.

Bajaj kept coming up with better products like the Pulsar 180cc, then the Pulsar DTSi followed by the 200 and 220cc Pulsars. It is then that they realized the need for a clear positioning, what “Bajaj” stood for, and also the fact that it was a mistake discarding or ignoring the “Humara Bajaj” which was such a strong and successful statement. It was critical especially when Hero Honda kept its “Desh ki Dhadkan” positioning intact. Thus, Bajaj finally came up with the famous, new and revamped “Humara Bajaj” communication where in they showed the rendition of the “Humara Bajaj” jingle in a very ‘Next Generation’ style by doing a fusion of the classical jingle with rock music , showing that Bajaj was now new and advanced and more Gen X but still communicated the value of “Humara Bajaj” to India.

Thus Bajaj came a full circle by coming back to its successful “Humara Bajaj” brand identity. Yet Bajaj was now synonymous only with powerful bikes ( 150cc and above segment ) whereas Hero Honda still had its presence both in the 150cc category with CBZ as well as the 100+cc category with the Splendor and Passion. This gap Bajaj sought to explore by coming up with bikes like the Bajaj XCD and Platina which fell in the 125 – 135cc category. This helped Bajaj regain some lost ground in the market leadership it had during the Chetak days.

It was in 2004 when Bajaj completely revamped its identity, gave up the “Humara Bajaj” umbrella and came up with a completely new enhanced positioning focusing more on the technology and experience. With a new, sharp brand logo, Bajaj pressed itself as “Digital Biking” and “Distinctly Ahead”.

Kapferer’s Prism:
Kapferer’s Prism is a tool that can be used to analyze and understand brands. It basically looks at a brand’s analysis from 6 key parameters:
  • Physique: Key product and brand attributes.
  • Personality: The lifestyle and traits of the brand.
  • Relationship: What type of relationship does a brand signify with its consumers?
  • Culture: The core values that the brand portrays.
  • Reflection: What image of itself does the brand reflect?
  • Self-Image: What does the brand think of the self?

This is a powerful tool to analyze any brand and also, more importantly, to compare brands. Applying this analysis to the old and new Bajaj Brand Identities reveals the traits as shown in figures.

Conclusion:
Hence, as can be seen from the above analysis, the name Bajaj, which was once well known, famous and sold as a family vehicle, gradually has evolved into a two wheeler which offers excitement, experience and enhanced technological excellence etc. In all this, Bajaj went through cycles of using a positioning, abandoning it, going back to it and then phasing it out completely to give way to a new distinct positioning to the ‘Brand Bajaj’. We believe that shunning the “Humara Bajaj” positioning should have been carefully thought through, as it was a legacy that Bajaj had carefully built through all these years with hard work and was almost synonymous with instant brand recall, something that every brand aspires to get. This is crucial since the new positioning of Bajaj, though modern and more focussed on the technological superiority of Bajaj, does not IDENTIFY Bajaj as distinctly as “Humara Bajaj” did.

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