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A recipe for refurbishing brand Satyam

Sapna Agarwal in Mumbai | January 12, 2009 09:39 IST

Is it possible to refurbish a brand that has been sullied with a Rs 7,800 crore (Rs 78 billion) fraud? One can't be sure, but to attempt this, the campaign ought to stress on integrity and action, say three of the top minds of the country's advertising industry.

"Honesty and complete honesty is the only solution that will work for Satyam [Get Quote]," says Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman of McCann Worldgroup India and regional creative director, McCann Asia Pacific. The company, he says, needs to come clean and ask all its stake holders - investors, shareholders, clients, employees - to give it another chance. The campaign should be factual and devoid of frills; it should accept where the Satyam management went wrong.

"We would need to do a dipstick survey on who should spearhead the image makeover, who would the people like to hear from, and then get those people to speak," said Joshi, adding that the Satyam brand ambassador could be anyone of the company's employees, clients, auditors or someone else.

When Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were caught in the pesticides controversy in 2003, they lost not only on their public image but also sales. McCann got Coca-Cola's brand ambassador Aamir Khan to take the customers around the company's plant through a television commercial, establishing that the drink was made under stringent quality control. Pepsi used its CEO, Rajeev Bakshi, to guarantee quality.

Ogilvy & Mather executive chairman and National Creative Director Piyush Pandey says restoring Satyam's image would be a wonderful challenge and "given a chance, I would surely take it up". This is not a communications exercise, he says. "Right now, it's an exercise of will. Saying sorry to people just like that will not work."

The company's first step, he says, should be expressing its intent to rectify its mistakes. This should be followed by demonstration of actions and establishing the credibility of its actions. Once this has been established internally, it can communicate to the public that it is a completely fresh organisation.

Mudra Group Chief Creative Officer Bobby Pawar shares his experience during 9/11 in New York. American Express's image had taken a massive hit as its building was next to the World Trade Centre and was partially damaged. Customers were worried about the business credibility and continuity of American Express. "We reassured the customers that the company was open for business, that the clients' information was safe and that their credit cards would work. The bank had stringent processes and business continuity plans in place and this was communicated to the clients," says Pawar, who at that time creative director with Ogilvy & Mather in New York.

"Satyam needs to reassure the clients and all its stakeholders by being open and communicating the entire truth," says Pawar.

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