More than just a legacy brand in commercial vehicles, Ashok Leyland wants to be seen as an old brand embracing new values.
How does an old brand reinvent itself for new age customers and competitors?
Ashok Leyland, one of the oldest Indian commercial vehicle companies is grappling with just such an issue as it rethinks its identity.
In a recent campaign, the company has chosen to highlight a project undertaken in association with Auroville Botanical Gardens that has helped convert 20 acres of fallow land at its Technical Centre at Chennai into a garden populated with native species of trees.
As the commercial vehicle brand looks for an identity that lies beyond the products it makes or the community it services, the story it tells could set down a few do’s and don’ts for other legacy brands too.
“I have to build that association only through means which are beyond the product, beyond cost, the product reliability and quality,” says N V Balachandar, president-HR, Communication and CSR.
More than just a legacy brand in commercial vehicles, Ashok Leyland wants to be seen as an old brand embracing new values as it should be, says Harish Bijoor, brand consultant.
“Hard materials require soft branding and this is a soft branding initiative from them, which is good. Bosch has done this earlier,” he adds.
Driving the new brand campaign is a change in the competitive environment. The Indian commercial vehicle market is now a crowded spot.
Gone are the days when Tata or Ashok Leyland were the only options for trucks or buses.
The two are up against a number of global names such as Daimler, Volvo and homegrown ones such as Eicher, Mahindra.
To buy stickiness for its label and build a relationship that is not just transactional in nature, the company believes it needs to create a brand that cares about the things that customers are concerned about.
And that is the environment and the ecosystem we live in, says Balachandar.
The seven-minute video looks for an emotional connection, says the team behind the campaign.
Environmental sustainability is a part and parcel of business sustainability and associating the two may also help build recall.
The film by Brainfever Productions shows the making of a wetland forest that has already created a habitat for birds, amphibians, fish, butterflies and other insects.
“Eighteen months into the project it has managed to turn a monotonous grass land into a rich and diverse project,” the company said.
Ashok Leyland is also keen to project itself as an experiential brand. The company worked with ‘Interbrand’, a global brand consultancy firm to help make the leap within the company and externally, with its consumers.
“We want to bring in emotional context to the brand rather than just a pure brand image”, says Balachandar.
Through the journey, the brand tagline remains unchanged.
‘Aap Ki Jeet, Hamari Jeet’ (Your success is our success) which was first visually conceived to focus on the customer and then extended to all its stakeholders.
It was first conceptualised as the brand’s driving line when the company moved out of its comfort zone in the South to take its campaign national, in 2012-13.
At the time, the company also roped in national sports icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni to speak to to not only truck drivers, but also fleet owners and mechanics.
“It was important for us to address a wider audience rather than restrict ourselves to truck drivers alone.
"In essence, we were speaking to every stake-holder in the system to ensure we did not miss out on anyone in the value chain,” Vinod K Dasari, managing director, ALL had said at the time.
Ashok Leyland ended 2017-18 with a market share of 34.2 per cent with its highest ever sale of 174, 873 units.
The company believes it is time to take the next leap forward, engage customers beyond the product and its features.
For that sustainability is the new mantra. Driving the company’s new brand journey is a new generation of businessmen, in the logistics space, as they place greater emphasis on the environment and sustainability in their operations.
Their perspective is not just cost of ownership, it is not just mileage, but more about durability, about values and comfort in the partners with which they do business, says Balachandar.
Community building is an important aspect of brand building and Balachandar says that they have followed the same principle with the community of truckers in the past.
Ashok Leyland is also working with drivers and mechanics with their financial accreditation, knowledge skill accreditation, facility accreditation.
The aim now is to extend the community involvement to a larger group of stakeholders.
Balachandar says that sustainability is not just for the new band of customers coming into the company’s fold but also “more importantly to retain my existing customer base and get them to buy repeatedly".
"They have to believe that the brand is beyond the product. And believe that this is a set of people, an organisation that I would like to be associated with.”
And there will be more brands following this path soon believes Bijoor.
Photograph: PTI Photo