From THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, November 29, 2001


Giving brands an identity

Shunu Sen

The recent series of TV ads for the Toyota Qualis are extremely watchable. But one cannot help but wonder what the connection is between the advertisement and the Toyota Qualis. What purpose do ads such as these serve? Are they aimed merely at creating interest in the product or is there some deeper objective? -- Ram Kumar, Chennai

A successful advertisement is one that helps to build a strong brand by giving the brand a specific identity and by providing a reason or rationale for purchasing the brand, be it a product or a service, in preference to similar products in the same category.

In order to do so, it is true that the advertisement must be noticed and projects the brand as being perceived to be the right choice by the target customer. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that advertisements that are well liked are invariably superior to advertisements that are less appreciated.

What is all this to do with the Toyota Qualis advertisement? The campaign that is currently on air and in print is primarily meant to make the point that the Qualis is very roomy and there is sufficient space for the extended family or, in the print advertisement, space for all the beautiful girls in the world.

This point hs been made in an interesting, emotional and amusing manner. However, the advertisement is not just about fishing and emotion because it also highlights the spaciousness and the carrying capacity of the Qualis.

The objective of this advertisement as, indeed of all advertising, is to strengthen the brand equity by highlighting the brand identity (Who am I? What do I do? And how am I different from others?) while communicating the brand proposition (or, what some call the brand position) which simply means the answer to the question Why buy me in preference to others?

Does the Qualis ad do this successfully? I think the advertisement is attempting to do so through an interesting and amusing piece of communication that single-mindedly concentrates on the fact that the Qualis is a roomy vehicle, which is why it is the preferred choice of those who want to purchase a multi-utility vehicle.

However, is that enough to make Qualis the choice of anyone who is looking for a vehicle in that price range?

In my view, maybe not. The Qualis is a vehicle in a category that competes with the Tata Sumo and the Mahindra Armada. These are very powerful cars, marketed in the US as off-roaders, which means that they have 4x4 wheel drive, excellent suspension and a powerful yet sexy exterior.

Qualis does not even attempt to be any of these and in terms of its personality, is not quite what is expected of a vehicle in this category.

Hence, in my view, though Qualis has built itself a unique and specific image as a roomy vehicle, it has perhaps not been able to combine this with other necessary benefits in this category of four-wheelers.

(The author is CEO, Quadra Advisory, a strategic marketing consultancy. Readers may send in their questions

on marketing issues to The Editor, Business Line, 859, Anna Salai, Chennai 600002 or e-mail them to

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