Communications challenges in building a cohesive brand, by Spice Global’s Chhavi Leekha

Global business scenario is under evolution like never before. There is a need for transformation overall ranging from Indian conglomerates to global brands. This is also due to the growing competition to attract customers in this time of recession. Even major brands are braving the challenge to retain their acceptance and thrive on ‘goodwill’, thereby bringing back the focus on creativity and people centric communication. Hence, brand managers and marketers have their job cut out that is to fold your sleeves, dig deep into the ground and deliver the ‘right mix’ of brand promise and honest communication.

This is more exciting when you are driving a family of brands across nations and cultures. While globalization is a dream come true for any company, but is also brings with it the challenge of harmonizing brands with the people. It is even more apparent in the case of acquisitions where human factors and sometimes, prejudices, may hamper integration plans. This makes it difficult to concretely communicate the brand promise, vision, and mission and core values across various businesses and may create confusion among its stakeholders.

As a brand, Spice has grown both organically and inorganically over time. While it had a rich portfolio of businesses running successfully across cultures and a tradition of seamless integration in work culture, yet the focus on brand integration was largely not the top priority. Hence, for a very long time, it was restricted to being known as a mobility brand only despite having a proven track record of successful transnational partnerships with many global brands. This was perhaps one of the many missing links to start with.

Therefore, the challenge before us lay in joining the pieces together across the Group with their different businesses. It was not easy, considering that we have 4 verticals with over 9000 employees in over a dozen countries and each brand had its own story. 

My team took on the challenge to unite the brands. We adopted a simple bottom down approach, centered around people. We also analyzed the inherent strengths available with us so that we do not chart an absolutely new course for the brand since it is already well known but rather do a course correction and align all brands with the same brand attributes. The other was also to enhancing the brand appeal by incorporating the global best practices in brand communication.

We did a very honest brand audit and realized that while we were doing a lot of business and were also individually communicating, the other missing link was the way we communicated to our stakeholders. We engaged with the top management across countries and undertook a major strategic and process reorientation. Engaging with people was a mammoth task, however it proved fruitful since we wanted to integrate people first who would thereby integrate the brand. Together with the businesses, the internal processes were reoriented and we decided that our brand attributes: Fearless, Imaginative, Vibrant and Open shall be the drivers of our communication and work ethics. To implement this, we adopted a hub and spoke model and then emerged concrete steps like having a single PR agency for all businesses, a common message house and central supervision of our external communications were taken. Special efforts were also made to align messaging on digital medium as well.  

It is a matter of pride that almost an year after we undertook this initiative, Spice Global today is getting known as a diversified multi-faceted group across the world with interests in mobility, entertainment, finance and healthcare. These simple steps, leveraging our dormant strengths have proved to be very effective in balancing our communication and messaging to the stakeholders.

In hindsight, I feel that our approach worked because it was first centered around the executors and made promises that we could deliver. This people centric approach also helped in building leadership for brands in businesses as well. As a result, the brand gained greater acceptance among the customers as well.

Chhavi Leekha is Group President (Brand and Corporate Communications) of Spice Global



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