Four types of brands and specific products: the Indian scenario

There are always some conceptual inputs that stand out and can make any insight quite meaningful and crystal clear. The four types of brands described in the book "Marketing Genius" by Peter Fisk, is one such conceptual input. As usual, this article is an attempt to discuss some famous brands, with specific product examples anchored in the Indian context.


In his book, "Marketing Genius", Peter Fisk, talks about many good conceptual inputs in a lucid manner. His conceptual framework of the four types of brands, namely the Being Brands, Becoming Brands, Doing Brands, and Belonging Brands, is a vital conceptual framework that can be anchored in the Indian context. There are many Indian examples to explain each type of brand.

As usual, we will take the most important quotes pertaining to the particular concept and then anchor the same in the Indian context. The entire discussion that follows will reflect on each type of brand and the products that best describe the particular brand.

Being brands pertain to "Do what they seek to achieve better, through improved functionality or support" (page 145). Peter Fisk's description of the other brands is also found on the same page. According to him, Being brands are "be how they want to be perceived, through a strong identity that gives recognition and is admired by others". "Becoming brands" is "Become somebody more than they are, adding personal esteem or the capabilities and confidence to do what they couldn't otherwise achieve". The Belonging brands"belong to a community that they seek to be part of, through improved real or perceived connections". And finally, "Doing Brands"are those that, "do what they seek to achieve better, through improved functionality or support". We will now go on to discuss the four brands in the Indian context and how they will add meaning to their intrinsic strengths.

Being Brands

These brands "emotionally confirms you are somebody". ( page 145). The best examples of this kind of a passionate connect can be seen in each of the IPL teams that represent Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkatta, and the like. Passions run so high and it is seen on the field. The most famous team of the IPL, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) has a fan following that cuts across regions. It is the most entertaining team and its twists and turns are reinforced by the giant called M.S. Dhoni, who has won many a match for CSK.

Similarly, there are examples from the service industry as well. Those who travel by the Tejas Express, for example, feel that they are someone who has had the best of experiences. They are the people who enjoy the experience, the luxury, and the comfort and then are very happy with what they get. Those who have experienced friendly service and hospitality of the tallest order in the Welcome group of hotels is another example of this kind of passionate bonding.

Becoming brands

The same CSK example quoted above can also be applicable to this kind of a brand. It was represented in the best years by M.S.Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina, whose performances created aspirations in the minds of so many cricketers from even semi-urban locations.

A brand becomes a wider identity. Those who had a close association with the brand become international icons. The best example of such a brand is Apple Computers and its iconic co-founder, the late Steeve Jobs, whose products gave many IT giants, a run for their money. In fact, Steeve Jobs somewhat overtook the admiration for Microsoft and its equally iconic founder, called Bill Gates. Nearer home, Infosys Technologies has emerged as a brand of the middle class. Its iconic founder, Shri Narayanamurthy, has re-defined the IT industry in India and what it stands for. Infosys Technologies is a globally competitive organization and every middle-class techie wants to be part of the success story of Infosys Technologies.

Ditto for TCS, the bigger exporter of IT from India, and equally impressive group CEO of Tata Sons, the conglomerate to which the former belongs to, Mr. N. Chnadrasekaran. He has diversified TCS into so many verticals that mean so much in terms of profitability and market shares.

Belonging brands

These brands "connect you with other people like you" (page 145). The Apple laptop is simply world-class and has so many features that are difficult for competitors to copy. Ditto for the iPhones as well. These premium brands have created a big mass of regular customers who keep on chatting among themselves and have great pride in owning these products.

Nearer home, those who own particular brands of cars like BMW have the same attachment to the brand. This elite club is very small but is growing in India. Its members have an identity that is characteristic of the Belonging brand and what it stands for. Among the most famous Indian brands that connect to other people who have a sense of belonging are products of companies like Asian Paints and those who live in the flats and apartments built by the Hiranandani group of companies. These structures and gated communities are unique; they have the best of class and comfort. They mean so much to the owners who belong to exclusive rich clubs of customers. This is a truly "belonging brand".

The people from Kerala are proudly associated with the phrase that best describes the natural beauty of their State. The phrase "God's own country" says it all. In fact, this is an internationally famous brand and reportedly, is one reason why millions flock to the State that has greenery everywhere... Every single place has an abundance of greenery that spells class. The present trend in parts of South India is to have the owners of establishments talk about their brands and their value proposition. Saravana Stores, Chennai, has its owner dressed up like a Kollywood hero (the local Tamil cinema) is headquartered at Kodambakkam, an important location of South India, and headquarters of the Tamil film industry and hence the name Kollywood) and dances with a group of young girls. Though a bit jarring, the message of "legend Saravana" is firmly entrenched in the minds of millions of lower-middle-class customers, who travel as far as one hundred kilometers to just shop at this famous shop at T.Nagar, a commercial hub of Chennai. This is a perfect example of a belonging brand.

Doing brands

These brands "functionally enable you to do something" (page 145). These are brands that resonate very well with users in terms of their functionality and the users have great pride in using them. Apart from products from Apple Computers, the photocopying machines from Xerox are the best examples. These products enable the livelihoods of millions of entrepreneurs in India and are so good in terms of functionality. The brands speak a lot for what they mean to the users.

The "Bullet" brand of motorcycles that so famous with the customers comes from a company called Enfield Motors. The bullet motorcycles have style and speed. The vehicles have become iconic vehicles for the youth. Similarly, the ladies who wear the famous Kanchipuram brand of saris feel functionally comfortable. They also make a big fashion statement. The Kent brand of water purifiers are famous for their effectiveness and the owners of this brand are always sure that they drink the purest water. This guarantee is key to the success of the product.

Similarly, while there are several thousands of mineral water brands, Bisleri tops the list and the association of millions of customers with the brand is unique. In every wedding, it is common to see the bridegroom dressed in suitings from the Raymonds brand. The list of such functionally useful brands in India is limitless. For millions of rural customers in South India, the TVS moped is too good. They have a pride in calling it "our vehicle" quite suited for the rough and tough rural roads in most parts of rural India. The brand Jio is so famous in the mind of lower-middle-class customers, who are hooked to the Rs.1500 cell phone, that even enable them to watch movies. Jio is now aiming to complete being present in all slots, by even selling a portion of its shares to Facebook. This marriage might as well bring the likes of Google, which will enter into a strategic partnership with the likes of Airtel or Vodafone, sooner or later. These "doing brands" will further add spice to the cellphone market.


The Indian context remains a fertile ground to understand the four types of brands discussed in the article. Each and every brand in India is very much valued by millions of regular customers. The kind of emotional attachment to so many brands will continue for a long time to come.


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