Branding in rudimentary terms, aims create differentiation in the consumer’s mind and thereby a preferred state for a product or a service. The ‘brand’ they say resides in the consumer’s mind in the form of impressions viz., tangibles and intangibles.
In today’s scenario with massive explosion of brands, newer entrants find it extremely challenging to create a differentiated proposition. Adoption and loyalty are extremely difficult to achieve and sustain. This is evident from the lukewarm growth FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) as a category witnessed in the past few years
In this backdrop the success of patanjali with me-too products offers an interesting contrast to study for marketers and research practitioners. The superlative success of patanjali has been the subject of intense expert speculation with many views being circulated in the public domain. Many attribute this to the our inherent disposition to natural/herbal products, attractive price point of the patanjali products, popularity of baba ramdev, favourable government, hindutva renaissance, word of mouth, channel strategy, variety of products under one umbrella brand, swadeshi factor, indianness etc.
The critical question is to ask how come a brand command such extraordinary loyalty at a time when consumer loyalties are always fluctuating with the next offer that is around the corner. The answer lies in the phenomenon which some psychologists describe as ‘halo effect. Before we get in to explaining the success of patanjali, it is important to understand how halo effect works.
Daniel kahneman in his seminal book ‘thinking fast and slow’ calls it exaggerated emotional coherence. First impressions make a strong contribution for the ‘halo effect’ to take over. We tend to judge an individual often basis our first impression or his most significant quality. Remember interviewing a candidate and think about the impressions you formed about him/her.
The halo effect contributes to the consistency in our judgement about the person, because it attempts to match our view of all the qualities of a person to judgement of one attribute that is particularly significant. For example if we think a sportsman is athletic we are likely to rate him better at running too. A good looking leader is assumed to be more benevolent.
Can we apply the same philosophy to explain the success of Patanjali? Let us look at the following closely,
- First impressions about the brand
First impressions create a disproportionate impact on further evaluation, to the extent any further information could end up having no impact at all.
- Given the fact that baba ramdev has been the face of patanjali , inevitably his contribution towards making the first impressions have to be taken in to account. The qualities associated with baba ramdev therefore become critical. A simple association exercise among consumers would give us ‘health, indianness, tradition as prominent associations with Baba Ramdev. More importantly things like indianness, tradition are likely to forge a strong emotional connect in the current political atmosphere. In fact in our small study we found that Patanjali products do resonate these associations.
- Further evaluation on the experience
Health, indianness and tradition would be the first impressions and they are likely to influence further evaluation of product qualities which is an outcome of their usage experience
- The coherence is consistent in their product attribute evaluation as well. One could see manifestations of purity emerging in the form of taste, sensorials, absence of chemicals, linkage to homemade food, farms etc demonstrating phenomenal consistence without any dissonance.
- Interestingly in many instances we observed people were generous in attributing positive scores to factors that were not explicitly claimed by the brand.
- An interesting aspect was taste which often ends up being at odds with health. For marketers of healthy variants this has been one of the biggest barriers to bridge. Often what is healthy is perceived as something that is not tasty. Interestingly in case of patanjali it has been able to bridge two seemingly conflicting attribute because of the halo effect associated with health, indianness and roots in tradition.
Halo effect has widespread implications across fields where first impressions are crucial.
- Politics and business: our first impressions about a charismatic leader may lead us to associate positive traits without being fully aware of him. Facts in these cases may have little impact in dislodging the positive impressions or creating negative images. This is particularly applicable to business leaders, political leaders, sportsmen etc
- Healthcare: doctors often have their first impressions basis the patient profile or his complaints and do resort to treatment practices. While it works by their extensive clinical experience, but it still plays a strong role in influencing treatment decisions. It is important to monitor this especially in junior doctors who may not have the necessary clinical acumen.
Given the low attention span consumer has and the increase in convergence that is happening in our lives, studying halo effect would help us with newer dimensions and possibilities in understanding the consumer
This was a limited sample study to conducted in an exploratory manner and therefore not statistically validated.
Halo effect- ‘thinking fast and slow’- danniel kahneman