From student politics to the world of advertisement Dominic Savio has come a long way

The wannabe politician who morphed into an adman: Strange options, a politician or an adman, but that's the sum total of the life and times so far of Dominic Savio, vice-president and Kerala head, DDB Mudra Pvt Ltd. The glitz and glamour of the ad world has hardly made a dent in the earthy demeanour of this man from Ezhupunna, Alappuzha.

Rebranding is his forte, but Dominic obviously does not find a need to rebrand himself. He can talk for hours on rebranding and the need for it in today's business world, when you wonder what a name change or a logo change can actually beget.

“That's not the only change, but a total transformation has to happen within the organisation. It's not old wine in new bottle at all,” Dominic stresses and gives the example of how he spearheaded the rebranding of Union Bank, a project which won Mudra the coveted EFFIE Award two years ago.

“We worked within the bank for 18 months prior to the final change in the logo. The mindset of 27,000 employees needed to change and that was a Herculean task. We got circulars sent, used the intranet for the purpose, made a poster campaign, published newsletters, held meetings with the unions, seminars and the chairman of the bank addressed the employees all over the country at different centres. Apart from solid changes like introducing core banking and computerising the entire work, audio visuals also played a role in reinventing the system and workforce. It was only after this that the identity change was implemented through the logo.”

The oldest instance one can remember of rebranding a product is the name change of Binaca to Cibaca. But in those days, change of ownership prompted it. Today, it is more adrenalin impact, for better performance.

Sometimes, it even boomerangs, as in the case of Air-India, which changed its logo of the centaur to the sun but went back to the centaur after some time, when the results were not coming. “Imagine the wasted effort and money. The aircraft had to be painted all over again, the emblems on the uniforms changed twice, the stationery, the cutlery…It is a lesson in failed rebranding for all in the industry. That happens when the internal changes are not effectively carried out,” says Dominic, who was also part of the strategic team that rebranded Reliance (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani's) businesses after the split.

A new logo and colour are selected after great thought, usually, because more than words, symbols remain in people's mind.

“That is why the ‘hammer and sickle' conveys so much, why the pug in the ad represents the product. On the other hand, if the icon overshadows the brand or fails to make a connect with the brand then the purpose of having that icon gets defeated. Picking a celebrity, or adding a mascot is not an easy way out. If not well thought or well researched and built on a strong creative platform none of these will work,” Dominic remarks.

When a business splits or expands into more than one outfit, it is important to have a singular identity and not that of the mother-concern, if it is to thrive on its own. In this aspect, Kerala has a peculiar history, that of sticking to the family name, however many people from the family begin different businesses, he pointed out, reeling off a number of family businesses with multiple owners.

Attached to family name

“A family name speaks for integrity, tradition and respected lineage and that's why Malayalis choose to give their business a family name. Often, they give a prefix or a suffix to the family name adding more confusion to the chaos. These attempts may distinguish the brand in the minds of the brand owners, but does little to differentiate it in the minds of the consumer. They have yet to come out of this obsession with the family name. This is a unique issue probably not found anywhere else in the world. It's actually clones' own country,” he jests.

The latest challenges in the ad world relate to using the social media to your advantage, Dominic reveals.

Using the social media for marketing products is old hat, but damage control through social media is an exercise that does not get enough attention. For instance, if you want to buy a microwave oven, what do you do? Google it and see what people have to say about the different brands. And if you buy a brand and find it not satisfactory, you pity yourself for losing so much money. What next? Air your grievances on the Net and cool your ire. This is what prospective buyers see when they Google the brand.

And this is where a disaster management team of the company can make amends and save a situation, Dominic says. Any grievance on the Net must be attended to and lessons drawn from it. That will add an edge to the product, good for the brand and buyers. Such damage control teams have yet to take charge. “Content marketing can also take many forms such as custom magazines, print or online newsletters, digital content, websites or microsites, white papers, webcasts and webinars, podcasts, road shows, roundtables, interactive online, e-mail, and events. It's time companies started putting together such reputation management teams,” Dominic suggests.

But branding and rebranding are what Dominic feels most strongly about. And that's what he ponders over every waking hour, apparently.

He lives in Kochi with wife Riby, five-year-old daughter Rose and Joseph, his toddler son.

The student political activist who was carted off to Mumbai by his father to keep him off the Kerala political scene hasn't done badly at all in a totally different field, but he hasn't written off politics altogether, Dominic says with a glint in his eye.