Why blame XLRI when Harvard also does it!

Most of you – especially those from India – know that XLRI, Jamshedpur is one the top B-Schools in India. But we are not interested about anything about B-School or ranking of them in this article. That is definitely a debatable and hence interesting topic and might be the subject matter of some future article on TNMG.

Coming back to the current article a few months back XLRI launched a campus store. This is how media describes the start of the initiative:

“Students and the alumni can show it off, admirers can make a statement. XLRI-branded apparel is now on sale”

(Source: The Telegraph, Jamshedpur, July 23)

Now, as a marketing person this led to certain questions in my mind some of which you also will be sharing after reading up to this part of this article. What a B-School has got to do with branded apparels? If XLRI is a brand – is it a brand extension? If yes, was the brand extension a right decision? And so on…

Now, to help your thinking process let me provide you some more details. To quote The Telegraph again:

“Pride Forever, a Mumbai-based retail chain, has opened a store on campus, selling XLRI-branded goodies for students, faculty, alumni and XLRI fans”

. So, XLRI has actually tied up with Pride Forever and XLRI is mainly providing their brand name and space in the campus. This initiative can be considered as an example of brand licensing. The store has a good online presence too. So, if you are interested to know more about this store you can visit their online website here. Please find below a promotional picture from the website of Pride Forever. To disappoint you – as per my best knowledge – neither the girl on left nor the one on right belongs to XLRI!
Now, coming to the key issue in the article – basic marketing starts with a marketing objective and the STP (or segmentation, targeting and positioning) helps you to design your actual marketing mix or 4Ps. And synergy among all these is very important for successful marketing and branding. So, to answer the questions that we have mentioned earlier let’s start with some more generic questions. What is the marketing objective of XLRI? No one can give a better answer than the owners and administration. But as we don’t have the luxury of knowing that – it will be fair to assume that – the marketing objective of XLRI as a top B-School of India is to provide best quality management education. Now, based on that objective it targets best aspiring young leaders of India and be positioned as a best-in-class management institute. So, again we come to the same question. What a B-School has got to do with branded apparels? One of the possible answers might be – though XLRI is basically a B-School or management institute – people (including students, faculty and staff) who in some way or other interact with it somehow make an emotional connect with the institute. They feel proud to be a part of it. And XLRI branded apparel just takes it one step forward. As B. Prathik, a student at XLRI puts it:

“The store will surely promote the brand. It will be beneficial for those who want specific products, too. The brand means a lot to the students and they will definitely like to flaunt it.”

And over the time students are actually doing that!

But in spite of that reasoning which is solely based on emotional connect part – we are left with the question of whether it is a right brand extension? Now, again to help you think these are some of the critical points that any marketing book will suggest you to consider before going for a brand extension:

  • Evaluate the fit between the product class of the core brand and the extension.
  • Evaluate consumer perceptions of the attributes of the core brand and seek out extensions with similar attributes.
  • Refrain from extending the brand name to too many products.
  • Is the brand extension distanced enough from the core brand?

Now, if we actually try to go by these textbook advices then the apparel as a category is not so close to management education to make it ‘the’ right brand extension strategy. In fact, if brand extension is the chosen way to grow XLRI – there can be many other product and service categories that seem to be a better fit than apparel. You need to know no marketing to suggest such better avenues of growth. Moreover this campus store is not only selling apparels but also into the business of selling – accessories, stationeries, toys, gift cards and even chocolates. It seems they will be very happy to sell anything and everything under the sun if it sells. But then, whatever we are taught in marketing and branding – is that just for learning and when it comes to real world only selling matters? Won’t this not-so-related brand extensions might actually lead to brand dilution of XLRI in the long term?

Now, XLRI being a management institute teaches marketing to the future marketers of India. So, how come they can take such a decision? Or, is it that we are missing something? This doubt kept on lingering in my mind. When I did a little googling on the issue – I came to know that this kind of campus branding is very common in the west and even in India it is catching up. In fact Pride Forever has tied up with not only XLRI but also many others Indian institutes. I became more confused when I can to know that even Havard Business School – that teaches marketing to the world actually entered into a ten year licensing arrangement with Wearwolf Group Ltd. of New York to develop and sell a line of preppy apparel bearing the “Harvard Yard” brand and crimson trim. In fact that is not the end of the story. As NY Times says: “Harvard began licensing its name for clothing in the 1980s, in part to help raise funds for financial aid, and that such deals now generate about $500,000 a year in revenue”. So, does it indicate that the reasoning of brand dilution which we conceived based on the textbook suggestions is actually flawed? The fact that Harvard lends only its brand name and the design, manufacturing and marketing of the clothes remains with Wearwolf Group Ltd – will not it lead to loss of control in projecting the brand image and in long term lead to brand dilution? Once again to help your thinking – please find below a picture of ‘Harvard Clothing Line’. Do you relate the brand Harvard with this picture? Does not it create any brand dissonance? What do you think? I would be more than eager to know your comments on the same. So, don’t be lazy – let all the TNMG readers know what you think and feel on the issue! 😀

This entry was posted in Featured, Marketing Practice, Marketing Theory and tagged , , , , , , , by Dr. Angshu. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr. Angshu

Dr. Angshu is the founder and owner of TNMG: The Next Marketing Guru. He is a PhD and MBA in Marketing from XLRI Jamshedpur. Currently he is leading large scale marketing, research & analytics projects as part of Strategy & Insights team at Star India, India’s no. 1 Media & Entertainment company. In his last job, he was heading Consumer Insights function for Spice Group. Earlier he has worked for Wipro Technologies and managed IT projects for marketing division of a Fortune 100 company. Dr. Angshu is a Visiting Professor at XLRI and IMT Ghaziabad. He has published multiple research papers on marketing, social media and luxury consumption. Recently he has published a book titled “Influence 2.0: How Social Media WOM Influences You" published by reputed international publishing house Lambert Publishing. Other than work and academics, he is a social media addict, big foodie and amateur pianist. You can contact him by: Gmail | Facebook | LinkedIn

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