When you live the brand, it is so much easier to build it. Simeran Bhasin, Co-Founder of Innerwear Brand, BRAG, has lived by this policy that has constantly helped her gain over two decades of experience with brands across diverse consumer segments including kids, youth, and luxury. After having worked with Fastrack by Titan, Manipal Hotels, Britannia, and Wildcraft in 2014, she turned entrepreneur and launched India's 1st and only young girl focused Innerwear brand - BRAG, in 2016.
During our webinar series, Simeran Bhasin shared her journey of working with some of the most iconic brands, her insights on making a campaign successful for GenZ, and how she scaled up Fastrack, Wildcraft, and now BRAG at a national level. Throwing light upon her learnings throughout her journey, she believes that it’s important to stay true to the brand essence and that each brand should find a way to become relevant to its consumers in order for it to become a success.
Starting with your journey with Fastrack - from watches to a lifestyle brand for the youth, was the transition easy?
“Everyone in the team at Fastrack was excited about trying something new. I always believed that we have to live the brand to build it and connect with it. That was our starting point. In a company like Titan, the transition was easy. Entrepreneurship is in the blood of Titan. It’s the organization that allowed us to explore innovative avenues for the brand. It’s comparatively easier to build a new brand from scratch or with a relatively smaller brand that is open to experimentation.”
How has it been like to scale brands with national presence?
“It’s simply the amalgamation of a universal business insight, a relevant product insight, and the brand insight that gives the nationality and scalability of the brand across the country. Simultaneously, working on the other aspects of the brand to understand the consumers comes into play that help in scaling brands on a national scale.”
How did the insights garnered from other brands help in building BRAG?
“One has to put oneself into the consumer’s shoes. We were always building a brand for ourselves. Having human bodies come in indefinite shapes and sizes, making the age-appropriate product and creating age-appropriate communication were some of the key parts of BRAG’s brand strategy. With some key hits and misses from the brand, having multiple channels explored, and a direct-to-consumer approach, it all fell into place.”
How would you define BRAG’s vision and why did you pick this particular brand name?
“Brag’s vision has always been “To bring girls’ innerwear out of the closet and onto the streets”. It inspires and aspires for women to speak. Product stereotype, business model stereotype, and the gender stereotypes were the hurdles that we jumped to create the brand. BRAG- the name was short, simple and it connected with our target group. We, as marketers, need to make it simpler for the consumers. The aim was always to leave behind a legacy and create an impact, however, we have seen the definitions of impact change every few months. The priorities shifted from having a cool product to a comfortable one. It’s been a vertical learning curve.”
Insights, Hits, Misses, and more...
“The approach was never to start off as a direct-to-consumer brand. 95% of India shopped for innerwear from offline stores. The game has changed now. Indian retailers have always been a tough nut to crack but they saw BRAG as an opportunity. Our biggest validation came from them. Soon, we were on leading brands’ radars. BRAG’s biggest selling product was for tweens but we were targeting teens. That was an opportunity from the brand to tap onto which gave birth to Ms.Brag (beginner bra for tweens), contributing to 80% of the revenue. The biggest learning for us was to change the consumers (especially teens) mindsets and selling the idea of ‘comfort’ with innerwear, who were habitual to a conventional bra. It was more difficult than convincing a beginner. Switching is a very big challenge and we faced too many barriers. The girls loved what the product looked like, more than what it felt like. Some very strong cultural nuances like these would come up in conversations, revealing external-driven purchase processes. For example, how is it fitting vs how is it looking during the trial sessions? So changing behavior was one of the learnings.”
What according to you are the key drivers to build a brand for GenZ according to you?
“Building brands is not just about identifying the demographic and we tend to get caught up in this a lot. It’s the mindset of the youth in the context of the age segment that is more important. Today, youth brands include Levis and we have seen 70-year-olds wear Levis. They are young at heart. At Fastrack, we defined it as the ‘campus-mindset’ that exists in older generations and younger ones too but the center of the gravity of the mindset is always on the campus. If we get stuck at the age, we still might go too wide and won’t be sharply defined brands. GenZ is extremely authentic and honest as consumers, and they are aware of almost everything, from gender-sensitivity to democracy. When they consume content, they are much more opinionated that previous generations.”
Marketing strategies and channels - what was so different about BRAG?
“Balance between communication for the teens as well as the mothers was crucial. How will the brand look like if the consumer came across the content and how would a mum see it. In the case of tweens, it’s the mother who is taking the user to the product. Hence, we are doing education for the mothers but it’s in the voice of a young girl and we have a separate brand presence on social media for that. Indirectly, communication is what a mum would relate to. It has to be more fun and less awkward, all of that coming from a tween girl to her mother. The trust is built differently hence a separate platform is dedicated to that audience set. As a brand, we also cannot forget to talk to the other set of consumers who have their own voice (the teens) because that might backfire. The content has to be relatable to both the groups.”
New Market Segment Vs Competing in an Existing one - what are your thoughts?
“Playing within the segment is relatively simpler because we don’t need to sell the relevance of the product. For a new segment, you have to build awareness around the need from scratch. That takes a lot of effort and it was the biggest learning for me. It’s not only about creating awareness for the brand but also of the need. Behavior change takes a lot more effort. The risk also revolves around being too early in the market. In the case of existing competition, we need to convince people that what they are buying is not good enough.”
Changing strategies, Changing times during Covid-19 - any message for the branding agencies?
“Marketing is largely a variable expense. Given that there are fewer brands in the e-commerce space, marketing budgets will reduce. Brands are going to cut down projects. For agencies, It's also crucial to recognize ongoing expenses, make operations leaner, and pick smaller projects to meet expenses and keep the cash flow going. It also comes with figuring out of the box solutions towards communication and media, which was probably not part of the mandate in the past. Being overly supporting and going beyond the original mandate will be much appreciated. Humanizing the decisions is the key when it comes to supporting employees...”
Building a brand’s digital community - what should be the starting point of this?
“Ensuring the ‘why’ in place is crucial. Clear purpose, brand persona, brand tonality need to be in place, along with having a strong target group in mind, keeping your communication streamlined. The sharper it is, the greater the chance of success would be. Every brand is online today and everyone is saying they are cool. We should also be very clear on what we will not do or talk about and it should be all part of the brand too.”
Can Purpose become the Brand’s Voice?
“Yes, the purpose can become the brand voice. The purpose can go hand in hand with the brand’s personality and can be used to communicate the end goal. We talk about things that matter to the brand. It may or may not directly talk about the product sometimes. Today, all of us are curating our feeds based on interest so every creation of the brand revolves around the interest. You will attract consumers of that kind.”
Watch the complete session of Simeran Bhasin in conversation with Social Beat. Feel free to drop your questions if you still have questions for Simeran.