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Buddha hires a brand guru

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By MOHUA DAS
  • Published 10.09.10
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The man positioning London for the 2012 Olympics has been given a brief to brand Bengal.

Wally Olins was on Thursday appointed “to create a brand idea and brand identity for the state of West Bengal”, three months after he had met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with a proposal to position the state as a place to invest in, study in, work in and visit as tourists.

During his Calcutta visit in June, Olins had told Metro: “Unfortunately, Bengal is one of those areas that is least known and least understood both within and outside its own country.”

Now, the 79-year-old who has branded Poland, Spain and Rio de Janeiro — besides being adviser to Orange, Prudential, Forte Hotels, Coca-Cola, Renault, Volkswagen and Tata over five decades — has been hired to help change that.

“We have accepted the offer and are forming a steering committee to which they will submit a presentation in October,” said Niloy Ghosh, director of information, information and cultural affairs, who handed over the appointment letter to Olins’s company Saffron Brand Consultants.

The steering committee, to be formed within a fortnight, will be chaired by the chief secretary and include departmental secretaries from agriculture, tourism, IT and more. “We will also facilitate their meetings with renowned people from various fields to help with the brand-building project,” said Ghosh.

Of what use is this exercise in the time of such political antagonism? “The government has stressed that this will be apolitical. Even when Wally met the chief minister and the finance minister, they were clear about the apolitical nature of the project,” said Avik Chattopadhyay, the CEO of Saffron Brand Consultants, India.

The brief for Team Wally Olins is to resurrect the bruised image of brand Bengal by “sending out a positive signal”. Instilling pride in people, reaching out to people and changing the popular perception about Bengal would hold the key (see box).

“Bengalis are usually perceived to be intellectual, hardworking and erudite but the moment you think of Bengal, a lot of negatives come to mind such as lack of professionalism, bandhs, the Maoist movement....We are expected to find that one unifying idea to bring back the sense of pride and create a positive disposition as well as a fair and unbiased evaluation of the state,” said Chattopadhyay.

What does Olins branding Bengal mean? “Such an image consultant approaching a state that is usually far down the pecking order is itself a great fillip. One should look at the professional positivity and not be cynical of what I think is a great start,” said advertising veteran, Anurag Hira.