Kurnal Rawat, Creative Director for Landor & Fitch, tells us how brands have changed in the past two decades and what it takes to build a brand today.
CG: How did you get into branding as a career?
KR: I knew early on that I was interested in design. I did my undergrad at J. J, School of Arts. It was during this time I explored quite a bit. It was the 90s, so computers and printing technology were fairly new. I loved experimenting with the print even when it was still very new in the market. I even started my studio called Grandmother India right after college.
CG: How did you decide to start your design studio so early on, without any experience?
KR: I was a rebel then, even in college. I started Grandmother India, where I experimented with all media and formats available then, including animation. I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I learned a lot and gained immense knowledge.
CG: You have been in the industry for over 20 years now. How have brands evolved over this period?
KR: Branding has changed quite a bit over these two decades. In the 90s, it was all about advertising and the marketing campaign. Soon brands realised that it is not enough. The brand identity now is more than just a logo. They later began to see the importance of packaging and the fronts where brands make an impression. Today it is about the experience that a brand gives both in-store and online.
An example of that is when I worked on the Colour Store by Asian Paints. We had to design every aspect of the customer experience, right from wayfinding signages, in-store collaterals to the way customers were spoken to.
Another shift that we are seeing is that brands are moving towards sustainability. People today, instead of being brand conscious, are more concerned about sustainability.
CG: So how have people and the customers of these brands changed over time?
KR: Customers have become very aware now, with so much information on brands available out there. They want to know everything about the brands – the back story, who is manufacturing it, is this a fair trade, what is it made of, is it sustainable, etc. And now brands have to adapt to these expectations of the customers. As I said, people now are more conscious of the brands they use.
CG: As a Creative Director, how do you manage the Creative Team? In terms of guiding them yet giving them free rein?
KR: We have a design strategy in place. We decide the purpose, positioning, and broad outcome of the brand personality first. It’s done by using tools like customer journey maps, etc. Once we have a clear understanding of the strategy we want to apply, and the direction we want to take the brand. The team then has free creative rein to work on it. The team can get creative within the broad strategy that has been decided.
CG: What challenges have you faced with clients?
KR: Today, people are aware of the importance of a brand identity. In my early days, I needed to sit with clients and educate them about it. It was challenging to make them see long-term value in brand building. But today, that is not really a problem. Everyone knows how important branding is.
CG: How can we bring Indian culture into brand identities?
KR: There is a shift in the Indianness of brands as well. Youngsters now go abroad to study, and there they find a need to have their own identity. So now they are diving back into their roots.
Slowly Indian culture is getting recognised on the global platform with pride. Young designers who work in other countries have realised that the unique value they bring to the table is their own cultural identity.