Tuesday, December 3, 2019

How the Royal Enfield brand keeps the magic going

Scene from the Royal Enfield video "Astral Ride" shows stars.
Scene from Royal Enfield video "Astral Ride" on YouTube.
Blogger Jorge Pullin recently pointed to a YouTube presentation that explains the power of the Royal Enfield brand.

"The Enduring Magic of Royal Enfield: Understanding the Mojo of the Brand" was the topic of Royal Enfield brand manager Shubhranshu Singh's presentation at the Great Lifestyle Brands conference in India recently.

You can watch his entire talk on YouTube, but it's 40 minutes long.

Here is a quick summary, not that he needs help from me in explaining, but I'll take a few shortcuts to save time.

Singh begins with this:

"Things endure because they're relevant at each stage of their evolution. It's not like they are enduring simply because my grandfather still thinks that Royal Enfield is a cool brand and they make great bikes. It's because millions of consumers today — the ones who are intending to buy — also think it's relevant for them."

I take from that he means that while Royal Enfield clearly honors its heritage, as its decidedly retro-styled products attest, it doesn't ride on heritage alone.

He quoted Siddhartha Lal's 2005 statement, "We will put the world under the spell of a new order of motorcycling from a brand that continues to transcend time."

Critically, that was before the introduction of the modern Unit Constructed Engine and the new Classic 500 that together made Royal Enfield a roaring success in India and a player in motorcycling around the world.

Yet Lal's 2005 statement remains a guiding principle, Singh said.

It's not that nothing about the product changes. A brand that does one thing and one thing only risks consumer fatigue, Singh warned. But a brand that can be many things to many people over time can endure.

What does stay the same is this:

"There is an unwavering nature in the way in which the brand conducts its business," Singh said.

And what is that?

"So, for Royal Enfield, it is a feeling. It is a sense of passion," he said.

He goes on to say that it is also "a sense of belonging to a tribe." If you're riding a Royal Enfield and you see someone else riding a Royal Enfield, you feel "he's my kind of guy."

That may be true in India, where Royal Enfield has a long, uninterrupted history (almost as long being built in India as in Great Britain) and fantastic sales. But that sense of community, augmented by long-standing mass events in India such as Ridermania, doesn't much exist yet in the United States or anywhere else outside India.

That's OK. Royal Enfield will work to "create culture" around its brand everywhere, Singh said.

"So you take things at your slow and easy pace, you focus on doing few things but doing them very deep, and you try to build culture. So my submission would be that almost every brand can make an ad, most brands can do a reasonable job at marketing, very very few brands in the world can create culture from scratch."

Later in the talk Singh mentions that this could be as simple as having a weekend ride at a dealership — perhaps just a few riders merely going out to breakfast. From this comes a bond, increased interest and, for a few, commitment.

He was on firmer ground, still, I think when he emphasized this principle:

"No boundaries; which means everybody's welcome. It's an 'inclusivist brand,'  there is no exclusion, there is no platinum grade rider and life behind the velvet rope and you're not eligible because you've not clocked 30,000 kilometers, nothing like that."

"Pure motorcycling," gets mentioned, of course, by which Royal Enfield always means "authentic; not being plasticky; not being — you know — talking about features alone; it's not about compelling you to do something, it's about motivating you to do something. So it's always a 'pull' orientation rather than bombarding you with commercial-seeking messages."

"When others are zagging we would like to zig and when others are zigging we would like to zag, and that's also provided a lot of distinction to the brand. For instance, even today, as a motorcycle, we are naked, we are metallic, we are heavier, we are not necessarily the fastest motorcycle, we are not the most tech laden," he said.

Others can do those things, he said. There's no need to join them.

If you have the time, it's worth watching the full 40 minutes to get a full sense of why Royal Enfield does the things it does. But, even if you don't, take just a few seconds to watch this excerpt, in which Singh concluded with a tribute he didn't expect his boss Siddhartha Lal, would ever see.


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