While not everybody will agree that she was indeed the finest singer in her time, nobody will disagree that she is by far the finest brand in her enchanting domain. Lata Mangeshkar leaves behind an inimitable legacy of creation as well as unique lessons for brand builders in every sphere, who value timelessness as a sincere agenda.
Firstly, unlike many others, human mortality is frankly a matter of emotion, as her vocational immortality has long been assured by a formidable portfolio, spanning more than five active decades. Quite like the great Tagore, she seems to have a song for every mood, thus becoming an amplifier for our deepest sentiments and myriad desires. When even the most melodically challenged hums a number in merry solitude or public expression, the matriarch lends an invisible helping note, permitting the imagination to leap effortlessly to where the voice cannot. A quality famously ascribed to the Phantom of the Opera, she actually resides in each one of us who cares to invite her to our conscious earthly domain. But then, the subject of the day is her influence on brand builders and I must not digress by dint of influential sentiments.
Let’s first dwell on the much-aspired virtue of relevance, as here is somebody who has been attractive to young and old, male and female, for seven decades in seamless succession, always a notch above the adjacent talent pursuing her space. Truthfully, the business of background singing is blessed with a queer advantage as the facades keep changing to keep the visible youthfulness intact, thus there is no pressure unlike say, the stage rock star who must shape up and indulge in Botox therapy. Therefore, can brands across the spectrum consciously delink the façade from the soul, creating customer affinity that is fronted by seemingly new age ‘packaging’ at large? Packaging as defined by literal coverage, as illustrated by the many format changes of Coke and Pepsi, rather old brands in their own right, which also includes innovative variants as constant renewal of customer commitment. Stalwarts like HMV, Kodak, IBM, Nokia and so many others failed because of a rigidity in delivery mechanisms, incapable of customer centricity at the very core, thus unable to convert a point in time franchise to a timeless legacy of excellence.
On customer centricity I must dwell farther, as that is perhaps the defining definition of her prodigious talent, however transactional this may sound at the altar of divine genius. When she delivered a live rendition of ‘Aye mere watan ke logo’ to a bewildered Indian Army, devastated by the friendly Chinese aggressor, it was symbol of the respect and affection of an entire nation, not just Pandit Nehru. Thus, she had the munificent double-edged skill of representing the masses as well as the classes, thus adding valuable dosages of equanimity in the value equation, a rare calibre in the coliseum of brands. This honestly reminds me of a brand called Horlicks, which graduated effortlessly from representing the desires of citizens to being the recommendation of doctors as well as being the purveyor of contemporary ambitions, the tiger mom navigating her child’s career. A huge lesson for the heroes of the day, be it the financial aggregators or the e-commerce satraps, about always being amenable to the topmost emotion of the times, in a definitely serious and undeniably candid frame of expression.
The other underrated quality of Lata Mangeshkar was the discipline and rigor in learning languages, as clearly elucidated by Bengali, a tongue she acquired possibly by the reverence for Hemant Kumar, the doyen of the region. This realistically, extended her domain at large, as possibly the finest cultural region of the nation embraced her as one of their own, adding to a connectivity that was rather entrenched in the first place. In a possibly callow comparison, this is the equivalent of the regional variants of Maggi Noodles, which have attended to regional sensibilities as efficiently as a cross-national provocation, the leitmotif of an entire brand system, successful across the globe. When Google today articulates the virtues of voice, video and vernacular, do pardon the traditionalist for ascribing this wisdom to the lady who passed on yesterday, for she managed to connect with the regional audiences as effortlessly as the national mainstream, flair being the highest common factor.
Too much more can be written and spoken, but I will rest my case with a simple yet adequate conclusion. Lata Mangeshkar, well apart from every other celestial skillset, was also a marketing genius who connected effectively to every sensitive Indian, consistently and cohesively over much of our independent existence. Some of this credit surely must be bestowed on the chosen partnerships, the music directors and the male vocalists, and this is surely yet another lesson for brands of our time. To actively seek the winning alliances, topical not permanent, perhaps resembling the direct-to-home bonds that were forged during the corona crises. Brands, in order to delight coming generations, must seek those deserving conduits who break bread with the demanding retail paymasters.
Lata Mangeshkar will continue to live in more ways than one, her physical presence or indeed absence just a notional statistic, as the dominating influence resides resolutely in the unflappable ages. Brand owners will surely pause to pay their respects, more importantly they must apply the learnings curated by this prolific genius.
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