By Subodh Tagare & S Vejay Anand
“The apparel oft proclaims the man,” Polonius tells his son in Hamlet. That simply means that ‘clothes make a man’ and largely at first sight determine the way the world creates an impression of him.
Does he appear rich, successful or maybe unkempt? There is a need therefore to dress one’s best, to be thought of well and received better.
Fashion brands endeavour to give their customers a wardrobe so that they can make a mark in society, giving their personality a voice. Raymond’s in India is one such men’s fashion brand that stands for luxury dressing. This is the tale of Raymond's transformation into ‘The Complete Man’.
In the process, the brand crafted an image that went from being outer-directed to inner-directed.
The beginning and the need for change
The journey of Raymond's started in 1925 when it was incorporated as the Raymond Woolen Mill in Thane, manufacturing woollen blankets. Later, in 1944, it was taken over by Lala Kailashpat Singhania. Over the years, Raymond’s has set the standards of men’s fashion manufacturing high-quality fabrics.
Raymond’s grew its business, with advertising contributing to its growth too. By the early 1990s, Raymond’s (as it was then called, but changed to Raymond later) was already a well-known brand. The slogan for Raymond's was “The Guide to the Well-Dressed Male”. The advertising showed handsome men with chic women, with all the trappings of accomplishment, like fast cars, glitz and glamour.
Post-economic liberalisation in India, the competition was heating up, both from national and some international brands. There was a need felt by Raymond’s to strengthen the perception of the brand as ‘the’ premium men’s fashion brand in the minds of the customers.
The brief and the brainstorming
Nexus Equity got the news that Raymond's was calling for a pitch from a few advertising agencies, including Lintas. Nexus Equity was smaller but formidable in talent and ambition. The team at Nexus consisted of Rajiv Agarwal as managing director, M. Raghunath as director, heading client servicing, and Arun Kale and Rajan Nair leading the creative. They were excited and decided to pitch.
The brand reiterated in the one-page brief that it stood for luxury and high fashion. The concept was to reaffirm this prestigious brand in the minds of the customers and set it at the top of its class. With the brief came a wealth of information in the form of old notes, advertisements and press releases, which the Nexus Equity team poured over.
During a meeting with Vijaypat Singhania, the chairman of Raymond’s and the final decision maker, he told Agarwal, Kale and Nair that Raymond’s was open to new ideas, even dramatic ones, as long as they were able to place it as a premium brand right on top. That was an open brief, and a chance to think out of the box.
As an extension to earlier advertising campaigns (and to show Singhania their capability), Nexus Equity thought of a campaign with the theme ‘People who Count’; of casting famous people from various fields like art and music who would do a piece exclusively for Raymond’s.
They presented this idea to the client who loved the idea but opined that it may risk budget overruns apart from having to handle the idiosyncrasies of famous personalities. Singhania decided to give Nexus Equity a chance to get back to him with an implementable concept.
Brainstorming ensued among the Nexus Equity team as they worked towards a breakthrough in concept.
The breakthrough and birth of ‘The Complete Man’
As the team went over various ideas. Nair recollected the time when he had gone to purchase suit material for his wedding. Since Raymond’s was premium and beyond his budget, he purchased another brand. The tailor while stitching the suit cut off the edging that had the name of the brand printed on it. Now only Nair would know the brand name of the suit material, no matter how premium it was.
This insight got the team thinking. They would focus on people who already wore Raymond’s. The customers had to feel happy that they wore a premium luxury brand; that they too were special.
Moving away from showing an ‘alpha’ image of a man, with the usual glamorous women and shiny cars, the new advertising campaign would highlight the good inner qualities and traits that made a worthy man. This man was not a famous personality nor a sportsman whom common people put on a pedestal, but whose life remained unattainable. But every man could be a good son, husband, father, colleague or friend. These were attainable, yet worthy goals giving a sense of self. Such qualities would indeed make him ‘The Complete Man’.
Nair wrote the copy, Kale did the art direction and both prepared a campaign of six advertisements to show to the client. Agarwal was a little unsure whether Raymond's team would like the concept. The advertisements showed children growing up. Another showed friends catching up. But there was no mention of garments. Raghunath, who had not been part of the development of the campaign, was unsure too. But Kale and Nair were confident. They made two other ‘safe’ advertisements at Agarwal’s request.
These two advertisements were shown first to the Raymond’s team, including Singhania, who seemed underwhelmed. The Nexus Equity team now revealed that they had an ace up their sleeve but that it was an unconventional campaign.
After seeing ‘The Complete Man’ campaign, there was silence. Then Singhania stated that this was the campaign he wanted for the Raymond’s brand. The Nexus Equity team was elated.
Unveiling ‘The Complete Man’ and the reception
The advertising campaign was for print and television. Late Prabuddha Dasgupta did the photography, shot in locations like Ooty and Goa. The television commercials were by Subir and Namita of White Light Moving Picture Company, featuring music that was an adaptation of the piano piece called Traumerei (Dreaming) by Robert Schumann.
One of the print advertisements showed a trio of friends with the text akin to poetry, “If…. He can speak his mind, … kick your ****, … and let you be you...” , highlighting the virtues of a good friend. Another advertisement had a photo of a pair of young boys with the inspiring text, “... If you persevere and push, and hang on long enough...you will bask in the sunlight, …what’s more, you’ll sleep well at night.”
Each television commercial was an event or scene from ordinary life, largely without any dialogue or voiceover, except for the gentle melodious notes of the theme music. Some of the commercials were poignant, some warm and some just fun. Each advertisement showed various facets of a complete man. He did not flaunt, nor show off, he just was. He was the thoughtful caring husband who stayed behind to look after the baby when the wife needed to go away for work.
He was the saddened teacher who was given a gift by the young students on his retirement. He was the mature father who recollected how his daughter held his hand growing up, and that now he had to let go as she matured. He was the sentimental young man who wheeled his ailing father down the hospital corridor like the father did for him as a child playing with a wheelbarrow.
‘The Complete Man’ campaign was a hit. The music became a signature tune for Raymond’s. Decades later there is brand recall just by listening to the music. New advertisements too continued with a similar concept, with the additional lines: ‘Feels like Heaven’ and ‘Feels like Raymond’.
Raymond's advertising is a great example of using self-concept in building a brand. The advertisements showed the quiet confidence of a man who wore Raymond’s. He embodied the very aspects of being a good human. The treatment of the concept also set it apart from the competition.
Unfurling into the future
Raymond today produces the finest fabrics of international standards and is a market leader in the domestic worsted suiting industry. It has four brands for the complete men’s wardrobe: Raymond Ready to Wear, Park Avenue, ColorPlus and Parx. It has also expanded into adjacent markets like custom tailoring, and an exclusive Raymond ‘Made to Measure’ for the connoisseurs of style.
Raymond still evokes the gentle signature tune and the image of ‘The Complete Man’ for the common man.
Subodh Tagare is an Associate Professor at IMT Nagpur, where he teaches courses on marketing. Prior to IMT, Subodh was the marketing director at American Power Conversion/ Schneider Electric for South Asia.
S Vejay Anand consults with organisations on business strategy and marketing. He has also been an entrepreneur in the food and pet care spaces. Earlier he was President at Coffee Day and COO at USPL.