Childlike curiosity builds brands: Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Group


Addressing a group of enthusiastic MBA students at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai on April 10, Harish Bhat, author and Brand Custodian, Tata Group, gave a different view of how marketing and branding need to be viewed. Curiosity, he said, is what gives birth to ideas and builds lasting brands.

At the launch of his book The Curious Marketer, Harish cited the examples of Jamshedji Tata, Bajaj, Apple, Starbucks, the Ganesha festival, and even the animal kingdom to prove his point.

Left to right: Dr Ranjan Banerjee (Dean SPJIMR) with Harish Bhat

In this world where information is available at the click of a button, Harish believes that one needs to step out and explore. Addressing the audience, he said:

“There are three kinds of people who are a part of this world — those who do not know anything at all and have no inclination to know, those who know things but believe they know it all, and finally, those who believe they know something but also realise that there are many things they are yet to learn and know. These are the ones who can be called curious. Curiosity is an urge to discover and learn more about the unknown.”

Putting that in the context of the corporate world, Harish said it was curiosity that led Jamshedji Tata to build one of the biggest steel plants the country has known, and it was this very curiosity that got Steve Jobs to try his hand at calligraphy and replicate that design and beauty in all Apple products.

In his book, Harish says: "Curiosity is a human trait present deep within every person, the question for marketers is: How can we cultivate for ourselves a heightened sense of curiosity." He lists seven key actions that help marketers tune up their own curiosity. These are,

  1. Be aware that you don’t know it all: The book explains that the biggest stepping stone towards curiosity is being aware that the universe of knowledge is vast and expanding. What you know is only a small part of this universe.
  2. Ask questions all the time: To be curious you have to ask questions and not a few, but several. Harish explains it doesn’t matter how intelligent or unintelligent the questions are, the idea is to ask them.
  3. Listen extensively, without judgement: One of the biggest problems with marketers is that they tend to talk more than they listen. In his book, Harish says, "When you pass spot judgement on something you are hearing, your mind is no longer open. On the other hand, when you listen with a mind that is totally open, you are willing to soak in knowledge without any inhibiting filters."
  4. Observe customers with a keen and fresh eye: “How many times do we actually observe the customer on what they like, what they don’t like, and what they truly feel about our products?” asked Harish.
  5. Seek new experiences and meet new people.
  6. Embrace the unexpected: “Sometimes unexpected things happen to each of us. Embrace them, because they can spark your curiosity.”
  7. Read, read, and read: Reading provides you with a window into all these fascinating worlds, so it is very likely to enhance your levels of curiosity.

Speaking about how he got the idea for this book, Harish told YourStory,

“I am curious about the people I meet, curious about the experiences I have. I love experiencing new things in my life — whether it's food, travel, books, or even movies. I have been a marketer for over 30 years and have been associated with the Tata brands, so this book sits at the junction of me being a curious person and a marketer.”

The Curious Marketer captures over 30 years of Harish’s experience with the brands of the Tata Group, where he has firsthand seen the consumer change and evolve. The book urges everyone, especially marketers, to harness their inner child and see everything with a fresh new perspective.


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