Sunday, 23 October 2005

change and you beat the rest

Originally an extract from 22/09/2005). Link no longer available.

Karan Bilimoria founder and CEO of Cobra Beer
Constant innovation is absolutely imperative because people are always going to copy what you're doing, and you can rarely stop that.

We were very strict about protecting the Cobra Beer trademark. But it's practically impossible to patent a beer. The only way you can win is by staying ahead, and you do this through constant innovation.
When you're a small company, what helps give you the edge is not only having the right environment but also always working with the best advisers. Yes, of course they often cost more, but you get what you pay for.
It's not just working with the best advisers, it's how you work with them. We make our advisers part of our team. It's completely open, and we work very closely with them. They get the best out of the relationship, and so do we.
I remember, when I was on a trip to India in April 2002, I phoned my marketing director and said: "Simon, we've got to look at our packaging and change it." He said: "Why? There's nothing wrong with our packaging. It's world class." I said: "Yes, there's nothing wrong with it but we haven't done anything for five or six years now and I really think we need to look at it."
He said: "OK I'll put it out to pitch." We put it out to the best packaging design agencies in the country and we selected Williams Murray Hamm, who ended up becoming design agency of the year. They looked at our packaging and said: "There's nothing wrong with your packaging. You could quite easily stay on with what you've got but, if you want us to look at it, we will."
So they did and they said: "The most important aspect of Cobra Beer to the consumer is the less gassy, extra smooth taste." We said: "We could have told you that!" They said: "It's difficult from a design point of view because you can't really depict gassiness," and went back to think some more.
Then they said: "We've realised that another very interesting aspect about Cobra Beer to the consumer is its story, and we've got inspiration now from Indian, Persian and Roman columns that tell a story in sculpture. We are going to tell the story of Cobra embossed in icons on your bottle."
We set to work. It was a huge challenge. We worked with the best bottle manufacturers in Europe and against all odds created the most embossed beer bottle that has ever been developed: for the first time, a consumer product that tells its story as part of its packaging.
Within a few months of releasing this bottle on to the market, it had won several international awards. That's the whole aspect of never standing still. When we did our new packaging we came up with something revolutionary, and it's enabled us to stay well ahead.
Of course it will not stop there. A little further down the road, we will again have to move on. The consumer is demanding more choice and better quality, and the bar is being raised the whole time. The secret is not just keeping up with that bar, but actually staying ahead of it.