Marketing Wiz : Advisor Perspectives
Brand tips from a successful young advisor
Gajendra Kothari, Etica Wealth Management, Mumbai

imgbd What's in a name? A lot, says Gajendra who recognized early on the power of creating a distinctive brand in a business where branding is largely ignored. He didn't stop at just a name - he worked consciously on developing the brand identity of his firm Etica Wealth through a great combination of marketing and media initiatives, which has seen this young firm recently cross the Rs.100 crores AuM mark, and look good for many more hundreds to come in the years ahead.

Marketing Wiz - a joint initiative between Kotak MF and Wealth Forum, is dedicated to bringing to you marketing ideas that can help you win clients and boost growth. Gajendra's brand tips, we believe, are hugely relevant for any advisor who has aspirations to grow beyond just himself and create lasting value for clients and for himself.

WF: Why did you choose a distinctive brand name like Etica Wealth for your firm, rather than going with a more personalized approach of say Kothari Investments, which is more of a norm within the distribution world?

Gajendra: I have been a keen student of marketing and have understood its value in building businesses. Right from my MBA days, I have been a keen follower of marketing strategies and marketing insights from successful firms. In particular, I have studied the impact of a brand in taking a business to the next level.

People come and go, it is brands that live on forever. When I decided to quit my job and start my firm, I wanted to create a brand that will outlive me, a brand that will be easily recognized and instantly recalled within my target audience.

As you correctly observed, in the distribution business, very few entrepreneurs have actually created a brand beyond themselves. So, I would have been in tune with the industry if I had simply branded our firm Kothari Investments or something like that. The biggest worry in this approach is that you are perpetuating in clients a belief that the firm is all about you. Naturally, clients will think, what if Mr. Kothari is no longer there? What happens to Kothari Investments? You therefore become a limiting factor to your own business growth.

WF: If I may play devil's advocate, the flip side of this argument is that many IFAs believe that it is their personal touch which helps them score over "nameless, faceless entities" like big branded distribution houses. Having a firm name which closely identifies with the key individual, is therefore a far more reassuring message for clients, in this context.

Gajendra: I think the biggest limitation in this approach is that you are always going to have to be the only person who goes out and advises clients. How many clients can you individually manage? And what happens when you grow to an extent where you want to bring in more advisors into your firm? How then will clients perceive the fact that the key individual / owner of say Kothari Investments is not the one who is managing your money? Wouldn't that be counterproductive?

I guess if your aspirations as an entrepreneur is to serve 50-100 clients and be the sole advisor, then its fine to have a brand that highlights the individual. If your aspirations are to grow beyond that and look at serving hundreds and thousands of clients, you need to create a distinctive brand and work towards shaping its unique identity, such that it is the brand that clients grow to trust, over time.

WF: Why did you choose the name "Etica" and what have you been doing to create a distinctive brand identity for Etica?

Gajendra: The first thing I realized is that the brand must be distinctive and unique - it must stand out and not be part of the crowd. If for example, I had tried combinations with words that play up Wealth - like Wealth First, Wealth Planners, Wealth Creators and so on, it would be part of the clutter, and not distinctive. It won't be a name that people instantly remember, simply because many other names sound somewhat similar.

Etica is a name that probably nobody would have heard, and very importantly, it's a name that arouses a curiosity about what it means. So, it becomes a great conversation starter. I have met so many prospects who start the meeting with "How do you pronounce Etica?" or "What does Etica mean?" or "Is Etica some sort of an acronym or abbreviation?" This gives us a fantastic opportunity to talk about Etica, what it means, what values the brand embodies and what therefore is the brand promise. It helps get the conversation off to a great start.

Etica is a Portuguese word which means ethics. It took me 3 months to finally conclude on the name Etica for our firm. I looked up various Greek, Spanish and Roman words for trust, for money, for wealth and so on. I must have googled hundreds of options before we finally picked Etica. I looked up Etica to see whether any financial services firm in India or elsewhere already uses the name. I couldn't find any.

What Etica means (ethics) is very dear to us in our firm, and is the core brand promise. The fact that we found a word that symbolizes the key principle on which we are building our firm, and is a word not used by other financial services players, meant to me that I have found my brand name. That's how we named our firm Etica Wealth. We registered our domains to ensure we protect our brand.

Our tag line spells out our core brand promise : Ethics Before Everything. That is really the way we run our business. That is what finally clients expect from us, in this fiduciary business : ethics before everything. We also worked extensively on our logo - we had an agency that gave us a few options, I then took them to family friends and mentors, took all opinions and then finally selected one which appealed to most. We then went ahead and registered the name, the logo and the tagline - to ensure copyright protection.

The next challenge was to popularize the brand - to make the brand far more visible than the individuals in the firm. The first step we took was that all communications, all emails go out from Etica Wealth Management email id - not from Gajendra Kothari's personal email id. Every time a mail lands in your inbox, we have created recall for Etica Wealth. Its far more important for people to remember Etica rather than Gajendra or Virendra or Nikhil - the 3 brothers behind Etica.

The blogs we write, the newsletters we send out, any presentation we make - they all have Etica prominently displayed, not individual names. All our office staff, including our runner boys who visit clients to give or collect papers, wear branded T-shirts with our logo displayed on them. In every investor seminar we conduct, our team always wears our branded T-shirts. We participate in seminars and exhibitions where we put up our stalls - all these are branded and we wear our "uniform". All these efforts keep adding up in their own small way, towards reinforcing brand Etica.

WF: Do you see evidence from clients that they are actually engaging with Etica Wealth and not with Gajendra or Nikhil or Virendra?

Gajendra: I'll give you a simple example: when we get any seasons greetings cards from our clients, they don't address it to me or my brothers. They always say Wishing Team Etica a Happy Diwali or a Happy New Year. Clients are engaging with Etica, not just one individual from Etica.

WF: You have also leveraged media very smartly to enhance your brand and build your business. What are the key benefits for your firm from consciously developing a media profile?

Gajendra: Media has been a very important cornerstone in our growth. It requires tremendous bandwidth and a sustained effort, but it is certainly worth the while. There is a misconception that building a media profile gets you a lot of clients. That's not entirely true. But the real benefit is in strengthening existing relationships and driving referrals. Our clients feel very good when they see us in the media - there is a sense of validation that they are with the right advisor. They engage more with us. The quality of engagement improves substantially.

When they see us on TV, they tell their friends, "this guy is my advisor". They readily refer us to their friends and quote our media profile when they refer us. Media profile is a big validator.

Even among peers, our profile improves substantially. If some other advisor approaches my client, the moment our client tells him that we are his advisors, he would typically say, yes I know Etica or I have heard a lot about Etica. That itself is also a strong validation for our clients.

I am a Lions Club member, though not a very active one. But in one of the recent Lions Club meetings that I attended, I found some prominent members willingly introducing me to other members, without me really asking for it. The standard line of introduction ran something like this: "This is Gajendra Kothari of Etica Wealth. He is the guy who appears in all these TV shows on money." Media profile helps in getting helpful brand ambassadors.

We make it a point to send all our media articles and video links to our clients. We have created a YouTube channel called Etica Wealth TV that hosts all our media appearances - there will now be over 40 videos in the channel. We have created 4 files on our office with all our media coverage. When any prospect comes to our office, we show them these files - it creates a very favourable impression. When we send out routine communications to clients like account statements, we add a footer note asking them to either see the Etica Wealth TV youtube channel or asking them to see a link of a recent newspaper article contributed by us or covering us. In all these ways, we constantly try to remind our clients about our media profile - and it certainly helps in enhancing our overall brand image.

All content in Marketing Wiz is created by Wealth Forum and should not be construed as views of Kotak MF.

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