As I look back at 2023, I would like to reflect on one key theme that marked the year — surprising new brands which have entered our active mindspace in India over the past twelve months.

For all of us in the marketing fraternity, achieving top of mind salience for any new brand is worth its weight in gold. In a world that lives on fragmented attention, this is increasingly challenging to achieve. Yet, during 2023, many new brands that we had never heard about earlier have achieved virtually universal awareness.

ChatGPT

Let’s begin with ChatGPT, which burst into public consciousness at the start of 2023. This ushered in the era of generative AI. ChatGPT is a large language model based chatbot. However, it quickly broke free from its technology moorings and assumed magical powers in our minds — because it could do so many things that were unimaginable earlier. Within five days, ChatGPT had attracted over one million users. Within a year now, it has over 180 million users. Companies and individuals began experimenting actively with ChatGPT in a number of areas. This astonishing rise also led to unending debates on multiple aspects of AI. ChatGPT’s tidal wave of popularity imprinted the brand name sharply in our minds. The company which created ChatGPT, Open AI, became a famous brand name too.

Tata WPL

Tata WPL burst into our lives during the first quarter of 2023 as a fresh new sports property that got everyone talking. It brought women’s cricket to centre-stage. Within three weeks, it had become the second most watched sports event in the country, next only to Tata IPL. The inaugural edition threw up star women cricketers who captured our imagination, including Smriti Mandhana, Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet Kaur. Stadiums went full and cumulative viewership of the tournament on television totalled up to an amazing 100 million people. The launch of Tata WPL is likely to be remembered as a transformative moment not just for cricket, but also for women’s sports in India. Kudos to BCCI for creating such a wonderful new brand that achieved brilliant salience so quickly.

From Twitter to X

I had never imagined that a single alphabet could make so much noise so fast. Yet “X” did precisely that, within a few days of Elon Musk re-naming Twitter. Sometime during July 2023, Musk revealed to the world that “X” would be the new name for the iconic brand Twitter. This name had been germinating in Musk’s fertile mind for some time. In 2022, he had already tweeted that this platform would be “an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.” Musk appears to have been fascinated with the alphabet “X” for several years. Regardless of what you think about this re-branding strategy, “X” was soon all over us, ubiquitous and unmissable.

G-20

G-20 is not a new brand name. It has existed as a name for an inter-governmental forum of several countries for the past two decades. However, during 2023, the name reached every part of our country and became a well-known brand in its own right. India assumed presidency of the G-20 in December 2022, and, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it established a sharp, clear agenda for the year ahead. India also strengthened the brand name by adding to it the theme of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” in Sanskrit — which broadly translates as “One Earth, Only Family, One Future”.

Following the summit’s success, G-20 and its lotus shaped brand logo soon became very familiar to all of us, not just in metro cities but across the length and breadth of India.

Oppenheimer

Before the Hollywood movie Oppenheimer was released, not many Indians would have heard of this scientist. Soon after it was released, everyone, from Chennai to Chandigarh, knew. This biopic had a blockbuster launch, far exceeding most Bollywood movies. Soon, millions of Indians were, quite amazingly, talking about an American theoretical physicist who had passed away over 50 years ago. Oppenheimer was no longer just a scientist, but a well known brand name that stood for so many attributes in our minds — brilliant, charismatic, complicated, enigmatic and compelling. Building such a vivid and sharp brand is a holy grail that marketers pursue all the time.

What learnings do you take away from these surprising new brands that made such an impact within a year? On that note, let me wish all of you a very happy new year.

(Harish Bhat works with the Tata group. These are his personal views. His first volume of poetry, “Restless Lives”, has just been published.)

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