Anand Mahindra’s clever Brand Movement for coping with hellacious change

The most powerful Indian brand taps StrawberryFrog to design brand-fueled Movement Marketing that may, momentarily, inspire you to join in and Rise amidst the  the challenges of modern life.

It’s one of the great pleasures of life. But the act of innovating and creation shouldn’t be a limiting experience. This is why Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra incited the Rise movement to transform his corporation, his team mates, his customers and his consumers.

Rise Anthem Film

The Mahindra Group, is an Indian multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai, with operations in over 100 countries around the globe. The group has a presence in aerospace, agribusiness, aftermarket, automotive, components, construction equipment, defense, energy, farm equipment, finance and insurance, industrial equipment, information technology, leisure and hospitality, logistics, real estate, retail, and two wheelers. It is considered to be one of the most reputable Indian industrial corporations. With over 40,000 employees, decision making had grown more convoluted and branches of the organization had become misaligned. Over the years, Mahindra had built in lots of procedures, and for many good reasons. But, those procedures had also slowed it down.

Anand sought to evolve Mahindra’s culture to be nimble, innovative, and customer-centered. He knew it required a journey to align and galvanize all employees. His leadership team began with a search for purpose together with StrawberryFrog. Over the course of several months, the Mahindra team led Ruzbeh Irani, who worked with Scott Goodson and his StrawberryFrog team to learn about the needs of everyone, from factory workers to scientists, external partners, customers, and investors. Together they defined and distilled the purpose of the company, paring it down to three simple pillars that underpinned the “RISE” movement: Use your ingenuity. Accept no limits. Drive positive change. The key strategy we used to align all the different interests and activate a solution which was good for all, was to focus on an idea on the rise in culture, to buttress the RISE movement idea. And this is what everyone could get behind. The motivation was pride, not dictated from the top down. And instead of plastering this new slogan on motivational posters, the leadership team began by quietly using it to start guiding their own decisions. The goal was to demonstrate this idea in action, not talk about it. StrawberryFrog designed management training and role playing sessions over several month across all companies. Projects were selected across channels to highlight the pillar of RISE and Mahindra teams were rewarded for their alignment with the movement. Then we went global, involving their largest offices in key markets like the USA, Chile, Europe and South Africa. A comprehensive internal RISE team and platform was developed to help Mahindra employees be proactive with their customer requests and innovate around problems in an agile way.

After the launch of RISE, StrawberryFrog led large-scale interactive workshops to onboard employees to RISE. Post the workshop, we worked to develop Mahindra Leadership University, and created the Leadership Competencies, keeping RISE in mind.

The 3 Rise Pillars were divided into 5 Leadership Characteristics, and 16 attributes. Rise Behaviors were defined for each of the attributes. Mahindra integrated the Rise Behaviors into HR so that RISE emerged in the life of employees.

As a part of this intervention, the Performance Management System was redesigned, the Recruitment process was revamped.  Interview questions during recruitment were recreated to evaluate talent on the RISE Behaviors. Development Centers using RISE evaluated Leadership competencies in employees.

Currently, Mahindra is working on a journey which is designed to bring RISE to the forefront by facilitating small behavioral changes in the lives of employees to enable them to RISE. After the introduction of RISE, Mahindra saw a significant shift in employees behaviors. This conclusion is not merely a daily observation, but it is indicated by the data we collected. Some of the indicators of this change are mentioned above:

The Mahindra Cares survey measures the engagement levels of our officers. Our Employee engagement scores has increased year on year from FY15 to FY18.

MCARES Score for FY15 was 3.76, for FY16 was 3.92, for FY17 was 4.05 and FY18 was 4.13.

The Future Leaders Program was rolled out, an Integrated Talent management and Leadership development intervention building a Leadership Talent pool. The FLP was an 18 month developmental journey in collaboration with Yale School of Management and IMD Lausanne.

Apart from FLP, we have seen a rise in the strength of our talent pipeline and as a group we have been able to achieve a target of having succession cover more than 60% of our critical positions which is the highest level of achievement as per our defined targets.

Mahindra employees have become more sensitive to the 3 RISE Pillars and 5 Leadership Characteristics and the employees are living RISE. The RISE 360 survey measures this, which has reached more than 16,000 employees with more than 50% of the leadership. The analysis of the data points showed that the employees are rated high on sensitive, trusting and trustworthy. The data shows that employees are high on whole brain thinking and are highly focused on driving positive change.

What Is Your Brand Against? From Harvard Business Review


Companies understand that to be successful they and their brands need to stand for something. This results in bold and principled declarations to the world: “At Acme Amalgamated, we’re committed to X. We believe in Y. We care passionately about Z.” Unfortunately, in the end, it all starts to sound like generic ad-speak.

Here’s a modest suggestion: If you really want to show the world what you believe in and stand for, how about telling us what you stand against?

Recently, my agency StrawberryFrog launched a new campaign for smart car that was rooted in this kind of oppositional thinking. We understood that the smart car brand stands for some pretty good things: efficiency, economy, reduced environmental footprint. But put way, it sounds rather dull and predictable.

By defining instead what smart is against — over-consumption, excess, thoughtless behavior — we began to craft a statement with more of an edge. As we boiled down the idea some more, what emerged was a simple yet powerful declaration of principle, stating that we are “against dumb.” It felt a little more gutsy and provocative than your typical ad line, which may be why the campaign immediately drew press attention. At the same time, by giving customers something to rail against (everything from gas-guzzlers to oversized Venti lattes), the campaign created a vocal community of smart car advocates. In a short period of time, the brand more than quadrupled its audience.

Marketers may be reluctant to take a stand against anything because it can feel controversial or divisive. But the truth is, some of the boldest marketers have been doing this kind of thing successfully for quite a while. Think of Apple, which in its early days came out strongly against conformity and the “Big Brother” world of computing (represented then as now by the larger, more conservative IBM). Later, fashion brands such as Diesel railed against all kinds of establishment views; in its ads during the 1990s, Diesel even seemed to be against advertising itself, which resonated well with its youthful, independent-minded customers.

The marketing writer Adam Morgan has said that brands sometimes need to create “fake monsters,” so that everyone (meaning all your potential customers) will come together to fight the monster and save the village. But I would amend that to say the monsters aren’t or shouldn’t be fake — they ought to be based in real concerns and issues in today’s world.

Wherever there’s a possibility for improvement, you can speak out against entrenched ways or status quo attitudes. Or you can defend tradition by taking on trendy new attitudes and behaviors. Either way, there’s no shortage of things worth taking a stand against. Just be sure that the cultural values and behaviors you take on do indeed run counter to your brand philosophy. These can be matters large or small, serious or playful. A campaign we once did for IKEA took a stand against being a “gray mouse” (which is to say being timid and safe in one’s choices). A more recent one, for Sabra hummus, directly challenged the bland, unadventurous eating habits of many Americans.

One caveat: Don’t simply take a stand “against” your competition. You may hate your competitor’s guts, but nobody else cares; the outside world is looking for you to take on something more meaningful and interesting.

Defining what your company is against has longer-term benefits than a compelling ad campaign. Thanks to social media, more companies now understand that consumers want to participate in a real conversation with brands. To make this conversation (or any conversation) work, there must be an honest exchange of views. A big part of that is for both sides to be willing to say, “I’m for this” and “I’m against that.”

And if you want to expand that conversation so that it becomes a cultural movement built around your brand — which is something that all marketers should be striving for today — then you need to give that movement a sense of purpose and action. The truth is, it’s often easier to rally people against something than for something. Just think of some of the most successful social and political movements through history — up to and including the current Tea Party movement. More often than not, these movements start with people protesting against or saying “no” to something.

Which is not to suggest that your campaign, or the movement you’re trying to lead, should amount to one big gripe-fest. The conversation you have with the public may start by pointing out something wrong, but ought to move beyond that to offer better alternatives, ideas, and actions you can help people take. If you can do that, it’s possible to transform negative energy into a positive force — both for your customers and for your brand.

Scott Goodson is the founder and chairman of StrawberryFrog, a global cultural movement agency whose clients have included P&G, Emirates Airline, Jim Beam, Heineken, Pepsico, Natura Brazil, the Smart Car, and India’s Mahindra Group.

Scott Goodson is the author of the new book Uprising: How to Build Your Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements, and founder and chairman of StrawberryFrog, a global cultural movement agency.