Hero Honda is the world’s largest producer by volume of motorcycles (or ‘two- wheelers' as they are called in India). It enjoys the lion’s share of the Indian market and is loved by tens of millions of Indians. The company started as a joint venture between Hero Group of India and Honda Motors of Japan.
It has been one of the most successful partnerships in the history of India Inc., but in late 2010, after 27 years of success, the two companies announced their amicable separation and Hero Group took majority control of the company. After the split, each partner was free to act independently. In Hero’s case, this meant entering new markets like Latin America, Africa and South East Asia as well as building new lines of business beyond two-wheelers. In turn, this meant creating a new version of an Indian icon, preparing it for the world stage.
The brief came directly from Mr. Pawan Munjal, MD and CEO of Hero MotoCorp, in January 2011. In a nutshell, he was asking what the new brand should be. Its positioning, the relationship of the manufacturer brand to other parts of the Hero Group as well as to the strong product brands like Karizma and Splendour. And of course, the name and new visual identity, including dealer signage. Wolff Olins worked closely with Mr. Munjal and his senior team to create the new brand. The challenge was to build the image of an innovative engineering company while also retaining its equity as the nation’s heartbeat.
Research showed clearly that this equity draws from the liberating effect a two-wheeler has upon the social and economic circumstances of a typical Indian. We called this effect the ‘catapult’ (and A. R. Rahman translated our thought into a new company anthem, Hum mein hai Hero – There is a Hero in us.) The brand had to signal continuity and change. So one of the most obvious early conclusions was to use the name Hero alone but to change much of the rest of the identity.
Referring to the last few months and the journey ahead, Mr. Munjal said "the new brand identity has been born out of our desire to break the shackles and realise our potential which was restricted by the nature of our JV with Honda.” The new brand will support the successful launch of Hero in international markets while further consolidating its leadership in India. Internally, the brand will guide (and hopefully inspire) employees and partners. But the new Hero is much more than a new identity. It is a new icon of an already successful business and an expression of irrepressible confidence to expand beyond India and beyond two-wheelers.