Category Archives: Marketing

Copenhagen all the way

Copenhagen climate change OOH

Copenhagen 2009 climate change summit

Copenhagen is hot these days with talks of climate change. But as most of us might have seen, there are a series of OOHs that is getting immense publicity these days. The ads present a futuristic picture of world leaders including aged versions of Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy among others in 2020 and feature them saying, “I’m sorry. We could have stopped catastrophic climate change…we didn’t.” Copy reads ‘Copenhagen 2009 Act Now – Change The Future.’

The placing could not have been more perfect. They were there bang on outside the airport. None could miss it.

The things that are spot on are

  1. The picture entices you to read the copy and hence draws you into it
  2. The copy talks to you and not the mass, you relate with it better

Greenpeace has generated far more PR for the issue than it could have had it issued press statements. It is being talked about by everyone. The journalists landing at the airport are eager to snap it and mention it in their articles.

There has always been talk of how Publicity is better than advertising. I beg to differ. Publicity is better than advertisement but when both can be combined to result in one another, there cant be a deadly combination. An advertisement that creates publicity is two birds at a shot. Its like, sometimes you just know that your idea is going to get people talk and think. That is the best idea. This was not any top notch advertising agencies idea but an inhouse idea.

Idea

Generating an idea for an ad

So are generating ideas easy? Absolutely I think. You just need to know whom you are targeting. If you know that then you definitely know what they would like from your communication. And if your communication entices some emotion out of the target then I would say it was a good effort. Just be sure that you do not lie on the zone of indifference in the mind of your audience.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Marketing

The OOmpH factor

The rise of the OOmpH factor

KingFisher OOH IndiaThere are ads and there are better ads, the better ads sell and the ads don’t. it has become so much more important to connect with the consumer. And that is why it is important to set foot on the OOH segment as soon as possible. Out-of-home advertising (or outdoor advertising) is made up of more than 100 different formats.  Outdoor advertising is essentially any type of advertising that reaches the consumer while he or she is outside the home and this is best thing about OOH, you see them while you are on the move and hence more scope for the impulse to act. It gives more meaning to the two way process. It is no longer what you want to communicate. It is a conversation and the conversation is becoming more active than passive. OOH cost less than what your traditional mass media would cost you and can be regionalized and can be tweaked around to find the ideal communication layout.

There is this recent phenomenon of flash mobs being used. It is a normal method in the west but the Indian public is just getting used to it. It involves a group of people who all of a sudden enact or showcase something in between crowded areas. A very cost effective method. Allen Solly had used this method of hummanequins of live models suddenly freezing in between a mall and having the latest Allen Solly merchandise on them. Novel way indeed. Although the concept is restricted to metro cities as of now it wont be long till we see this concept spread further to other tier cities.

 What OOH solves is your problem of getting to the target audience. You know where to reach them out but if you don’t know if your marketing effort is going to impact them or catch their attention then OOH is the way. It has all of a sudden led to another branch of marketing professionals who concentrate in that niche alone and do a pretty good job for the buck passed to them.

Axe is becoming my favorite brand when it is coming to OOHs and catching their target group off guard. Axe Inxtinct carries the trend forward for them.

What OOH let you do is carry a conversation. The brand tries to communicate something to you. You notice it and react to it instantly and follow it up.

Advertising agencies are trying to separate OOH from its included activities and hive it into another unit simply to focus on it better. So that the clients get a better deal and execution. Like Group M for WPP.

OOH has certainly come a long way from just hoardings and banners.

Leave a comment

Filed under Branding, Marketing

The power of Publicity

Maruti Suzuki Corporate

Maruti Suzuki Corporate

Everyone for sure remembers the corporate ad that was made for Maruti Suzuki by Rajeev Menon which ended with the tagline – “India comes home in a Maruti Suzuki”. Moreover it had a brilliant emotional connect, when you saw the youngster asking for a lift after his bus broke down and in his HELP signcard, it was written –  Need to be home for Diwali.

Brilliant ad. Hats off to Rajeev Menon and the people involved in it.

I don’t know how many of us know that today there was a news in which it was reported how around 50 passengers were stranded in the Vizag airport due to technical snag in the plane and were suffering from an emotional snag by the lack of empathy of the Air India officials too who didnt even bother to serve a glass of water and were passing on the buck.

What does Maruti Suzuki have to with Air India?

Air India - Going down..coming?

Air India - Going down..coming?

Imagine this hypothetical condition: If Maruti Suzuki officials had  came to know about it and arranged a private jet or a chartered flight to transport them to Delhi. And while they were on flight they advertise their corporate ad that they had made. Imagine the news spreading like wildfire among the news channels and you have Maruti Suzuki’s ads being shown. Imagine how many people would be in awe of the company. Imagine how many people would spread the news through word of mouth. Imagine the number of blogs written and a few awards in its name too. Imagine the magazine articles written on it and the chat room talks about it. Imagine the coverage on advertising websites. Imagine the whole range of possibilities. How they could have leveraged this to tailor future communications. Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant!

creating happy customers

creating happy customers

The cost would have been far lesser to promote you brand in a cricket match that people would just skip as soon as the ads came in. What a chance to increase their brand awareness and brand recall and etch themselves permanently in the minds of the people. What an opportunity to leverage yourself on your competitors service failure. The same thing could have been done by other brands like Deccan or jet or kingfisher too. Imagine the image that would have been made. That is the power of what Competitive Service Recovery (Hey I just made a word. Sounds good too. How do you trademark that?) would have done. Maruti Suzuki still has time . Approximately three to four hours, but unfortunately my blog is not that famous as Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki to spread like wildfire even if they are irrelevant.

Probably this is what Al Ries called as the power of PR. Publicity creates brands and advertising maintains it – The 22 immutable laws of branding.

Leave a comment

Filed under Marketing

Why India needs David and not a Goliath approach

Indiaa..Incredible India

Indiaa..Incredible India

What is India? Why is it Incredible?

“We were all so sad when you ran away from home. Your parents were disappointed and worried when you ran away to Bangalore, but they are happy to see you fine now. “

“I had to aunty. Or else I would have been like my brother and couldn’t have escaped from there. There was so much of trouble at home and they wouldn’t allow me to go to Bangalore for sure. So I had to run. But now that I have got my salary I am sure they are relieved. Please order whatever you want. Waiter! Bring a cup of coffee and two teas.” Said a family of three next to my table when I was having my tea.

This has been the story of India pretty much. The story of India that is eager to earn and consume. That does not want to be tied to boring chores but wants to explore the world that he/she sees. This is not the story of two India’s- India and Bharat, but that of layers of several India’s. Not a monolith but a multi- layered cake according to Rama Bijapurkar. It is a country that has made multi-national corporations kneel according to their whims. It is a country that has embarrassed the foreign companies thought process. A country deserving a different treatment altogether. “A treatment where it won’t be the best policy but the next policy that will succeed”, according to C.K Prahlad.

Indian markets need a David not Goliath

Indian markets need a David not Goliath

A place where the Goliaths of the world’s largest selling shampoo (Sunsilk)were left wondering how to compete against a David (Chik)who was selling shampoos in one time packs (probably used twice or thrice). A place where the lever brothers found that they couldn’t sell Surf against a small time Gujarati player whose name they couldn’t spell nor pronounce. A place where the worlds cult brand Coca cola, has sweetened its drink a little bit to suit Indian taste who generally prefer sweet but finds hard to replace a local brand Thums up, which is anything but sweet, whom they ended up buying and is still the most consumed aerated beverage in India. The irrational exuberance of a global brand flattening the world just hit a big wall when it came to the mother of all diversities.

It has forced globals to reckon that it is a different world altogether. It is a country where the world’s largest toothpaste brand Crest is taking a step forward and three steps back to even think about launching. A country that stops not because of a terrorist attack but of 22 people on the cricket field.

We are like that only

We are like that only

A country where drops certainly form an ocean. Where the bottom percentage of people (Strivers), around 106 million households, have just 2% of the higher household incomes (Prosperous, 2.2 million) but just due to its sheer size of being 48 times bigger, its consumption almost equals that of the prosperous.(Source: IRS Consumption pyramid, IRS 2008). A country where you can’t ignore ‘this’ (prosperous) nor ‘that’ (strivers) but a country of “this as well as that” (Read ‘We are like that only’ by Rama Bijapurkar).

Where it is not the needs and wants that are important as Kotler puts, but hopes and aspirations that dictate consumer behavior. A place which has made Theodore Levitt’s prophecy of a global brand that serves the customers with standard products worldwide, has fallen flat on its face. Where the consumer instead of being dumbstruck by western cults and emulating it, is watching and mixing it with his/her own culture and demanding something that the marketer could not fathom about. A country where the tastes and preferences are so distinct that you cannot predict the sales pattern of two adjacent districts separated by a few miles let alone a state. A place where technology penetration is as high as 63% in one state (Kerala) and just 14% in another state (Bihar). A country where the rural areas are almost ten years behind urban but still demand firms to make a tailored “right-value-right-benefit” product. Those who do that succeed in ways that shifts their economic centres. Ask Nokia. A country that has contributed to a lot of red ink in the firm’s balance sheet but still can’t be ignored for obvious reasons.

A country where consumers don’t upgrade according to your plan but you downgrade to their wishes. A country where focus is hard to maintain (Wonder what Jack trout and the Ries have to tell about this). This is India …Incredible India.. A country that might even see “marketing tourism” like medical tourism.. Where the West can learn about the emerging centre of gravity and how to woo the nasty unsparing consumer.

4 Comments

Filed under Marketing

Do People buy Brands? No.

 

Brand or Category?

Brand or Category?

People think of categories and then buy brands. So if I want to go to a chic store or a mall to buy my shirt I will go to Shoppers Stop. I don’t expect shoppers stop to compromise on quality and believe that they have good apparels and is value for the money I pay. If I want to buy something that is cheap I go to Big Bazaar. I know that the quality won’t be that great but I get cheap apparel. Both Shoppers stop and Big Bazaar promote a certain aspect that promotes the category as a whole. If Big Bazaar come tomorrow with a higher ranged apparel line inside their store it is unlikely to succeed whereas the same will be a success in Shoppers stop. People care more about categories than they care about brands. People want to buy categories and a brand is just a means to an end. Within a category comes a subset of brands that people favor. Hence the first preference of any brand should always be to promote the category. Hence it is important for brands to look at the category first and then the brand later. So Red Bull promotes the alcoholic category and so does Bacardi. But both of them own different segments and at any time if they try to enter into each others category with the same name then it is doomsday for the brand. You end up being nothing in the minds of the customer for the want of being everything for the consumer. That is what

Confusing the customer

Confusing the customer

precisely happened to Volvo when they like any other over ambitious brand launched their Volvo convertible c70 and the luxury car that said “the luxury car that treats life like the greatest luxury of all”. A personal example that I notice instantly is that of Levis strauss and its signature range. After buying a couple of jeans from Levis Strauss signature now I feel that “Levis” is overpriced and it is much better to opt for something that is niche and is probably a couple of hundred more than Levis but gives me the feel of having exclusivity because when everyone has it none wants it anymore. The source of brand equity dies.  It wanted to be everything in all the categories and ended up weakening its image. And image is what people pay for when it comes to a high involvement or a personal product.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Branding, Marketing

Recession and Brand ambassadors

According to Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge “In a recession, consumers become value oriented… But a downturn is no time to stop spending on marketing.”

Recession is the time when one can gain on the competitors’ weakness more than any other phase and consumers are willing to switch and test new brands rather than sticking to one. If they feel that their brand doesn’t connect with them then this is the time that the risk of switching over is more. A consumer who sticks with you even in a recession is loyal.

A downturn is no time to stop spending on marketing. But neither is it to continue wasteful spending. In a downturn the consumer is more likely to buy your product rather than your brand. Therefore until and unless you communicate the value that your product gives rest all efforts would be wasted. One method of communicating the value is through brand ambassadors. Here the question is much beyond recession. Choosing a brand ambassador does not depend on recession or boom but reviewing your brand ambassador during recession keeps a brand updated and ready to face new challenges.

Pillsbury Doughboy
Pillsbury Doughboy

A brand ambassador is generally the companys face to the consumer. It can either be a person like Amitabh Bachchan for Cadburys or a character like Fido Dido of 7up.

A human ambassador is generally someone who is famous or well recognized. The company gets the advantage of instant recognition and recall and top of the mind awareness. The loyal sets of fans adopt products wholeheartedly given the purchasing power. A celebrity endorsement can be helpful for a brand to maintain attention to its brand and category. People would be more keen to watch a celebrity on screen. However if given a choice an organization should always restrain from it simply because most of the celebrity endorsements tend to follow the hockey stick effect – they rise for sometime to fall forever. A marketer or any businessman for that matter would like to control the risks as much as possible and everyone knows that a celebrity endorsement is often uncontrollable off the screen. Michael Phelps was videotaped smoking Marijuana, Kellogs for whom he was the ambassador pulled him instantly following public outcry and protests. The damage is reversible but expensive. Back home, Hansie Cronje endorsed Siyarams, soon to be hooked in a match fixing scandal. The cost and damages far outweigh the benefits, if things go wrong. Such incidents can be alarmingly damaging and a recession would just deepen the wounds.

Tweet bird
Tweet bird

On the other hand, a character is a reliable option. It is totally controllable and has no risk of being replicated. The incremental effect of a brand character on the consumers is also significant. The brand character can be extremely effective for smaller and medium sized companies who do not have cash resources to fund a celebrity, especially in a recession. Moreover a character can be molded over a period of time, especially, when you need to communicate a new position that marketers often take during a recession trying to undo the mistakes that they had previously accumulated. Hence Onida could easily change its devil character over the period of time to add more value into their communication, as they are targeting the conservative and cautious consumer. Hence Ronald Mcdonalds face remains synonymous in the minds of its young target audience who are being wooed unsuccessfully by Burger King and other outlets. Things can not be better if your consumer is loyal to you even during recessions because they want fun and nothing signifies it better than McDonalds Ronald McDonald, the ever smiling ambassador, recession or not. A brand character over a period of time can hence help you own a word in the mind of the consumer and enhance your positioning or maintain it. Hence, Ronald Mcdonald  relates to “fun”, the AMUL girl signifies a “healthy and happy child”.

Recessions are times when a company needs to thoroughly examine its brand associations. A check needs to be done to ensure that the association is a source of equity. However, thoughtless marketing has more often than not, wasted company’s resources on extravagant brand endorsements. It gets painful when the consumer realizes lack of synergy between him/her and the brand primarily due to its erroneous secondary associations. This dissatisfaction hurts the company the most during recession when the consumer has more choices to switch and there are competitor brands repositioning themselves to woo the undecided consumer.

mE? Really?
mE? Really?

More often than not Brand endorsements, especially, come at the expense of an idea. Everyone remembers when Zoozoos and the Pugs walked away with the honors while Airtel was busy spending crores on Sharukh, Madhavan etc. An idea overpowered the blandness of celebrities. Brand ambassadors mean that you are forced to weave your brand around the celebrity than the other way around. This results in lack of believability and consumers fail to associate themselves with the brand. How believable is it when Deepika Padukone says that she uses orbit white? Whereas, HappyDent had a brilliant idea that needed none to endorse. Does Aishwarya Rai use Lux? Then why does she say “Dus rupaye mein Lux”? The consumer believes that the benefit they promise should also be false. Lifebuoy on the other hand is a brand that communicates the idea of health, without being dependent on the power of brand ambassadors and owns the word “Health” in the minds of its customers. The crucial ingredient  in the success of any brand is its claim to authencity and poor brand ambassadors destroy it.

How brands perform in a recession is a sum of everything that the brand has done in the past to force the consumer behave the way he/she does in a recession. If it is unfavorable, then there is no better time to change than recession. Repositioning during a downturn is lesser obvious than when things are going on fine. Repositioning during recession communicates that the brand is willing to change according to new conditions.

Now suppose a management is adamant on the use of brand ambassadors to revive a brand, how do you enable it.

 The answer is going back to the basics of making a brand ambassador, or, for that matter, any brand association, believable and credible. If the consumer feels that the brand ambassador is the brand itself then there is nothing better than that and that will not be possible until and unless  there is exclusivity in your selection. The only brand that comes to my mind when I hear Vishwanathan Anand is NIIT. But for Sharukh Khan? Brands should hence not fall into the ‘Khan trap’ and should look for more economical sources of equity. Brands should awaken to the power of zero cost internal marketing assets like your customers, internal as well as external, who can represent your brand. Starbucks is what it is today not because of any ads, in fact they hardly

Starbucks  Barista - Got Milk?
Starbucks Barista – Got Milk?

advertise, but due to the service experience that the employees or the Starbucks “partners” help provide. These kinds of brand ambassadors are especially relevant to brands that are service oriented. Even the high end apparel brand Abercrombie and Fitch uses only its sales representatives as its brand ambassadors. Consumers are willing to pay extra for a good service where the employees represent the brand wholeheartedly and hence enhance the brand equity and create a win-win relation. Many product brands are now shrugging of the albatross around their necks of the brand ambassadors and using its consumers or a seemingly normal person as its brand ambassadors. We have seen Dove doing it and Maggi and KurKure do the same with the faces of consumers on its packages. Leveraging on your free marketing assets results in greater efficiency of your communication and more credibility- critical during recessions. It bonds them into a relation that will see you through the recession without any ripples. Real or not, these are much more effective than a celebrity who is never going to eat KurKure or concoct his/her own version of maggi.

Zero Cost marketing asset leverage
Zero Cost marketing asset leverage

Hence, given a choice opt for better ideas more than secondary associations. Incase, you feel that you need a brand ambassador adopt a brand character. If you are still dissatisfied then opt for credible, exclusive as well as zero cost marketing assets like your consumers and employees to be your brand ambassadors. It will create a long term brand equity and better “hard-to-attack” points of differences that the consumers would like to vouch for even in a recession, even if it means a higher price.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising, Branding, Marketing

I want to Kill the Starbucks brand via VIA!

Starbucks to people: Dont sit, grab a VIA and get working

Starbucks to people: Dont sit, grab a VIA and get working

Everyone knows about the difficult transition period Starbucks is going through. It is a very commonplace for brands to face tough challenges while expanding a street corner theme into the world. The fear of competitors results in lashing out of stores in wherever they can find a decent piece of land.

Starbucks soon came out with a good strategy of going back to its basics and launched its unbranded stores. Howard Schultz reportedly closed down the stores for a day and ordered everyone to learn how to make a good coffee all over again. Great vision. But what is happening to Starbucks with instant coffee VIA?

First of all, Starbucks is not an instant drink brand. It takes away or dilutes what it stands for. Where is the warmth and smile in a cup of instant coffee? It should not have lent its name, first of all, to a brand that is totally opposite to what it does. Recent competition by McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts with their cheap range of coffee has resulted in a reactive step by Starbucks. McDonalds and others are diluting their brand image by providing something out of their normal category, Starbucks hasn’t capitalized on that error but fallen into the same “you do I react” policy.

Schultz introducing Donalds to the shareholders

Schultz introducing Donalds to the shareholders

Starbucks soon expanded under the not so watchful eyes of its CEO Jim Donald from 2005. It expanded vigorously outside the United States while those stores could not replicate the Starbucks experience. You walked into a Starbucks to find people smiling at you and the overpowering smell of their famous $4 coffee. Starbucks customers were never the ones who looked at economy but they saw value in Starbucks. So what does Starbucks do after it finds out that people are extremely loyal to them? They try to squeeze in more from the people. That is where the difference between management and marketing comes. Management is looking at the reality but perception tells a different story altogether. And more often than not perception always overpowers management. Starbucks soon launched its range of breakfast menu which not only slowed down the queues but also overpowered their famous coffee aroma. It soon was translating into a food joint rather than an exclusive coffee bar- for which people were ready to pay a premium.

Soon, Schultz realized what was going wrong with the brand and fired Donald and took over the reigns in 2008 and ordered the closure of all non profitable chains and re-focus the brand that was previously known for exactly that- FOCUS.

Starbucks VIA

Starbucks VIA

However, the launch of via is going to be harming the company in the long run. Taking the sales of via in isolation might show that it was a great decision, but over the period of time it is watering its strong image. It is as impersonal as Starbucks can get. Instead of its USP of bringing the customer to the shop and making him/her spend time, via focuses on driving away the consumers by stating that via is as good as our brewed coffee. How could someone pass that copy that undermines the classic Starbucks coffee to a product totally opposite to their ethos. Comparing the sales is the management way of doing things and it will soon find that Via is doing really well. But can they measure perceptions? Certainly not.

If it had to combat the likes of McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts who are equally blind, it should have separated its name from the product. This endorsing strategy of Starbucks VIA isn’t exactly a bright idea. And to top that they are conducting taste challenges in their store. Wonder how the Starbucks Barista is going to feel when he/she knows that his/her coffee is similar to an instant coffee. We all know how flawed the taste challenges can be- ask Roberto Goizueta, CEO of Coke, when they launched their disastrous masochistic brand New Coke. After the drinks the management said “This is our surest move ever”, people thought otherwise.

Starbucks VIA - not quite the star

Starbucks VIA - not quite the star

It is all really simple. Marketing is simple. Management complicates it. The likes of Kotler (The MBA favorite) complicate it. People are still stuck in SWOT analysis whereas the reality is nothing close to it. We do it according to What Malek’s Law prophesized –“ Any simple idea will be worded in the most complicated way.” And worse still – it will be followed too.

3 Comments

Filed under Marketing