Thursday, December 30, 2010

Should Hero go for a new logo?

Last couple of years has seen a lot of rebranding exercise. Godrej, Shoppers Stop, India Post, CEAT Tyres, Essar, Bajaj, Videocon and the latest being Airtel. Some have been praised, some not. But that is not the topic of discussion here. The 26 years relationship between the Hero Group and the Honda Group has been finally ended with the announcement of the Munjals buying the 26% stake from the Honda group. Tensions had been simmering and it was inevitable after Honda could no longer be happy with the 26% stake and started their own set up in India with Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd.

This opens up the market for other Indian motorcycle players since Hero Honda was the largest player in terms of volume of sales. Now with both breaking up, Hero can enter segments where Honda was present and Honda can enter segments where Hero was present. Increase competition could lead to price wars in the immediate future with both brands wanting to gain market share and build an individual brand identity. Here is the catch.

Honda has an individual identity in India. Hero does not. It has always been in the company of Honda and has leveraged the Honda name for Japanese technology in the minds of the Indian consumers, directly or indirectly. Thus should Hero go for a corporate rebranding exercise with its logo if not the name? Hero can now also export its motorbikes to the developing nations which are such a big market. Baja Auto would testify to that with its huge exports. Changing name would not be a good idea but creating a new logo would seem to be good.

With the Honda name gone, Hero would need to tell the consumer about its technological expertise and R&D facilities as well. It would need to spend on increasing its product mix with only the hero name with the individual brand name. a factor which would hinder Hero also would be its existing products which are strong names such as CBZ, Splendor, Karizma in the urban markets whereas the other good names such as Passion, CD 100 which are strong in the rural markets. They would bear the Hero Honda name. Hero would need to launch new bikes to not just take on market competition but also the competition within. Not in the short term but in the long term where it would slowly need to take away these big brands and move its own brands ahead without losing on the cash inflow which these current brands would bring. A sort of catch 22 situation.

The same problem doesn’t arise for Honda since it doesn’t mind taking on these brands since the name is only attached and the earning they get is only through royalty which isn’t much high compared to what Hero would be getting form Hero Honda

It could also lead to dealer poaching by Honda from the Hero Honda’s intensive penetration although it is said that it’s a mutual understanding that it should not happen. Price would be an advantage to Hero vis-à-vis Honda. The spare part availability and its lower price would be of a greater advantage to Hero than Honda.

Speaking from a broader perspective with long term focus, it’s a good thing for both Hero and Honda with opening up of newer markets for both. A new logo by Hero would seem to be a natural step ahead with its own identity creation. Just some food for thought would be, can Hero think on the lines of what Bajaj is thinking i.e. change over to a house of brands with individual brand names. Bajaj has strong brand equity with Bajaj name with lot of hindrance from the other Bajaj players in the family. It would take a lot of gumption to do that. Hero on the other hand would do well to go ahead with it this and take a head start over its immediate competitor.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Creative Inspiration- any one??

Religare ad- ET- 24th Dec 2010

BNP Paribas ad- Mumbai Mirror- Dec 2009

Do we see any similarities??

Focus- Size of the fund

Creative depiction- Sumo wrestler

Quite an inspiration, i must say. Sumo wrestling is surely not a sport for the Indians as yet but Sumo wrestlers sure do influence them if one goes by the ads!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A pleasant marketing problem

Mergers and acquisitions were the order of the day during the pre 2008 days. It took a break after the fall of Lehman Bros and the ensuing recession. They are back again in town with the buying out of Paras Pharma by FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser. Paras Pharma owns over-the-counter brands (OTC) such as Moov which is a pain relief ointment, Krack, a heel care lotion, and D'Cold, a cold remedy among others. RB adds these brands to its already established brands such as Dettol, Disprin, Clearasil, Veet and Durex.

This acquisition would leave RB marketers in a bit of a quandary. What sould they do about Dispirin and D’cold which almost are used for similar purposes. Headache, cold, clear throat. Although not a direct competitor with each others, it begs the question that what would be the solution when two competitor brands merge or are taken over for inorganic growth. Should they continue with the existing own brand and the newly taken over brand or should the new brand be killed to make way for a stronger home brand. To make it clear, consider this very hypothetical example. What if P&G takes over HUL? Or visa versa. Would P&G kill the powerful brand Surf Excel to further its own Ariel brand? Would it kill the powerful Sunsilk and Clinic for making Pantene and Head & Shoulders the favourite?

In this uncertain world with flexibility being the buzzword, can there be an obvious way for this problem to be solved. I know that the answer for this cannot be an absolute one but would depend on the type of companies involved and the power of brands taken over. For Arcelor steel merging with Mittal Steel or Tata with Corus, there isn’t much to think. Commodity market as such doesn’t give marketers sleepless nights as does consumer goods. But what about a Ranbaxy which is so ingrained in the Indian mind after it being bought out by Daiichi Sankyo? Would they kill the Ranbaxy brand to make DS a global brand?

A bigger dilemma would be when a ‘House of Brands’ takes over a ‘Branded House or a ‘Branded House’ taking over a ‘House of Brands’. What if Tatas take over P&G or HUL? Would we have Tata Pantene and Tata Clinic or would the brands retain their identity? What if P&G takes over Mahindra & Mahindra? Would Mahindra Tractors be replaced by an individual brand name without the family brand?

One thing is certain that creating a brand and an appeal requires a lot of resources. Maintaining requires even more resources and is difficult as well. Thus it seems at least that when two power brands come together under one roof, its better to pursue both separately and let them cannibalize the market as it would be a win-win situation even then.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Management graduates for the Indian economy?

An article in the Times of India, Mumbai edition on 6th December 2010 drew my attention. It even made me think. And this article is a result of that thinking. Two pieces of opinion in the article were so contradictory that it made me smile. One, ‘a fancy MBA’ degree and two, ‘it accelerates growth’. It is agreed that MBA is a fancy degree yet head hunters are appreciative of the degree and find it a differentiating factor.

Having myself being a management graduate and working for more than a year now, I have a slightly different opinion on the management degree in the Indian context for an Indian professional. The Indian economy requires technical people more than management people. Engineers, commerce graduates, arts graduates, lawyers and other graduate streams. What is the reason for this erudite opinion of mine?

Lets look at the major streams in MBA. Marketing, finance, Human Resources and Operations. Of these 4, I will leave out HR and operations since the number of students opting for it are less compared to the more preferred marketing and finance. What is the use of a marketing degree? To increase sales in an ultra competitive marketplace and strategize to be one-up on competitors.

In India, apart from FMCG, telecom and white good companies, hardly marketing is required. The Indian consumer market is so big that even without marketing acumen, there would be sales. In the industrial goods sector, India’s cost competitiveness is going to hold it in good stead at least for the next couple of decades. The Indian PSUs such as ONGC or SAIL or NTPC are run by people who have tons of experience in the technical filed but not in marketing. Why can’t an ONGC be the next Chevron or BP? Why can’t a SAIL be the Arcelor or Severstal or Corus? Companies which inspite of being commodity producing companies are big brands.

The top managements of all companies barring a few who have the vision give the management graduates an opportunity to explore and work in a way which is transformation to the company. The other managements are very much resistant to change and like the comfort zone which management graduates try to break free from. The MBA graduates too are partly to blame for. They consider themselves equipped to change the company without understanding first the basics of the business. Their arrogance sometimes can be annoying.

The MBA degree has been seen as a magic wand which transforms the career of students. Students believe that the MBA degree should give them six figure salaries. They don’t think of whether the skill sets they have are applicable in the industry. Theory knowledge can take you only past the interview round. But the actual industry skill sets are to its extremes making it difficult to survive. The mushrooming of management colleges without affiliations and proper B-school teachers has resulted in students lacking the basic skills expecting to be in strategy teams of the corporate world.

Thus I think, a management degree is not essential to the Indian economy. Functional skill sets are more important except in certain industries and markets.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Google’s Product (P) focus- Other Ps, ‘set to zero’

There has always been a debate among marketers and strategists of which P among the 4Ps of marketing mix is more important. And the answer has always been that it depended on the industry and the market scenario. The answer will remain the same until marketing remains in the corporate world.

Yes, circumstances decide the importance of the individual element in the marketing mix. Looking at the Indian marketplace specifically with an example of the telecom industry, price has become the differentiation factor. There isn’t any attribute or benefit that one service provider offers which the other doesn’t. Thus the customer decides the operator on the basis of the least costly and nearest available.

With white goods and, to a certain extent automobiles, promotional spend has been the major driver. Although there is a product differentiation, it isn’t a compelling reason enough for the product sale. ‘Place’ continues to be the dark and unsung with an exception of FMCG where it is given its due.

Few times, if at all, is the product the focus. In a country like India which is very price-sensitive, marketers have always been focusing on the price, and rightly so. The case isn’t the same in the developed markets. R&D isn’t seen as a off-shoot of strategy. Rather it is thought of as a cost centre with intangible consequences resulting in lack of its effect measured on the P&L. thus the urge to spend isn’t always compelling enough for the marketer. It is seen as a luxury rather than a necessity and the axe always falls first on R&D when the going gets tough in the economy.

Thus we see an Intel, IBM, Oracle or a Google R&D centre in India but not a R&D centre for a Tata or Reliance or a Bajaj. Cost reduction resulting in low-priced products always seems the easier option.

Internationally speaking, Google with its phenomenal growth has always thought of Product development as the focus. Its first product offering i.e. the search engine was free with no promotional spend (all was word-of-mouth). Then came the email service, Gmail. Again it was free with no promotional spend. Other products such as Google Maps, Blogger, Orkut, Youtube followed. All free with only word-of-mouth publicity. It is imbibed in the Google culture where the engineers are given 20% time from among their working hours to pursue their own product for the company. The result is for everyone to see. A gamut of services, all free for the end user.

In an interview, the number 4 in the Company after its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schimdt, Mr. Nikesh Arora said that Google was working on Google TV which was the future of TV and internet in a seamless network. The new philosophy for Google is to ‘set to zero’ the 3 Ps-price, promotion and place with entire concentration on product development. Currently if you have a look at the number of services on offer, its quite staggering. A testimony to the Google’s endeavor of spotlight on product.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Consulting companies- how can they predict the unpredictable?

Consulting companies such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Booz and Company, Bain and Company to name a few have built they reputation among the industry for their foresight and solutions. There is no question or credibility crisis as far as the solutions that have helped companies tide over their problems is concerned but I have a slight problem when it is related to research and prediction. The prediction can be of demand, supply, trends, consumer behaviour, market share et al.

A recent report by research firm Booz & Company, shared exclusively with Economic Times talks of the change in consumer behaviour. A marked change from thrifty behaviour during and post the 2008 recession to increased conspicuous consumption in the third quarter of 2010 on the back of increased salaries and better economic prospects. No problem with the consulting companies for me. It starts when they predict that the “India’s upper middle class —those with an annual income between 5 lakh and 10 lakh — will grow to 30 million people by 2020 as the economy keeps growing at a healthy rate”. My doubt is that how is it possible to predict a ‘probable number’ 10 years hence when economic fundamentals are so intricately linked to the world markets that there are constant changes. Analysts might say that it is just indicative rather than absolute. Agreed.

But what is the point of such a prediction when the world changes every quarter.

The report goes on to mention about the “FMCG industry could grow at a base rate of about 17% annually to become a 6,20,000-crore industry by 2020”. GDP figures on growth vary per quarter. How can an industry grow constantly in such a scenario? The FMCG industry depends on so many external factors namely the consumer sentiment, income levels, demand supply gap, increased competition from foreign as well as low cost local players (in the Indian context). FDI in retail acts as an indirect factor which bears significant weight due to behemoths such as Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Metro standing in queue to enter India. It bears so much on government policies. FDI, competition law, monopolies act etc. which is so much unpredictable

The concern which I share here is not about the veracity of the report or the credibility of the consulting company. It is about the relevance of such a prediction in volatile markets. Based on such estimates, whatever is the probable value, companies investing or strategizing with the information in mind would take a risk which would have the highest risk factor. As some one famously said “the only constant is change”. And predict at your own peril.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bajaj- only automobiles or more than that?

Taking on the establishment or taking risks, runs in the Bajaj family. From Rahul Bajaj championing the cause of Indian industry to stop foreign players into India to his son shifting focus from the cash cow scooters to motorbikes to take on the Japanese players in motorbikes to the radical thought of making Bajaj Auto from a ‘Branded House’ to a ‘House of Brands’, surely they are a family who think to out-maneuver competition.

Rahul Bajaj was initially averse to the idea the bikes sporting individual brand names and Bajaj Auto will be a house of independent brands like FMCG giants Unilever and P&G. The focus was to be on four brands – Pulsar, Boxer, Discover and KTM. It would not use the parent name on its identity. But with the success of Bajaj Auto as one of the leading motorbikes manufacturers and stopping the scooters with Rajiv Bajaj at the helm, the senior Bajaj has to accept it.

Now with the help of one of the leading Marketing gurus and management consultants Jack Trout of Trout and Partners who has given the positioning bible to us, Rajiv has taken an enormous step. An attempt to associate the Bajaj brand name exclusively with the motorcycles made by his company and the removal of Bajaj name from other products/ services ranging from hair oil, home appliances, insurance to financial services.

The strategy to do this is based on Trout’s thoughts that a particular brand must stand for only one thing in the mind of the consumer. Line extension is the gravest mistake any brand can do. This though not a line extension has similar areas. According to them, Bajaj should stand only for motorbikes in the consumer’s mind. All other Bajaj brands such as Bajaj-Allianz, Bajaj Electricals, and Bajaj Finserv among others should remove the brand name and try to get an individual identity. This would not only help them stand on their own accord based on brand qualities and brand values but also act as a differentiation from competition.

I tend to differ with the thought because the principle which applies to brands in the developed world is being applied to the developing world that have emerged and evolved in a different way. The consumer behavior is starkly diverse and the emotional quotient among brands in the eastern world is far more pronounced than in the west. In India, line extension has worked till now because of the trust that has been instilled in the brand. Tatas, Birlas, Godrejs, Ambanis and a host of other family have run businesses have ventured into diverse fields with using the same brand name. And they have done well and continue to do so.

These brands have evolved since the pre-liberalization days and have a trust and understanding among Indian consumers. New brands have emerged since then but these old brands have stood the test of time. The Tatas cannot even think of removing the name from their diverse offerings to make Tata a ‘House of Brands’.

Changing the automotive business and marketing it individually is one thing but doing it across industries is slightly off target I would presume. One of the biggest brands in the world GE, which has a product offering which no company, can boast of. There are into all products and services ranging from consumer goods to aviation. They have not changed their GE lineage inspite of being in the most competitive and diverse market as the US. Bajaj name is even more important in the rural and semi-rural areas of the country which are yet to be tapped. Bajaj name would give the company a head start over other foreign brands.

All said and done, this is even more difficult since some of the Bajaj businesses are run by other family members who are strictly against the name change. So such a thing happening would be highly improbable if not impossible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The boring DTH TV ads

Ever since the cable operators have troubled the Indian consumer with his whimsical ways and held the consumer to ransom during events such as the cricket world cup which are high in public interest, DTH providers have come up to do away with the ubiquitous cablewallah. Dish TV from Zee Entertainment & Enterprises Ltd. was the first DTH service provider in India. And it maintains its lead in the number of subscriptions.

Currently the industry is going through a price war with as many as 7 players in the fray. Dish TV, TataSky DTH, BIG TV, Airtel DTH, Sun TV and the latest to join the bandwagon Videocon DTH. 5 of them have used brand ambassadors. Shah Rukh Khan for Dish TV, Aamir Khan for TataSky, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor for Airtel DTH and the junior Bachchan Abhishek for Videocon TV. But seriouisly, none of them have had any impact. All promotions done by these players in the TV space have been average. Only Tata Sky’s Aamirs ads have been a bit memorable. No one remembers SRKs Dish TV ads or Saifeena’s Airtel TV ads whereas BIG TV and Sun TV have not used any celebrities with below average ads.

The latest Videocon TVC starring Abhishek Bachchan is one of the most senseless ads ever seen. The ad, simply put, doesn’t have an objective. Are they trying to convey the fast service in installing the DTH after getting an enquiry? Is it a fast food service or something? Its understandable if the thought was to show quick after-sales service or repair service but what is the point in showing such boring people jumping. When the parameters to convey of clarity or convenience or cost is a requirement, this comes off as unrelated. Its earlier ad telecast during IPL 3 was also boringly talking of technology.

Abhishek Bachchan as a brand ambassador of Videocon doesn’t fit any attribute of Videocon. Not that the other celebrities are any better among its peers. It’s difficult to understand the rationale that the ad agency making this ad would have put before the client. And to top it, the client bought the idea. I would surely have loved to be a part of this presentation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Diwali- A Marketer’s Delight

Diwali- the festival of light is celebrated with much fervour across the length and breadth of the country. Diwali is equivalent to Christmas in the North America and Europe, Id in Middle East, Boxing Day & New Year celebrations in Australia and the carnivals in South America. The whole of India is on a a shopping spree during the Diwali week beginning with Dhanteras to the Diwali puja day and ending with Bhau Beej (brother-sister bonding).

Two sets of people wait for Diwali. One, the common people looking forward to a lot of festivities, meeting friends and relatives expecting a lot of joy and happiness. Two, the marketers (you cannot keep the marketer away, they pounce on any given small opportunity and this being the biggest of them all). All product/ services have an exponential jump in sales during this time. Looking at the current Diwali, you will not miss the ‘discount’ ads screaming at you through the newspapers from apparel and white goods brands. Car manufacturers too are giving attractive financing options, low EMIs, and other host of car accessories as freebies to increase sales.

Cadbury is a classic example of a brand which has entered the Indian tradition mould through its replacement of the Indian homemade sweets with Cadbury chocolate packs. The communication of ‘kuch meetha ho jaye’ earlier to the current of ‘kuch meethas ho jaye’ and the ‘shubh arambh’ campaign have really worked wonders for the brand. It has cut across the socio-economic parameters and is gifted by the middle class, the upper middle and the rich alike. May be only the filthy rich use more expensive sweets. Coming back to the market, brands from home appliances, upholstery, home decor, home colour, FMCG products such as scented soaps, scented oils and a ensemble of packaged sweets.

Gold being expensive due to the economic scenario in the world has not dampened the spirits from spending on the yellow metal with Dhanteras recording high sales year on year. Although a commodity, brands such as Tanishq, TBZ, Gili, Geetanjali and a host of others have gone on spending big busks on full from page ads on leading dailies just to the customer attention in the clutter.

Conspicuous consumption is back among the public after the lull last year due to the economic slowdown on the back of good growth of companies. Travel and tourism industry also grows due to people travelling to meet their near and dear ones and extended families. Road, rail and air are all booked pre and post Diwali. Some people take an extended off and have their vacations at tourist hot spots away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

All brands go on a promotion spree to get the most of the consumers’ wallet. Plans are firmed up months in advance with no stone left unturned to reap in the profits from increased sales. Vodafone has launched a new campaign, and so has Tata Sky DTH. White good majors such as Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, and Videocon are more visible in the mainstream media launching new products and displaying their wide range of product mix. Airtel, Aircel, DoCoMo, MTS, Idea are spending even more. Tata Nano is making a lot of noise and the usual ad spenders FMCG giants have spiked up for the festive season. A very busy week for all marketers but a very happy indeed.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Volkswagen Vento- the emotional car

Consumer involvement in a purchase decision is highest when it comes to buying a house be it in India or anywhere around the world. This is not only important from a marketing point of view but also from an economic scenario. We have a live example of how the urge for buying a house i.e. the US housing bubble created an economic crisis. Closer home, we have HDFC which has one of the highest recalls amongst home buyers and general public alike because it helped the Indian consumer buy a house during the pre-liberalization era.

After a house, the car becomes the second most important decision concerning a family. A car is as much as practical decision on price and features as it is an emotional one. Don’t we all remember our first cycle in childhood or bike in during college days. How we took care of it. Similarly there is an emotional bonding we have with our car. Not just for the husband but also for the wife and kids. The family has been used in umpteen numbers of ads on television to sell cars.

The Volkswagen Vento TVC currently running on GECs on prime time takes this emotional quotient a step further. The communication route adopted for the TVC is ‘tears of perfection’ by car engineers. It shows the various stages that the car goes through during manufacturing with so much emotional involvement that it is difficult for them to let go off the car from the plant. It indirectly also refers too its old communication of German engineering. The plant snaps show the sophisticated equipment and the fabulously clean set-up.

Volkswagen had to build an emotional connect with the Indian consumer for whom Tata, Bajaj and Maruti are natural preferences in terms of sentimental value. A wonderfully executed ad which brings out the emotions which surely will ad to the already high brand equity which Volkswagen enjoys. Not an ad which breaks the clutter but certainly will make the male of the house and young professionals take notice.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Marico ad- one of the best headlines i have seen

AWESOME headline.. took me a couple of readings to interpret it... please comment if u understood it...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reality show TRPs- farce of one-upmanship

Television Rating Points (TRP) wars have been started in India from the time the K serials took centre stage and General Entertainment channels became a business of big bucks. Advertisers flocked to these channels to get a handsome return on investment, at least based on the eyeballs these serials and channels attracted. Only cricket could over power the TRPs of these serials which had religious followings. TRPs became a part of general lexicon only after people came to know about it from newspapers.

With the launch of a slew of reality shows, and with celebrities riding the shows with huge budgets and sponsors, naturally the TRPs are going to play a role in deciding the winner. It being the only way to determine the ad rates which have reached exorbitant levels with Bollywood star power at the helm of affairs of these shows. Every week we have TRPs of shows stating the celebrity winner of the week. Just the way fate of each of these Bollywood stars change every Friday and you are as good as your last hit, similarly your television show is also as god as your last TRP.

The latest example of this is the ad in national dailies by Sony TV about KBC getting higher TRPs than Big Boss 4. It is understandable that Sony would use these ratings as a barometer to get higher ad rates from advertisers. But what is the use of saying it in print. Does the audience going to change its viewing just because KBC has higher ratings? The customer is too smart to fall for such self congratulatory messages.

The only rationale that seems from this communication is to bring about a perception among the general viewers and advertisers that our channel garners higher ratings because of this show which will have a spill over effect on its other shows. Quite wishful thinking I must say.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The new ‘pull & push’ marketing

It should not come as a surprise that the company called ‘the CEO factory’ and which aspiring marketer would give an arm or leg to work for has come up with a new theory. Not in research or a white paper but in implementation and thought-process. The new ‘push’ marketing concept which takes marketing application one step further. HUL- the house of brands.

Consumer engagement has been the buzz word of late in marketing circles. To break away from the clutter, companies have been engaging customers through different and unique touch points, more so with the acceptance of social networking sites amongst the young who are at a impressionable age. Read this from one of the GMs of HUL “The push is through traditional, one-way messaging to consumers through TV and other traditional ad media. The pull is through inviting consumers to engage with the brand and experience the Axe effect. Digital is the new focus as it offers brilliant scope of engaging with the consumers and having great conversations.” This is regarding the competition in the deodorant category where all the brands are following the ‘girl getting seduced by the fragrance’ theme.

This can be interpreted in different ways. One- HUL is going beyond the price competition. In the short term, obviously there would be sales promotions but in the long run, the brands which engage the customer will benefit and give long term opportunities for profits. I think HUL has read the Indian market and consumer very well. They have realized that in the growing economy, there will be growth but growth can be sustained and with profitability with strong brand building, not through the traditional ways but in different ways making the consumer feel the brand through experiential marketing.

There is so much competition that the pull effect seems negligible with no special difference between products/ services. So the objective of ad is to push the product, in your face, to win over the competition. A zero sum game.

Thus with the push undergoing a change, pull has become even more customer-centric and a two way process compared to the earlier passive one way. The new pull, rather than just saying good things about you, lets users experience it first hand and then buy the product/ service. As mentioned earlier, customer engagement would be easier with social networking sites for the young target audience but reaching the un-tech savvy customers would be the real marketing challenge.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Channels need celebrities or celebrities need channels?

This question does not have any absolute answers. Television may never be as glamorous as the 72mm silver screen. The television stars may never be as comparable to the recognition that a movie star gets. Be it in terms of money or adulation or success. But one thing is for sure, the current movie superstars may like or not, they cannot ignore the potential of their presence on television.

The pioneer for this scenario is the eternal Indian megastar Amitabh Bachchan who transformed the way movie stars look at television. Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) though a desi version of the American hit show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’, back Amitabh Bachchan back in the reckoning and also started a genre of reality shows on Indian television where there’s no looking back. The success of Amitab Bachchan sparked off a slew of shows involving movie celebrities such as Anupam Kher and Manisha Koirala in ‘Sawaal Dus Crore ka’ and Govinda in ‘Jeeto Chappar phad ke’. Though not even half as successful as KBC, it did not deter television producers from trying out new formats and shows involving celebrities.

Gone were the days when movie celebrities lead a secret personal life with information coming through on a handful of gossip magazines. With no blogs, facebook, twitter or news channels, the only way people got to see their favourite superstars was in movies. Thus to maintain the aura and inquisitiveness, movie stars desisted from TV, and rightly so. From the present generation, I guess only Aamir Khan has that interest among viewers since he does only movies.

Times are changing and so should people. With so much information society, actors have to be in the public domain to build a fan following. Now if Amitabh Bachchan can be on TV, why not the others. Thus we had bollywood badshah Shah Ruch Khan hosting the second season of KBC. It was also successful in its own right. ‘kya aap paanchvi pass se tez hai’ followed it, again hosted by SRK. People openly accepted the movie stars giving channels better TRPs. Akshay Kumar jumped on the bandwagon with the desi version of Fear Factor, Khatron Ke Khiladi (KKK)’. Shilpa Shetty hosted the Big Boss followed by Arshad Warsi in its second season. Amitabh Bachchan returned after a gap in television with the season three of Big Boss. Salma hosted Dus Ka Dum for Sony last year and now hosts the fourth season of Big Boss. And Priyanka Chopra taking over from Akshay Kumar in KKK3. In the interim, Abhishek Bachchan too unsuccessfully tried his hand at reality TV with Bingo Nite

Channels say that the stars attract viewers, which is right but I beg to differ on the pint that it increases viewer ship of its other shows since viewers want to know more about the channels. It bring sup a question that ‘people watch channels or do they watch the show’? for examples, KBC 4 is being telecast now on Sony compared to Star Plus earlier. And it has got a great opening. Thus it proves that people watch the show rather than the channel.

The other question is the amount of money the celebrities charge. AB, SRK and Salman Khan are rumoured to be charging an eight figure amount per episode. Analysts wonder if the channels even manage to break-even with those kinds of expenses. Not matter the amounts of ad time they spend with premium ad rates, it is difficult to recover the costs. The need of the hour according to channels is to differentiate the content with a celebrity show to add to the product mix. For the celebrities though, it’s a win-win situation. Not only do they get phenomenal compensation but also increase their popularity among viewers and acting as a springboard to promote their upcoming movies.

From the current scenario, it seems that channels need celebrities more than the other way round with celebrities laughing all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Currency War

The world is gradually moving out of recession with the emerging economies doing it quickly while the developed world on the rise as well albeit a bit slowly. However the recovery has been much faster than expected due to the cohesive action, unprecedented before, of all central bankers. Some economists though are skeptical of the recovery and fear a double dip recession though not as difficult as the one in 2008-09.

On the contrary, currently the developed world's central banks are moving at varying speeds and intensity to respond to a weak recovery so as to reduce the risks of a global deflation and restrain their currencies from rising against those of their trading partners. They all are working through indirect ways to spur growth. Initially it was the fiscal action, now it is monetary action. Currency bring used to gain cost advantage over other countries.

The currencies being kept artificially low to make exports lucrative. China is the best example of a country who has managed to keep the yuan artificially low. During the boom years, no one bothered but now with growth difficult, every one is walking down the same path. Brazil is doing it so is Japan. The US can’t do it because it’s the global currency and its strength depends as much on its economic policies as on the other world currencies.

Central bankers elsewhere are strongly indicating that they are preparing to reduce interest rates to reflate their economies at a time when fiscal policy has started to reduce to follow fiscal prudence. Developed economies such as those in Western Europe have to go in for austerity measures to survive. So currency weakening seems to be the best solution.

This solution though is a very short term measure. Fundamentals will not be the reason for recovery which will be artificial and fragile. Though the attempt by the US, Japan and Europe to pressurize china to let its currency--widely regarded as undervalued--rise faster.

If exchange-rate policy is being used for growth, then it would inhibit the global imbalances in trade highly favoured for export-oriented China and consumption addicted developed markets.

With low interest rates, money is flowing in emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil who have stared to increase interest rates for fear of inflation. This excess flow of funds is upping their stock indices and putting upward pressure on their currency. Thus the actions by countries to restrict funds inflow and keep their currency appreciation under control. This is resulting in currency wars by all countries throwing the effects of globalization out of the window. This isn’t going to make the situation any better. It will just delay the inevitable.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We are the Blackberry boys- the next cool anthem

Vodafone does it again. They just seamlessly continue with awesome communications through their TVCs. It is a combined effort of marketing and advertising creative. Without the other, things would not have been the way they are. Vodafone is easily the brand with the highest recall. Its pioneering advertisements have given them an edge over not only its immediate competitors but also in the advertising clutter.

The Vodafone pug became the most prized property amongst children of the affluent classes. Although the pug belonged to Hutch, its transfer to Vodafone hasn’t been noticed as much. Then came the phenomenal Zoozoos which catapulted creative innovation to stratospheric levels. Lately Vodafone’s campaign targeting the pre-paid users with Rs. 4 plans and the lovable parsi parrot too had a high recall. Immediately its competitors followed suit and launched low cost plans just like the way they launched Value-added services usage ads after Zoozoos.

So Vodafone thinks first which then becomes the norm to follow. Its latest ad ‘We Are the Blackberry Boys’ is on the way to becoming the next cool anthem amongst college going kids for whom it is targeted. A very good case of two good brands coming together was benefiting the other. The marketing acumen was to target the youngsters to use internet on the phone which gives more revenues to the service providers. The problem was about the perception that Blackberry phones are used only by working professionals and businessman who want to check emails and are constantly on the move. By targeting the affluent youngsters who have the disposable income, the market pie has increased. This has been aided by the urge for people to update their social networking accounts like twitter or facebook frequently.

The ad is a clutter breaker and although being in English, is appropriately targeted. The ad at first seems to be a foreign Blackberry-Vodafone ad telecast in India but it should be no surprise to anyone that it is indeed made by Ogilvy India for the Indian audiences. On the contrary, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ad is played in the developed markets and wins an award or two at advertising festivals.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why Johnny can’t Brand- Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea

Too much theory and not enough reality is an obstructive force that keeps Johnny from developing a good brand. Nothing can summarize it better than this book ‘Why Johnny can’t Brand- Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea’ by Bill Schley & Carl Nichols, Jr. According to them, marketing jargon such as brand charisma, brand chronicles, brand ethos, brand karma among a host of other brand adjectives can be obtained only if your product/ service has a real idea, an unique idea or as they decide to call it, ‘the Dominant Selling Idea DSI. The ‘one’ specialty which separates you fro competition.

The book gives us some insight into the thought process that the brand titans of the yesteryears such as David Ogilvy or Rosser Reeves followed to give cult status to the brands they made. They are known as the Granite pages since they have to be chiseled in stone for its posterity.

Granite page 1: Number 1 is holy

As famously said by the ‘Positioning gurus’, “Its better to be first than it is to be better”. The authors highlight the importance of being first in the minds of the consumer. The human mind always remembers the first. So if you want to be remembered, be a first in whatever you do. If you are not first, create a specialty where you are first. A specialty which has to be Superlative S (in attribute or benefit), Important I (to the customer), Believable B (as in coming from the company and with a ‘reason why’), Memorable M (a campaign that has a high recall value and an emotional connect to the product when the communication is seen) and Tangible T (can be measured by the customer when experiencing the product/ service).

Granite page 2:

‘The Positioning Paradox’ is that the power of your message is directly proportional to how simple you can make it and how few words and images cane be used to say it. Don’t tell all the attributes or benefits at one go. The human mind as a capacity to remember just one thing from a communication. No point trying to bombard them with a plethora of reasons why your product is good. The best thing has to be highlighted. The narrower your focus, the wider your message goes.

Granite page 3: Credibility or believability:

This is in sync with the law of line extension. Same brands name with a different category. It doesn’t work. Xerox was successful in photo copier but not in PCs.

Granite page 4: Make me an offer I can’t refuse

The eight emotion evoking metaphors related to human heart must be used directly or indirectly. They are- Happier, smarter, healthier, richer, safer, secure, attractive and successful. Craft a core message upfront. Give him something that he wants first. Details can be shared later when he is interested.

Granite page 5: People remember what they feel.

The reason is that the power, clarity and endurance of memory is directly proportional to the amount of emotion attached to it. We all remember our first date, when we won the world cup or life changing events in our personal life. If we can attach a memory to our product, you have a winner on your hands. Eg. The Cadbury’s campaign of ‘Kuch meetha ho jaye’ for all festivals.

Granite page 6: Trust isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

Thus we now have more focus on PR than advertising although advertising can never go out of business since PR has a limited scope and difficult to implement. People respect news coming from a third party than the source itself.

As mentioned above, the SIBMT make a DSI. The DSI is a fusion of your brand name with a number 1 specialty in the customer’s mind. E.g. ‘the best search engine’ is a specialty. ‘Google is the best search engine is a DSI

Thus the name is what matters for a customer. As famously said, ‘Companies manufacture products. Customers buy Brands’. But the category and specialty come before a brand.

The buying process starts with the industry followed by the category, then the specialty, then the number 1 in specialty and then the brand.

The practical application after reading this book is the ultimate DSI test: for any brand you see, start applying the test. Following are the things to consider. (1) Is the message S, I, B? (2) Can I substitute the name of the brand with its competitor in the ad or is it a specialty only I can boast of? (3) In the ad, is the product a star or is it in the background?

Now after all this about DSI, we need to know how to go about knowing or analyzing data to find that DSI. There are some templates given by the authors.

  1. Pre-emptive DSI- this generally applies for a company which has launched a new product in the market unknown to the market. E.g. an i-phone. Although there are other business phones, an i-phone separates itself from the Blackberrys, Androids and Communicators of the world.
  2. Magic ingredient DSI- this is like the gold dust where you start to own a name in the minds of the prospect through your communication. E.g. saasta for Big Bazaar.
  3. Sleeping beauty DSI- this is a classic case of a feature present in all competitions products but no one knows about it. You are the first one to start boasting about it. E.g. Shell started proclaiming that it has a chemical which improves performance of the car. Although all gasolines have that chemical. But people started to believe only Shell
  4. 2 in one DSI: you combine two individual specialties and make a new one. E.g. Mahindra Xylo which is a combination of a sedan and a SUV.
  5. Spin DSI: it is like repositioning.
  6. Pure original DSI: this is the most difficult and is done only when there is an invention. This happens more in technology-intensive companies who bring technology to differentiate.

DSI as said above is a combination of SIBMT. But that is to formulate a DSI. How about communicating it. The DSI Star as it is called here, comprises of 5 units. The brand name. An unique ownable specialty. The DSI tagline. Key visual in terms of logo or identity and the DSI level performance which is equivalent to the tangible aspect.

Brand name is the most essential since it is the first thing that registers in the mind of the consumer and separates it from competition, literally.

The unique ownable specialty forms the core of the DSI star and has to be superlative. However it should be in such a way that the competition cannot be able to copy it easily. Thus you specialty should not be in terms of cost or technology which can be easily copied. E.g. launch of a 3D TV can be unique but if the competition immediately launches it, you lose your uniqueness.

The Tagline needs to complement the specialty. It cannot be generic. E.g. Deutsche bank’s tagline of ‘Passion to Perform’ can be for a car as well or even an educational institution. HSBC banks tagline ‘the world’s local bank’ talks of its intense distribution capability and understanding of the cultures.

Key visual refers to the eye catching element of human nature. The McDonald’s man stands for its uniqueness. The Bull in the logo of Merrill Lynch tells you about the bullish nature of its banking performance although it didn’t save it from the economic catastrophe of 2008.

DSI level performance is the actual test at the hands of the consumer. Whether you are true to your communication of being the best for a particular attribute or benefit.

The latter part of the book then tells you about how to go about finding the DSI through interviews internally and from external sources. To find that one unique specialty that differentiates you from competition.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SMS marketing- excruciatingly irritating

A couple of years back when tariffs for cell phones was falling off a cliff although not as much as 1 paise per second, we had irritating calls selling us credit cards, loans, insurance products and mutual funds. The matter was taken up in court and we had the ‘Do not disturb’ registration made mandatory by the apex court for all telecom service providers. Now this calling has been replaced by SMSes. The purpose? The same. Selling you everything (from every manner of business: insurance companies, realtors, bars and restaurants, neighbourhood grocers, stockbrokers, gyms, and schools) that can be sold under the sun, right from apparels costing a few hundred to houses running in crores. It is supposed to be not as irritating as calls. But does it make a difference to an end customer. For him, sitting in do-or-die meeting with a client, receiving a message selling you a watch which is 40 percent off is frustrating to say the least.

I am just wondering whether the concept of target market still exists. Because the nature of these messages targeting people who are nowhere close to the prospective candidate is alarming. Imagine a BPO employee receiving a message to buy property worth a couple of crores in central Mumbai would be blasphemous. However the reason put forth by media planners, if there is any planning done for this, is the cost attached to reach a sizeable amount of people.

When we compare other media vehicles, according to Lodestar UM, a media buying agency, the cost to reach 1,000 people via print is, on average, Rs180 for an ad sized 100 column cm. Via a 30-second television advertisement, reaching 1,000 people costs Rs25. whereas to reach a 1000 people via these SMSes is roughly Rs. 30. The average response rate to these SMSes is roughly 1%, and even less for realtors—low, but acceptable for such inexpensive advertising, and higher than an Internet banner ad’s average of 0.5% for click-throughs.

There are not many companies who specialize in this. The sheer ease of sending these messages and a per-SMS price that has plummeted in near-suicidal manner over the last two years, have combined to yank this industry into overdrive.

The largest sender of such SMSes is ValueFirst Messaging Pvt. Ltd, and its chief executive officer estimates that 150 million marketing messages—of both spam and non-spam variety- is sent every day in India. Around 30% of these are promotional SMSes. The remaining would then be service messages—SMSes that the receiver has opted to get, such as bank account activity alerts.

Nowadays, the margins are very thin which will soon result in consolidation. From an SMS costing Rs1.50; the margin, per SMS, is now often a solitary paisa, and sometimes less. Economies of scale are the reason for survival of some of these companies like ValueFirst Messaging.

As this marketing becomes old, the regulators will come into focus and a do not disturb registry would soon spring up here. And people are not going to buy a home or take a loan for a car or buy a mutual fund based on an SMS. It isn’t impulsive buying. Although it’s just an informative medium, it would do more harm than gain.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The ‘key number’ conundrum- to put or not to put

For the uninitiated (i.e. people who do not work in an advertising agency), a key number is the name of the advertising agency written on a print ad in a newspaper or magazine. It acts as an identification tool for the agency to generate new business where prospective clients would go to an agency after getting impressed by the creative. However with the advent of afaqs and exchange4media, you get a complete details of which agency is handling which client. Thus you see a lot of ads (that too full page or half page without the key number). The question now arises is how important is the key number and has it lost its sell-by date?

In the good old days of advertising where there were a handful of agencies in India with 15% commission, the clients were wooing the agencies. The tables have turned. Now, the agencies are wooing clients and the commissions are coming down with each passing day. The bargaining power now lies with the clients. If the client says that they want to increase the logo size or the phone number should be more easily readable, the agency has to follow suit. The biggest of agencies in India are under pressure from the client. Thus many times the creative is influenced heavily by the client where the creative team is in complete disagreement and the result is no key number. This means that the agency wants to say that it does not own the creative. It is sort of a silent protest from the agency for the client. But does it really matter? The client wants to sell their product or service. They are not concerned about their creative. A shift in behaviour is also due to the fact that the client doesn’t see any value addition from the account management or planning.

An analogy can be drawn towards a luxury or premium product company wanting to launch a medium priced or low priced product. Without wanting to make the upmarket customer feel like buying a mass product, brands are launched under new names. Thus by not writing a key number, the agency in effect means that it does not agree to the creative. Yet it has to release the ad because of commercial reasons. An offset of this shift in power is the increase in number of scam ads. That is the only way the creative guys can let loose their creative juices.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pioneering effort by Ogilvy India with the Vodafone TVC campaign:

The zoozoos were one of the most successful TVC campaigns in a long time. Generally you had a couple or more ads for a particular brand of products. With the zoozoos, Vodafone and Ogilvy India went ahead and made 30 ads for showcasing the Value added services (VAS) campaign in 2009. they were the talk of the town during IPL 2. Come IPL3 and the zoozoos are back but they have lost the zing.

One thing thought noticeable is that some other brands too have followed suit with a number of ads. Tata Docomo with its caller tune variety of ads, Airtel with Sharman Joshi and Idea with Abhishek Bachchan. All three were for the Value added services. The difference would be in Docomo ads which were particularly for the caller back tunes where the caller listens to the tune set by him rather than the tune set by the person called. Maxx mobile too followed it with Mahendra Singh Dhoni but in a small way where they too had a series of ads though not in the same quantity.

The scale for each campaign though could be different. The zoozoos must have cost a bomb for production. The Airtel ads too would have cost more. Similar would have been the case for Docomo. Idea’s campaign though was different. It has Abhishek Bachchan sitting in one position with his traditional peon and the attractive secretary mouthing different dialogues each time. The setting was same every time except the dialogues. It was a very cost effective way of producing a series of ads.

Thus Ogilvy India has stayed true to its reputation of being one of the best agencies and the most innovative as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Usage of children in endorsements:

The rule of advertising is to use celebrity or people in ads who relate to the target audience. E.g. A sportsman would endorse a sports shoes not a filmstar. The rule doesn’t hold in the continuously changing market in India. Especially if it involves children. There was a time when children were used in ads only for children’s products such as nutrition category (Bournvita, Chyawanprash) or ice creams (Amul or Kwality) or chocolates (Cadbury).

As time progressed children were used more and more in ads for products not bought for them but were for household consumption such as consumer durables (Airconditoners, refrigerators, television, Audio systems) or food (Maggi, type of masala). Pester power was considered to be the weapon then. Things have not changed. Pester power still remains but the thought process behind using children for an array or products/ services has changed. Nowadays children are used for all types of product/ service categories. Aviation, banks (Axis bank, IDBI bank, Kotak bank), Cars (Volkswagen, Maruti), insurance (ICICI Pru, HDFC Standard Life, Metlife, Max newyork), detergent (Rin, Ariel, Tide, Wheel), oral care (Colgate, Pepsodent), tourism (Mahindra resorts), real estate (almost all ads in print media such as Lodha, DLF, HDIL), mutual funds, retail (big bazaar), Textile (Raymonds), telecommunications (Vodafone), oil and gas(Jaypee), cement, steel to name a few companies. You name a category and children are used. The rationale being that research has shown ads with children having more recall value than its ads of competitors without children. Children are endearing to all of us. This could be the reason for the high recall.

Communication is all about the message rather than the characters involved. The effectiveness of an ad is in understanding the way to reach the target audience and knowing the idea to make the target audience relate to the message and thus the product/ service. This has been understood by the Indian advertising industry.

Thus we see the latest offering from Metlife fixed income plan where we see the grand son blackmailing his grandmother for buying stuff and relating it to fixed income from financial products. A child in an ad who does not know what insurance means.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

IPL- truck load of brands

“Break The Clutter”. One of the first things a client asks when an agency presents a concept for a TVC is whether the ad will stand out on its own by breaking the clutter of other brands on TV. Whether it has a recall factor by ways of a celebrity or a jingle or just a completely new way of dissipating information (ala zoozoos). Frequently we hear the agency saying that this ad breaks the clutter but it rarely does because when the agency presents the commercial to the client in the clients’ boardroom with all the speaker sound at its peak, complete silence and everyone in rapt attention focused on the screen. With so much attention, any averagely good ad would seem good. The real litmus test starts when the viewer has the remote in his hand with options available to change channels during program breaks.

IPL 3.0 currently being aired on TV has all the mass product/ service companies hopping on to the bandwagon showcasing their wares. The official sponsors of the event are DLF, Vodafone, Hero Honda, Fly Kingfisher, Citi, Karbonn Mobiles and Maxx Mobiles. Thus we have a sponsor name for each event in the match e.g. DLF Maximum, Citi Moment of success, Karbonn Kamaal catch, Maxx Mobile strategic timeout just like we have Hyderabadi Biryani and Kashmiri Pulav. The commentators use these phrases as if they are getting paid to mouth them as frequently as they can. Whenever the MRF blimp is shown, the commentators say a very uniform line which seems that they are given a script to read out. It goes like this “MRF blimp. At the forefront of technology. The first to get the blimp in India”. Thus there are 8 official sponsors.

SET MAX which broadcasts the tournament and has paid a mammoth amount for the telecast rights also has its own set advertisers. The cola Majors, Pepsi and Coca Cola, Consumer durable majors such as LG, Samsung, Videocon, Godrej, Sony, Whirlpool, telecom service providers Vodafone, Idea, DoCoMo, Aircel, Airtel and the latest entrant Videocon, Mobile handset manufacturers Videocon, Karbonn mobile, Maxx mobile and Micromax. Apart from these, some others such as Hyundai i10, Kent water purifiers, Vaseline, Metlife insurance and Havells. Whats more, now there are ads between balls compared to between overs earlier. There is no place in the stadium without ads plastered. The boundary roped, boundary boards, stadium walls, the playing field, the stumps, umpire’s attire, third umpire display board, the sight screen. The total tally thus is 21 plus 8 i.e. 29 With such a huge number how does one expect to break the clutter?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The zoozoos are back but the fizz is missing

IPL 2009 in South Africa was as much remembered for the miraculous comeback of Deccan Chargers to win the trophy as for the adorable cute looking Zoozoos. They took the advertising industry by storm. Everyone took notice and was the talk of the town. They were the ultimate examples of clutter breaking advertisements.

The zoozoos are back this time too during the IPL. However they don’t seem to have had an effect of a similar kind. The reasons are many. For one, the novelty factor has eroded. Last time, they were like a breath of fresh air. This time, they were expected. Secondly, there is viewer fatigue. Third but the most important reason which could have overcome the other reasons is the zoozoo creatives themselves. None of the ads this time have been outright funny. The only exception could be the ‘jobs on your mobile’ ad where one of the zoozoo acts as cannon gunpowder fired by other zoozoo who is the boss. People can relate to it because it is a real life situation where no subordinate likes his boss.

Judging from the type of work on display with regards to the creatives, I can presume that Ogilvy did not want to continue with the zoozoos. Knowing the high standards of creativity, they would have wanted to come up with something new. The client Vodafone though would have insisted to continue with zoozoos to leverage on their popularity. This is again an example of the power the client has over the agency. If the best advertising agency in the country has to submit to the pressures of the client, you can guess what the situation must be for other agencies.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why Screenagers are a Marketers nightmare

Screenagers continuously move from screen to screen and they have plethora of content to look at. The attention span is less since they so not know what they want. The are as capricious as any spoilt child. This is a set of people who are not awed by technology but see it as a natural evolution. They thrive on technology and they are the ideal choice fro new technology products.

But as they say, every coin has two sides or rather it is like a two-edged sword. They will immediately throw away a bad product or an un-user friendly product.

Screenagers tend to be an extremely well-informed lot which enables them to see and switch from one thing to the other with great accuracy and immediacy. In a sense, their ability to process large amounts of information simultaneously is rather staggering. Even the speed with which they switch between screens is constantly rising. One screen that is facing an erosion of sorts is the oldest screen of them all, TV.

The attention spans of these people are at their lowest when they are watching television, while it’s extremely high when they are on the Internet or on the mobile. I think the 15 second advertisement will soon be history. With multiscreens comes the multitasking behaviour, which crunches attention span to five seconds or less. That is all the time we as marketers will have to communicate our message, our positioning and make an impression. TV will have to interact with the other screens and that advertising ideas need to remain alive in that scenario.

Given that they are the prime target audience for numerous brands, marketers suddenly find themselves chasing shadows. They don’t like their screens being filled up with sales pitches, they have short attention spans and time is always at a premium. If they are in a car they have no time to stare at hoardings since they are busy with one or the other screen. One of the big challenges as a marketer is to find non-intrusive ways to access them.

SMS blasts are hugely ineffective and irritatingly intrusive. The internet media was saved by Google’s search engine discovery — which led to the birth of data marketing . We need its equivalents for mobile phones, gaming consoles, etc. marketers need to pull up their socks to tap this difficult market. While mobile and the internet as media are being increasingly consumed, the time spent in communication for these screens is less compared to the Television.

A lot of interaction across screens are visual led, rather than information intensive, communication targeted at consumers particularly on the Internet and mobile phones need to be of the same nature. Unfortunately, that is not happening.

Integration of these 3 screens is the most essential for success and to understand the want of these screenagers. If we treat each screen as a different world, we have lost at the first step itself.

Catch them young is the way forward since they are at a very Impressionable years. Not just these screenagers, but the general population is moving towards digital too. Mobiles are the answer to get near the populace since that gadget is with almost everyone and is available 24x7.

he truth though is that as of now nobody knows how to deal with this situation. For years marketers and agencies have agonized over the remote and today the remote seems like a dream compared to the nightmare that multiscreening is. Because at the end of the day, the problem is how do you reach a Milind Patil, a twenty-something from one of the four metros who stares into his phone screen every now and again either messaging or reading messages.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Creative Brief for Zoozoos

Being an advertising professional in the Client Servicing department, i give creative briefs day-in and day-out. For a change, i thought let me reverse the process. Following is my attempt to give a creative brief which can result in the creative product "Zoozoos"

Creative brief:

1. Who are we? What are we advertising?

Vodafone is a Multinational company operating in 31 countries and is the second largest telecom service provider in India in terms of revenues and subscribers after Bharti-Airtel. Over the years, Vodafone Essar, under the Hutch brand, has been named the ‘Most Respected Telecom Company’, the ‘Best Mobile Service in the country’ and the ‘Most Creative and Most Effective Advertiser of the Year. They believe in innovation and thus want to promote their Value-Added Services (VAS).

Voice has become commoditized and has ceased to be a tool for differentiation. Thus there is a need to develop alternative revenue streams for the telecom service providers. This is even more necessary due to the continuous entry of new players bringing down tariffs in the process reducing revenues for telecom service providers from voice.

There is stiff competition among the players resulting in one of the lowest tariff regimes ever. All operators are spending huge amounts on promotions and brand building. TV has been the preferred media for the ad spend accounting for more than 50 %

There are three categories of VAS applications

  1. Entertainment- e.g. Jokes, Bollywood Ring-tones & games
  2. Information- e.g. news alerts, stock market alerts, movie tickets,
  3. Mobile commerce- e.g. mobile banking or mobile payments

Objective: to create awareness about the VAS applications and induce trial.

2. Target group: VAS applications are available for people of all age groups, right from exam results for a 20 year old to devotional songs for the old.

Thus age group is 20 onwards for both, men and women, married or single.

Media habit: TV and print majorly for people above 25. College going students nowadays are exposed to high degree of social networking sits such as facebook, orkut, twitter.

(Both men and women)

Top level executives: 40 years and above

Requirements with VAS applications- high speed internet connectivity. Major users of email on the phone. High income and high spenders

Mid level executives 30- 40 years

Requirements: high speed internet connectivity. Are technologically comfortable and hence use VAS applications such as mobile banking and information search apart from email. Medium income, high spending

Young professionals between age group of 22-30: tech savvy, early adopters, high spenders on technology due to either being single or experimental in attitude.

Youth from 15 – 22 years who are studying: early adopters but spending is constrained due to dependence on parents for income. Entertainment focus, affinity for social networking and peer communication. Peers act as strong influencers

We need to get away from the pug as it belonged to Hutch.

3. Competitive framework:

Primary competitors: Airtel (1st Leader), RCom (3rd Challengers) in terms of subscribers. BSNL (4th), Idea Cellular (5th), Aircel, Tata DoCoMo, MTNL follow.

(As per the figures of Quarterly reports for the quarter ended June 2009)

Secondary competitors in CDMA segment: Tata Indicom

Over the years, telecom players have used celebrities. Airtel has Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador. RCom has Hrithik Roshan, BSNL has Deepika Padukone, Idea has Abhishek Bachchan, Aircel has Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Vodafone does not have a brand ambassador.

Airtel has over the years gone from tangible aspects in its communication to the intangible. Most notable of which is the bridging boundaries ad “There is no war or barrier that can keep us apart, if only we talk to each other”. The signature Airtel tune by AR Rahman has a very high recall.

RCom started with ‘karlo duniya mutti mein” and initiating the tariff wars not only in terms of voice price but also handsets. Presently it is running the Hrithik Roshan ads for promoting its GSM service.

Idea cellular started off slow but its “Sirji” campaign bought it into the limelight along with the ‘walk when you talk” ad. It has always experimented with social issues.

Aircel was a regional player in south but went national with Dhoni as its brand ambassador.

4. How is the brand perceived before the communication?

‘Happy-To-Help’ campaign. Customer service was never the focus of telcos. In an increasingly tough environment, Vodafone wanted to cater to this untapped issue which is so integral to service companies yet wasn’t a focus. Telcos wanted to increase number of subscribers as it allowed them greater reach and economies of scale. It also allowed them to ask for more ‘spectrum’ with the increase in number of subscribers.

Thus the ‘Happy to Help’ campaign was evolved to give the customers what was missing. This campaign was implemented across 45 offices and 4000+ Vodafone stores and mini stores involving over 10000 employees. The communication was through employee signing off emails and service calls with ‘Happy to help’ message, the cute little girl and the pug became synonymous with ‘helping each other’.

5. Insights: Consumer insight: mobile phones today have moved beyond their fundamental role of communications and have graduated to become an extension of the persona of the user. All are witnessing an era when users buy mobile phones not just to be in touch, but to express themselves, their attitude, feelings & interests. Customers continuously want more from their phone. E.g. Your caller tune signifies your personality trait or your mood

6. Core proposition?

Intangible: Fun with the cell phone.

7. Tone

Vodafone-Essar is among the top 2 players and thus it is a leader. Vodafone ads have always been clutter breakers right from the hutch boy and pug to the ‘Happy to help’ girl and the pug.

8. How do you want the brand to be perceived post the new brand communication?

Go beyond the connectivity, low cost and voice clarity aspects. Value-added services should be the growth driver for Vodafone. Volvo has top-of-the-mind recall when we say ‘safety’ or Bajaj has top-of-the-mind recall for scooters, Vodafone should be top-of-the-mind recall for Value added services.