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.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Understanding Mark-to-Market (M2M) Accounting rules:

Mark-to-market accounting rules have been at the fore front of assault of accountants since the downfall of investment bank Lehman Brothers and the subsequent financial and economic crisis. They have been partly held responsible for the book losses made by the banks, at a time when without it, the losses would not have been visible and given more time for banks to come out of the unholy mess it finds itself in at the present juncture. The other side of the debate is in favour of M2M rules who feel it is an appropriate way to value assets of banks and investment banks too.

Mark-to-Market, as is self explanatory, means the valuation of a particular asset class be arrived at, not based on its historical value, but based on its present market value. Thus the book value of an asset will be different at majority of times from its market value since it would be a function of demand-supply mismatch and other macro-economic factors.

This is the crux of the problem. The crisis, whose signs were visible in May 2008 following the takeover of investment bank Bear Stearns, precipitated into a full blown crisis post September 2008. pundits blamed the M2M rules for the exaggerated loses shown by the banks since they had to mark-to-market the assets which were at an all time low due to the bubble bursting and CDS liability on majority of banks.

Consider a bank with all different types of securities which include bonds, stocks, commodities, hedged currencies and other simple instruments such as fixed deposits, mortgages and credit card loans. The values of these instruments change everyday due to the various selling and buying happening in the market.

Post September 2008, the credit markets froze and there was the liquidity crunch. There were a lot of sellers wanting to sell their doubtful derivative instruments but they did not find any takers. This resulted in the valuation of majority of instruments especially bonds and derivatives taking a beating. They were sold at fire sale prices to distressed investors wanting to buy at discounted prices. Thus the banks had to book losses for instruments which were on its books and post losses. Thus the emperor was without clothes and M2M was blamed for it.

Franklin Roosevelt suspended it in 1938, and the end of the great depression started. Between then and 2007 there were no panics or depressions. But when FASB 157, a statement from the Federal Accounting Standards Board, went into effect in 2007, reintroducing mark-to-market accounting, look at what has happened.