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.