Saturday, December 31, 2011

Airtel- ‘Sorry’ to its friends

Like. For a change, more than just imitating the west, we are learning from them as well. A testimony of this is the public apology by Airtel to all its subscribers for the hiccup in services since the last couple of days.

Today’s newspapers carried a quarter page public apology. This is in sharp contrast to Indian companies’ belief that all wrong doings or mistakes should be swept under the carpet. Toyota recalled its cars after a fault was detected, and Toyota Motor chief executive Akio Toyoda apologized in a press conference. RIM co-CEO and founder Mike Lazaridis apologized through a youtube video after blackberry services went kaput for a couple of days affecting its millions of users all over the world. Rupert Murdoch apologized for the phone-hacking scandal engulfing News Corp.

Cadbury India did not accept its mistake that a worm was found in its chocolate bar. It however went out of its way to give the chocolate bar extra packaging to avoid any future problems. Tata Motors did not apologize to its customers when there were fire incidents in its Tata Nano cars.

A start has been made by Airtel. Let’s see if corporate India accepts its mistakes in the future.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Free roaming- that is real good news!!

According to news report a month back speculated that if the government had its way, then we may have a united telecom India, in its literal sense. The panel of ‘Babus’ of Department of Telecom (DoT) to make recommendations on strategic issues related to licensing matters, have recommended to the government to consider the entire country as a single service area or four separate zones instead of the existing 22 telecom circles.

At present, around 10 per cent of the revenue of telecom companies comes from roaming charges which from my information (unconfirmed) is in the range of Rs. 13000-14000/- for the whole industry. If this indeed is implemented, it would be wonderful for the customers but would bleed the already bleeding telecom companies who spend a fortune of communication through advertising. The tariff wars had subsided a reasonable bit and now you have news about the abolishing of roaming charges.

Anyway this is going to happen sooner rather than later. So how should telecom companies gear up for this monumental change? At the outset, believe in the first-mover advantage and start communicating about no roaming charges before the government announces it. This way, you would get a head-start in top-of-mind recall just the way Idea Cellular did with Mobile Number Portability (MNP). The advantage would not last long because the other players too would immediately jump in the fray with their communication. At least you had the pioneering advantage.

It would surely work for people who spend a high percentage of amounts on roaming. But the moot question is that whether abolition of roaming charges by an operator is good enough to change the operator. The answer is a resounding yes since we are seeing it in conjunction with MNP. Thus ‘free roaming’ and MNP together surely is a winner on your hands.

Friday, October 7, 2011

SBI downgrade by Moody's- so what!!!

MINT newspaper featured a column about the rating downgrade of SBI by Moody's. I do not understand much of the way financial matters work but having experienced the great fall of 2008, have a fair idea of the reason of why it happened. Rating agencies such as Moody's itself, Fitch, S and P etc were one of the culprits wherein they rated junk bonds as Triple A, etc etc. Yet i find it difficult to believe why all the newspapers take these rating agencies so seriously. A case in point is the recent downgrade of US of A. In spite of the downgrade after a month you see that US securities are thought of as more secure that their European counterparts. And so you see the USD strengthening against the Euro. From as high of 1.48 to 1.32 as of yesterday, isn't it strange.

Moreover specific to SBI, bottomline isn't the only bottomline which should be seen at. There is more to banking than mere profits. SBI offers its services at places where private banks do not go. It helps the people in need of banking. Happiness index too needs to be looked at. What is the use of a bank which makes millions in profits with no NPAs but helping the rich get richer ever expanding the difference between the haves and the have-nots rather than helping it bridge it. Please do not misunderstand me as someone who is against capitalism. India is on the world map due to capitalism, yes, but it should come at the expense of doing something for as myopic as profits.

By inducing conspicuous consumption we should not go the way of debt-fueled consumption a la Americans. SBI or PNB or other PSBs and Private sector banks may not have the deep pockets of say a Bank of America or UBS or other western banks but what they have is a social responsibility towards the masses. I reiterate that please do not see me as anti-capitalism or a leftist. My only point is please look at the non-monetary and intangible side of things than merely following the materialistic way of western living.

Source: Mint Newspaper Oct 5, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Louis Vuitton & Angelina Jolie- the perfect match!!

Louis Vuitton- the ultra luxury apparel brand has signed on the ultra diva herself, Angelina Jolie. Normally i would be a bit skeptical when a luxury brand of such reverence signs on a movie actor as brand ambassador. More so now when they sell every alternate brand on the shelf. With movie stars their is no exclusivity. And movie stars as brand ambassadors reduces the exclusive and niche appeal to mass appeal for the brand. However i am pleasantly surprised that Louis Vuitton signed on Angelina Jolie. At least of today, there is no celebrity with a bigger star status than her yet she isn't known only for her movies. Her work as United Nations goodwill ambassador, her adopting children from developing and underdeveloped world just to show her support and concern towards them makes her a truly global personality and some one worth emulating.

This is a casting coup by Louis Vuitton and they would substantially gain from it .

Source: Economic Times, Mumbai Edition September 22, 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

JP Morgan- Elite to the core!!

After a long time, saw a really really wonderful print ad!!!

A creative rendition true to JP Morgan's stature in the industry i.e. a world foot print, fabulous usage of commodities depiction and hard hitting message. When i turned the page while reading the newspaper, the ad immediately caught my attention. An unique interpretation. Attribute based approach yet very much creative and appealing. Surprisingly the agency name isn't written. Anyway , totally in love with it.

Jim Rogers would be smiling from ear to ear since he is completely in favour of commodities compared to equities. And believes that commodities would show the way forward to the global economy!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blenders Pride and Bru- Common brand ambassador. Could have been avoided!!

The debate is never ending. Should brand ambassadors be used? What value do they add to the brand? What impact does negative publicity of the ambassador have on the brand e.g. the sexcapades of Tiger Woods on the brand he endorses? The point I am trying to make is about 2 brands currently being endorsed by National Award winner and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra.

The two brands I am talking about are Seagram’s Blenders Pride whisky and HUL’s Bru Coffee. In spite of being brands for the mass market, both cater to different target audiences. One is a liquor brand positioning itself as the drink for the elite while other is for families to move away from Tea to Coffee. The reason I am talking about it is that I find it disconcerting that an ambassador endorsing liquor is also endorsing a family brand.

I do not know whether Blender’s Pride signed Priyanka first or Bru. If Bru signed, then they should pull out all ads with Priyanka when she signed with Blenders Pride. Whereas if Blenders Pride signed first, then it is a major goof-up on part of HUL to sign her for Bru knowing all too well that she endorses a liquor brand.

Although different as chalk and cheese, the issue is problematic since it is a liquor brand. It would not have mattered had it been a soft drink or an energy drink. Indian society looks at liquor in a negative way. Moreover a female endorsing it would draw more attention since women in India do not drink liquor except may be the educated urban areas. It is still a thing that is looked down upon by Indians. I really doubt the efficacy of Seagram’s to sign a female for a Men’s brand. I doubt if women are the target audience here.

An unpardonable goof-up from a brand point of view. More so for Bru than Blenders Pride.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zindagi Mile Na Dobara- creating problems for Investment companies!!

It is said that celebrities influence minds of the young who are at an impressionable age. They follow their path blindly. Right or wrong is just a perception for these guys who get swayed by the on-screen charisma of the actors. Not only the young but even mature people get swayed intentionally or subconsciously when the message is woven in an emotional scene.

A case in point is the scene between hunk Hrithik Roshan and sultry Katrina Kaif. He is like the many next door boys for whom money is the priority over family and she is a person who pursues passions. When she says that “stop planning for your retirement and live life for the present”, it unintentionally hit the raw nerve of investment companies who say that they plan for the future including the pension funds, mutual funds and insurance companies.

The thought of living for the present as much as it sounds perfect is difficult to follow in this imperfect world. As life expectancy increases and science advances, cost of medicine too is going up. Without proper planning of finances and health insurance, it is very difficult to survive the medicine expenses. The cost further increases for critical diseases and lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure, diabetes among others. Thus people in the developing world need to plan for the future at the cost of being stingy in the short term.

Moreover the developing world doesn’t have the type of social security that the European countries and US have. Thus you see the high savings in China and India whereas consumption remains debt-fueled in Europe and the US. Anyway getting back to Zindagi Mile Na Dobara, I hope people take it just as a film and not derive unintended messages from him.

Friday, July 1, 2011

MBA opening literal windows-- poor creative

I disagree with the headline. No, i am not talking about the credentials of MET, i ll leave that to others to decipher. I have not seen a more literal creative rendition of a phrase. "Opening windows"... Would make any sensible art guy balk!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Aamir Khan- The shrewd marketer

If there is someone who understands the PR machinery better or how to leverage the thirst and reach of the Indian media, Aamir Khan is his name. He is an actor par excellence, sensitive director, and a visionary producer. No one understands the pulse of Indian audiences better than Aamir. But that discussion is not for now. Today is all about how Aamir promotes his films. Content matters but equally important is the word-of-mouth publicity and endless discussions among the film-goers.

In the initial days, Aamir was a recluse, an enigma, away from the prying eyes of the media. He was visible only when his movie was released. He didn’t make it to the cover of filmy magazines. He made people crave for seeing him. His opinion though has changed over the past 5 years or so. He has understood the potential the media has to promote his films and the incessant discussions that go on in movie studios. No topic is frivolous for these news channels.

He used the media wonderfully well to promote Ghajini when it was pitted against Shah Rukh Khan’s Rab ne bana di jodi at the height of their so-called war. The idea to have Ghajini look-alikes in theatres that played Rab ne bana di jodi was a master stroke. Result- free publicity. Then there were the creative difference with director Amol Gupte for Taare Zameen pe, which made Aamir don the mantle of director for the first time. Although a low budget film, result- free publicity. Of course the content made it last longer but the awareness was almost free. Then the fracas over story of 3 Idiots with author Chetan Bhagat asking for his place under the sun. A press conference with himself, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director Raju Hirani made it seem as if it was an event of national consequence. The media going to town talking about it non-stop. Result- free publicity. As the famous saying goes “There is no such thing as bad publicity.

We ought to commend Aamir though on staying true to his word about boycotting awards, not only the usual filmfare, zee, star et al but now the national awards too. It remains to be seen only if he boycotts Oscars. Not that it would make news anywhere except India because frankly, the Americans are least bothered. Commercialization of everything has made even them prefer the economic side of creativity than art itself.

The latest case in point is the PIL to be filed by Imran Khan, nephew of Aamir and the lead actor in his latest to-be-released Delhi Belly (incidentally, Aamir is also the producer of the movie). PIL against a law in Maharashtra to ban liquor drinking below 25 years of age. Is it a mere coincidence that the PIL news came out just a week before the film was released? Moreover it make sense since the movie is targeted towards these youngsters. Even if its Imran’s decision, it has all the indications of Aamirs brain. No one is going to believe it more than a publicity stunt. Proves that Aamir is indeed a marketing strategist which corporate India would learn a lot from.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BLUE DART- completely ‘focussed’

When I saw the above packaging, it immediately struck me. ‘Domestic Priority’- it is such a strong word and such a strong message. Marketing gurus always talk about the need to be focused and being strong at one thing rather than average at many things. Focus is the word used to go out in the market with one core competency. Advertising executives always try to tell the client to keep the message short, simple and easy. Do not add clutter to the already cluttered minds of the consumer. Make sure you are associated with one word or thing rather than not standing for anything that separates you from competition.

With this message, Blue Dart is clearly going to face a loss when it comes to international couriers. Not in the short run, but in the long run. Blue Dart will stand for domestic couriers. This new strategy allows Blue Dart to be a master of the domestic market. It will be ahead with respect to the local players allowing it to carve a niche for itself in terms of quality and service and thus command a premium in the long term.

What I liked most about the concept is that they are trying to quantify a service. 10.30- time definite delivery. Quite appreciable. I just hope that they have done homework about their distribution and made sure that the 10.30 mark is not breached. It takes a long time to build an equity whereas a snap of fingers to lose everything.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Pepsi over the years has come up with some memorable campaigns. TVCs with Sachin, Shah Rukh Khan, Shane Warne and a host of other Bollywood celebrities. I wouldn’t mind putting my neck out and saying that Pepsi has come up trumps more times than its arch rival Coca Cola. Barring the ‘paanch matlab Coca Cola’ campaign with Aamir, Pepsi has been the creative leader.

I am a tad disappointed though with the latest creatives. The Youngistan campaign with Ranbir & SRK wasn’t too creative. And so was the game series with Ranbir & Sanjay Dutt too wasn’t. Frankly none of the Ranbir campaigns have been memorable even with his charming personality and mass appeal. The cricket world cup 2011 saw the ‘change the game’ series with cricketers. Except may be Dhoni’s helicopter shot, none of the ads were good. As a matter of fact, the ad with Dilshan was preposterous.

Now the extension of ‘change the game’ series sees the first ad post the massive world cup win. And what do you get. A childish ad with a below average creative rendition. Absolutely disappointing. One would have thought of an ad with cricketers immediately post the world cup win to leverage the high recall value. I am sure the Pepsi guys would have tried but the cricketers would not have been available due to the IPL 4.0. Pepsi has always been favoring the humorous side compared to Coca Cola who have been emotional. Having said that, this ad completely has no head or tail. As said earlier, this ad just has one description- DISAPPOINTING!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Out-of-the-box thinking thrown out of the window

Really now. That is a limit of trying to fool the customer. It is as if the buyer is completely a stupid person who would get swayed by words, openly questioning the intelligence of the buyer. Firstly the name 'Times Square' blatantly copied from the famous Times Square in the US financial capital is a turn-off. Secondly shouting in the headline that you need a out-of-box working place to think out-of-the-box would make Edward De Bono cringe in his seat. Thirdly i do not see any futuristic thinking in the building architecture. A very sad attempt at trying to create a positioning where it clearly doesn't exist, not in terms of attributed or metaphorically even. The copy isn't mentioning anything out-of-the-box i.e. features if any.

The DLFs, Indiabulls, Lodhas, Hiranandanis, Rahejas of the world at least have created some sort of differentiation. Credit though has to be given to the thought but the context seems completely wrong for Times Square. Alas the razzmatazz associated with the original place seems missing here and it doesn't seem it will ever get associated here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gaffe or alright??

Is it a gaffe or is it right.. EBIDTA coming after Net Profit After Tax?? Whatever less knowledge i have about financial statements, EBIDTA comes before PAT?? Please enlighten me.

Source: Hindustan Times- April 24, 2011. Mumbai edition.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cheap publicity

Haven't seen an ad with more sexual overtones.. rather a more explicit copy!!! Would have understood it had the ad been for a condom, undergarment or pregnancy protection.. but a hair removal cream.. strange...!!! Anything to grab eyeballs...

Source: Bombay Times, Times of India, Mumbai edition, April 19, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

J Hampstead ad in Mumbai but J Hampstead clothes not in store!!!

You all may remember J Hampstead for a very unique way of communication when they signed Priyanka Chopra to endorse what was clearly a men's brand. The name J Hampstead, brought with it a foreign name which Indians love to 'love'. J Hampstead is from the house of Siyaram's, an attempt by Siyaram's to enter the premium segment since Siyaram's is essentially a lower middle class brand. It does not have much of a market share in the Urban areas but has quite a big penetration in the northern hinterland taking on Raymond's, and other brands which are in the stitching-segment.

It had many brand ambassadors such as India's leading Tennis due Lee-Hesh, German legend Boris Becker, England cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott to give it an international flavour. Unfortunately they havn't had much success.

Recently they have signed on the Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan. An attempt to get more eyeballs due to Hrithik being a much bigger celebrity than any of their earlier brand ambassdors and target the young and middle age alike. However, would it not have been good to sign on some one who has not endorsed a clothing brand earlier? Hrithik has endorsed John Players earlier as well as Provogue.

A couple of ads featuring the new face of the brand have been launched in some leading dailies with the above ad seen in Bombay Times. A nice way to increase awareness for a premium positioned product. However looking carefully, you would see an oddity. The ad is in a Mumbai daily with no shop in Mumbai selling the J Hampstead brand. Isn't it said in marketing that communication should not be done when the place where the product/ service isn't ready for sale? All the shops listed in the ad are in the interiors of Maharashtra with only one shop in a distant Mumbai suburb. Clearly, the media agency handling the account would have got space at a very discounted price and hence the display.

They ad creative isn't too great, nothing to write about. One of the many clothing ads we see day in and day out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

'Raymond- Made-to-Measure'- bold initiative

Raymond's print ad in one of the leading newspapers in India for the launch and awareness of their Exclusive stores of Made-to-Measure. The campaign was done in a teaser sort of way where just the topmost creative was shown with the headline. No brand name, no mention of the product or what is it all about. As the pages were turned, the new creative was present with all the requisite details necessary for the launch of the store. A very bold attempt by Raymond to be in the stitched-segment which is fast waning in favour of the ready-to-wear (off the shelf type apparels). Considering that Raymond is the leader in its category and a distribution that is unparalleled in India for a textile brand, they are the ones who should be taking the lead and experimenting. Thumbs up to them. The creative shows the art form made famous by Michalengelo. Only the educated who read about history and art forms would have heard about him. The target audience seem to be the affluent and educated class who want proper fitting rather than style which the young prefer. Probably the 35-50 and above age group segment would be the buyers.

However, a word for the creative depiction. Very good. But i hope it hasn't been inspired by the below shown ad created by a German ad agency Scholz & Friends, Humburg for the German Olympic Federation .

Saturday, March 12, 2011

‘Keep cricket clean’- not a good idea

Idea Cellular has come up with some very good campaigns in the clutter of telecom ads. They have indeed managed to break the clutter frequently. Most notable of which was the ‘Walk When You Talk’ campaign with Abhishek Bachchan. Its earlier ads of ‘Sirjee’ too were very good. ‘Save Paper’ campaign too was done intelligently. There was also a single ad about Idea associating itself with the government’s UIDAI initiative. A common thread which can be drawn is that all the ads were based on a social issue affecting the common man thus making it relevant to the target audience.

The latest campaign with six Cricket World Cup winning captains (Clive Lloyd-1975 & 79, Kapil Dev-1983, Allan Border-1987, Imran Khan- 1992, Arjuna Ranatunga-1996 & Steve Waugh-1999) was also related to a social issue though not specific to the Indian audience. The world had recovered from the Match-fixing scandal until it was hit by the Spot-fixing one. A lot was said and done to prevent it. All the six captains have impeccable integrity and respect among not just the cricket connoisseurs but general public alike. By associating themselves with these captains and the theme of ‘keep cricket clean’, Idea has a broader audience to talk to. Cricket being the religion in India and the world cup in toe, the timing would not have been apt.

It seemed to be a masterstroke by Idea but unfortunately I counted my chickens before they hatched. Keeping at the theme, they should have talked about their brand relevance to the ‘champions of the world’ cricketers and what, if any, they are doing in partnership with the ICC to keep cricket clean. Saying it is one thing, following it up with actions adds credibility. By launching the ‘No Idea, get Idea’ ads, with these cricketers talking about getting Idea seems frivolous. The copy seems so obvious. With due respect, apart from Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and probably Steve Waugh, none of the other 3 cricketers have the charisma to endorse an Indian brand. Youngsters under 25 years probably would not even know how great a player and Captain Clive Lloyd was.

These cricketers could have been used to create a brand recall rather than to make a sales pitch. It surely doesn’t seem to be a good idea now. Disappointed would be the word to describe the campaign and a great opportunity lost to add further value to the brand

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The zoozoo saga continues with the 3G ‘superhero’

The ICC Cricket world cup in the sub-continent was bound to create a fight among brands to communicate and make the most of the eye balls the world cup was going to generate. It indeed can be seen to be true with a plethora of TVCs on air. The clutter just got more cluttered making it even more difficult to break it. Telecom brands, car brands, motor bike ads, insurance ads, bank ads, consumer electronics, fmcg etc are all there.

It also acts as a competition between ad agencies to make a name for themselves with their creative content. Ogilvy India has really stamped their authority over their peers. They manage to grab eye balls, clutter or no clutter. I think that for the Ogilvy guys, a Vodafone ad is not a client but a brand to experiment and give out their best creative content. Credit has to be given to the Vodafone brand managers too for their willingness to take risk and approve the creative rendition.

Rajnikant clearly has influenced the creative guys at Ogilvy. From exaggerated claims in smses and forwarded emails of Rajnikant’s superhuman capabilities to the world-saving Superman, have been successfully used here. It would be such a treat to be a fly on the wall when Ogilvy creative guys would be brainstorming on the ad.

I wonder what could have been the brief from the client servicing guys and the planners to the creative team. All other ads talking about 3 G have been focusing on how 3G helps see live content on phones and the faster speed of internet and low pricing. Vodafone too is talking about the speed but the way it has been depicted is quite fabulous. Using a superhero to communicate about the fast capabilities is quite an interesting and intelligent proposition considering the liking which, not just the Indians, but the whole world has towards superheroes.

Full marks to the TVC. The teaser campaign I must say was indeed successful. People would surely be wondering about what would be the surprise. Another thing I liked about the ad showcase was that it was a 60 seconder ad .And with exorbitant charges which the official telecaster charges, it seemed appropriate to show the ad for whole 60 seconds ad till the buzz is created and then trim the ad to show the bare essentials. The can bring a new ad continuing on the zoozoo saga of 3G superhero to keep the interest going. Bottomline, an awesome ad bringing a smile on your face.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sony and MS Dhoni

The recent news of MS Dhoni pulled up by the ICC for a case of ambush marketing for Sony’s HD TV campaign wasn’t intentional. No publicity is bad publicity doesn’t apply to Sony. It is too big a brand. On the contrary, I feel Sony doesn’t even need the Indian captain MS Dhoni too.

It was rather surprising to see that Sony has signed on a brand ambassador for its TV brand. They had Kareena Kapoor for its VAIO laptops. It was a brand fit since Kareena was in the news for her ‘size-zero’. And the new laptop was positioned as a ‘size-sero’ laptop with its thin width. Hrithik Roshan was brand ambassador for Sony Ericsson cell phones. But Sony never had a brand ambassador, at least in India, for its flagship product, TV. Many people might not agree but for Sony, I think TV is their best selling product.

Sony is one of those brands which really has an effect of envy for the non-owner. It’s one of those distinctive brands which is ahead of its competition in terms of brand equity in India. Dhoni or no Dhoni, Sony TVs would have sold. Moreover, I don’t think Dhoni is a brand fit for Sony. Although MS Dhoni is a cricketer par excellence as an individual player, world cup (T20) winning captain and captain of no 1 test playing team, and Sony is excellent in its quality, they some how don’t go together. Dhoni is quite young whereas Sony is a legendary brand. Sachin would have been a more apt choice. I can already see many people up in arms and refuting my choice. It is just a point of view and a different view. Not that I am right. Sony would have their reasons and rationale. Its just that I have a slight diverse take on it.

Considering the creative side of the TVC, I am disappointed. Clarity is a very obvious differentiation that they are talking about. A very clich├ęd representation.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

'Daag acche hai'- influencing creatives

The 'daag acche hai' campaign has been widely appreciated. Kudos to the creative and strategy team to completely turn the concept of communication for detergents on its head.

The depiction has always been on school kids getting their clothes dirty. The target audience is the home-maker and she knows all too well that its most difficult to wash clothes of school going kids since kids do not take care of their clothes and are involved in all types of outdoor activities. College going kids and working professionals hardly get their clothes dirty. So using a Salman Khan for Wheel detergent defies logic. Anyway, to each his own.

The point of discussion here is the creative depiction of the print ad (shown at the top) for Nahar's Amrit Shakti housing complex in Mumbai. Builders have been using the 'slice-of-life' type advertisements since a couple of years. This ad though clearly seems heavily influenced by the 'daag acche hai' campaign. I am sure the Percept guys would say otherwise. But the ad appears next to each other on the newspaper page making the 'influence' clearly visible.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mobile number portability (MNP) communication- Vodafone and the rest

There's always some more friends to make
There's always a space at the table
There's always a new game to play

And it's changing everyday
So many new faces
We're dreaming while we're awake
No time to waste today.

The world is our playground

These fabulous lyrics from the Vodafone Mobile number portability TVC clearly show the difference between Vodafone and the other service providers. Idea was the first mover when it launched its series of ‘no idea, get idea’ campaign. It would surely help them get customers. It was raved amongst the marketing and advertising pundits for thinking ahead if time.

Until Vodafone came up with this TVC. Idea seemed nowhere in the min recall. The thought is so awesome. Clearly a consumer insight to maintain continuity. They are not talking about others being good or bad. Just that we are good and you can come join us. Idea was talking about tangible aspects such as network, connectivity, etc etc. Vodafone took the leap and talked about the emotional connect.

I don’t remember if Reliance or Airtel or Aircel have come up with a MNP ad. Tata Docomo has come up with a ridiculous ad. Sorry to be so harsh but its really nonsense. Does it not remind you of the Vodafone Zoozoos ad during IPL talking about making you a star of the match? This Docomo ad also talks of making you a hero in a similar creative output. The ad goes on to say that relieve your friends of their network and show the freedom Docomo users enjoy. I really do not understand what they are talking about.

Vodafone is surely going to be a winner. Hats off to the guys at Ogilvy. They just seem to raise the benchmark with each passing creative. Competition is nowhere in sight and doesn’t even seem if they ever would be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Share Khan and Rajni Sir

Dont know whether using Rajni to talk about the impossible would work for Share Khan.

It would surely grab eyeballs and make people read the ad.

Rajni is the centre of jokes as far as doing the impossible is concerned and thus would you want to be considered as a joke, i really do not think so.... but a good way of putting the point through.. a la the Amul ads, done with theme of current affairs

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The un-mystery of low Nano sales

Ratan Tata stayed true to his word of giving India the ‘1 lakh’ car and showing the world that India is not all about cost advantage but can talk and walk innovativeness. The whole world converged in India when Tata Nano was launched. Tata Nano was an embodiment of catering to the ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’ customer. It was supposed to show that given a value proposition, no product will fail irrespective of the target segment. Technically, it isn’t a bottom-of-the-pyramid product but in the context of the car market and sub USD3000 price tag can be considered as one such product.

Nano was considered to be so much in demand even prior to its launch because it gave an India, the possibility of a four-wheeler at a price unthinkable before. However it did not result in the forecasted sales. There were many reasons for it. As obvious, consumer behaviour was the critical reason. Nano failed on this count. Nano does not, and will never be able to give the consumer the aura of buying a car. In India, when a family buys a car, it signals their arrival on the richness scale. It signifies a certain standard of living. Nano, unfortunately, does not have the snob value generally associated with buying car in India.

One of the other reasons is the negative publicity it received due to the fire mishaps in its rear engine. Rear engines are generally considered unsafe. Although a perception, it added to the frenzy with people staying away from the Nano. For Nano, publicity turned out to be a double edged sword. It got free publicity during, prior and after its launch due to its ridiculously low price tag but the same publicity turned up on its head in a negative way after the mishaps. News of some customers suing the Tatas for compromising on their safety did not do much good to the Tata brand as well.

Things though are changing now. With production volumes up and better distribution in place, we can now see the Nano TVCs running. Although not quite an outstanding ad, it is decently good. I am not sure if I am reading the minds of the Tata Brand Managers but it seems that they are targeting the Tier 1 or 2 and rural towns who have disposable incomes. The second TVC is quite obvious in tis attempt at targeting the couple to move on from two-wheelers to the four-wheeler. Here too I am slightly unhappy with the casting of the actors in the ad. The urban couple would wait till they buy a bigger car rather than a Nano. They have double incomes with both husband-wife earning and easy financing options. A middle aged couple conservative in their buying would have been a more apt audience.

The Nano indeed is picking up volumes now but the mystery behind sluggish sales isn’t a mystery anymore or is it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The ignominy of being ‘Dada’

IPL has always been in the news. Good or bad. The 4th edition of the IPL is scheduled just after the world cup but the auction took place a couple of days back. It was expected to create news since the team owners were going to go all guns blazing to buy the best players at astronomical prices. It did create news but more than the players, it was Dada who created the news. It hurt the real Indian fan that India’s greatest and best ever captain was not considered worthy enough to play when 20 somethings were paid millions of dollars

It begs the question that what could have been the reason for not considering him even when 2 teams more were included taking the number of players being able to play to 160 (16*10)? Was money a deterrent? Sourav’s base price was set at USD 400,000 (Rs. 1.8 crores). Or was it a captaincy issue? Sourav though had said that he would not mind playing under any other captain of any team. Was Dada considered too big than the team he would play for? It seemed that the team that took Dada in the team would have to face public wrath if he was dropped after a spate of bad performances. The pressure on team owners to keep Dada playing irrespective of whether he performed or not is immense. Greg Chappel, Rahul Dravid, Kiran More and SRK would testify to that.

This though has bought a cultural point to the fore. Indian business has moved quite a long way from the Hindu Rate of growth. They now do not consider any growth less than double digits as an achievement. Emotional quotient was a big factor during the first auctions. It was necessary since the clubs were at a nascent stage and the local players were essential if you needed to make a team. Not any more. The individual franchisees have been successful enough now to go it alone without the stars but a fan following based on performance. The Indian business houses too are taking on their international counterparts and so we have seen a spate of mergers and acquisitions involving Indian business. Indians are regularly seen on the list of richest people in the world.

The bottomline though is that Indians never respect their sportspeople once they are past their prime. Heroes are made and broken in a span of matches. You may love SOurav or hate him but you cannot stop respecting him and the contribution he has made to Indian cricket. The Dhonis, Yuvrajs. Rainas, Kohlis, Harbhajans and many others have been brought up on a dose of Dada’s aggression and would blindly vouch for dada’s contribution to their career. He is a national hero and did not deserve to be treated with such disdain. But as always, Dada will emerge from it stronger and be prepared for a bigger fight.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

‘Carpet bombing’ by Airtel for their new logo

Can you spot the difference in the red colour?? Guess Brand managers of Airtel would not be too happy with this image. (An example of a real situation in suburban Mumbai)

The new logo by Airtel has been panned by marketing and advertising gurus. The rationale by Airtel of wanting a new logo for an international feel as Airtel goes to international markets with the Zain Acquisition and wanting to take on Vodafone in other markets hasn’t impressed the pundits one bit. According to them, the old logo was good enough for international markets as well. The new logo did not have any national colours or markers suggesting Indian origin. It has a clear difference in red and colour with a prominent font.

This new logo so closely resembles the red colour of Vodafone known all over the world. With their wide range of celebrity endorsers starting from AR Rahman composing the tune to Sachin Tendulkar, Vidya Balan, Madhavan and the last one, Sharman Joshi, Airtel was firmed ensconced in the hearts of Indian public. Its wider reach gave it a cross-country brand from the rich to the poor. Ironically, there has been a paradigm shift in the communication from Airtel post the logo launch. For one, it has not gone with a celebrity endorser. Only time will tell whether they will continue or get someone one board soon. Second, the signature AR Rahman tune which was so synonymous with Airtel has been done away with. Instead a more peppy and English tune is being used in TVCs.

Airtel, however, it seems in a hurry to make its logo remind people of Airtel again. It being visible from the carpet bombing that they are resorting to with people being targeted through all forms of communications namely the traditional print, TV, Radio to the tech savvy Internet and the mass places such as bus stops, railway stations, roads (hoardings). No place has been left vacant. Thus as time passes, with the incessant bombarding of the logo, it will become prominent in the minds of the Indian public as well.

Looking back, it was said that Airtel needed to have a mnemonic logo since it just had the name. I do not completely argue to this argument. Major brands the world over such as Coca Cola, Nokia, Bata, IBM, Canon, Oracle, SAP, or even the Indian brands such as Raymond, Onida do not have a mnemonic. Thus having it doesn’t make a brand big and not having it doesn’t make it any less known.

The main purpose of a logo is to strike an awareness of the brand and what it stands for through a logo. It the same is possible through a typographic logo, a mnemonic isn’t essential.

Coming back to the Airtel logo, with time, it will get registered in the minds of Indian consumers. But it will not serve ay additional purpose for the brand Airtel except for an exorbitant cost to design the logo and to promote the logo.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The ‘Elusive’ Indian premium brand:

Can you think of an Indian brand which commands a ‘premium’ tag? Let me define a premium brand first. A brand which commands a price higher than its immediate competition and is bought more for its intangible benefits than attributes. Agreed. There are some brands. But would it stand the test when confronted with international competition? At least I could not find any such Indian brand.

A similar problem with all the emerging nations. Less said about the under developed nations, the better. China and India have always fought international competition based on price. They have been few times, if any, when they have talked of quality or snob value. India or China has never had the technological wherewithal or resources in terms of money. Let’s talk of India.

The Indian consumer after independence through to the nineties was bought up on self-sufficiency and socialism of the Nehruvian era and then the Indira Gandhi era of nationalization. Conspicuous consumption was frowned upon and would attract the eye of the taxman. No wonder India has the highest savings rate along with China. It is only after the liberalization process started in 1992 that Indian masses got the resources and options to spend. 2000s saw the start of the consumption cycle. With easily available financing options and plastic money to fuel demand, consumerism had finally arrived in India, much to the satisfaction of MNCs. The urban middle class soon found surplus money with increasing salaries of IT, pharma, services industry employees finding their way into the mushrooming malls. With an urge to show their arrival on the ‘richness’ scale, people splurged as if there was no tomorrow.

Thus we saw major international brands such as Tissot, Rolex for watches, designer apparels, bags, shoes from renowned designers such as Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, hospitality giants such as Marriotts, Hyatts among others. Indian domestic brands obviously could not fight these acclaimed international labels on snob value. The only option remaining was to fight on price to drive volumes and be profitable. We saw Videocon taking on the Sony, Samsung, LG in consumer electronics; Maruti Suzuki taking on Hyundai, Ford, Fiat, and lately Skoda, GM among others in cars. Even now we have Tata Nano as the world’s cheapest car fighting on price. Although it has been touted as an innovation to cater to the bottom of the pyramid consumer, it still fights on price.

Moving from consumer goods, even the commodities such as steel, cement, food (sugar, rice, wheat, meat) are exported based on price difference rather than its high quality or rare sweetness and exquisite taste or looks (specific to flowers). I am not questioning the quality here but just the business appeal for a prospective customer.

India’s real tryst with a premium brand came when Tatas took over iconic and marquee brands Jaguar and Land Rover. They have retained the names and not added Tata to the newest family member because the primary market of these brands is Europe and Americas, and Tata isn’t even a renowned name in cars, let alone a premium name. Woodland is an Indian brand which can be considered as a premium Indian brand but not compared to its international counterparts such as Adidas, Nike, and Reebok. It should be given its due though because it has all the makings to take the brand global. I doubt how many Indians know that it is an Indian brand. Credit should be given to its international type of communication in TVCs, print and online media where it has international models as its ambassadors.

Indian motorbike companies such as Bajaj Auto, Hero Honda, TVS, it would take a lot of effort to become a premium brand since majority of their offerings are for the mass markets in India and abroad. Same is the case with the car maker Maruti Suzuki, and Tata motors. Maruti Suzuki has been successful in the last decade or so in scaling up till only the 8 lakh car. Ditto Tata Motors. It has yet to take on the 10 lakh plus luxury car segment comprising of the Skodas, Volkswagens, Toyotas and the super luxurious Mercedeses or BMWs.

The IT sector is famous the world over yet Infosys or TCS or Wipro isn’t considered as an innovative brand. Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Yahoo, SAP are brands due to their innovation. The Indian brands are still fighting on price. But now we hear talk of Infosys trying to move beyond just the IT solutions and get into consultancy which would make them in direct competition with heavy weight such as Accenture, BCG, Booz, Allen Hamilton, and other. Of course, competing with them would need another decade of experience but at least there is a start.

There have been a spate of acquisitions in the last decade by Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, Mallyas and others which would hold us in good stead to get an Indian premium brand. Till then that premium Indian brand remains elusive.