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.